I remember as a child standing on a chair at the kitchen counter, spooning flour into a coffee cup, making cakes with my mum. Then a few years later it was my little brother doing the spooning and me doing the instructing (I am sure he would call it ‘bossing’), making the same recipe. My memories are full of spilling flour on the floor and sampling dried fruit, fighting over who gets to lick the spoon and who gets the bowl to lick clean.
Now, it is my turn to be the mother while my son does the spooning and measuring and mixing — my job is being the oven hand. Different child, different kitchen, same recipe.
I love to spend time with my son in the kitchen as long as we have the time to take it at his pace, not my usual throw it all together style of cooking. Cooking at his pace makes a much more relaxed state of affairs. As he has grown we can take our time doing our own thing. I prepare the main dish while he prepares the vegetable side dish. He can now do most of it independently, but still with a watchful eye cast over him. Sometimes we talk about the food, where it has come from and how it arrived in our kitchen. Sometimes we don’t have everything we need for a recipe so we scour the fridge and cupboards and decide on a replacement for the missing ingredient. Will it work or will it be a disaster? Would this be better than that, and why do we need that missing ingredient anyway?
Other days we just laugh and joke about the silly things that have happened during the week as we work away chopping, stirring and mixing. I also find it is a good time to talk about problems or raise issues with things that I think we need to talk about; the pressure is off, and there is no need for a sit down, in-your-face discussion. By busying our hands with our kitchen work, talking through problems becomes light work. Just like the problems of missing ingredients we can talk about solutions to the problem at hand and decide which solutions might be best.
So much is learned for that time at the kitchen counter from weighing and measuring, reading recipes and learning about ingredients, temperature and the chemistry of cooking. Plus there is the sensory aspect: touching, feeling, smelling, and of course tasting. Beyond that — the bonding and sharing: sharing of recipes, stories, problems and jokes.
Making time to cook together at least once a week is an important priority in our family — not just for the food that ends up on the table, but also for the quality interactions that we have in the process.
I mustn’t forget the recipe — the one I made as a child and that we still make and enjoy. It is a family recipe which is so simple a toddler can help you make it. All you need is a cup — any size as long as you use the same cup throughout, and a large mixing bowl, a wooden spoon and a loaf tin.
5 Cup Cake
Into the bowl add the following ingredients:
1 cup of self raising flour (if you don’t have SR flour use plain plus 1 tsp of baking powder)
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of all-bran cereal
1 cup of dried fruit (we usually use raisins)
1 cup of milk
Mix well and pour/spoon into a greased loaf tin. Bake at 190℃/375F for approximately 45 minutes. The baking time will vary depending on the size of your cup. Check by pushing a wooden skewer into the middle; if it comes out clean it is cooked. It is a forgiving recipe so feel free to swap white flour for wholemeal.
Lovely served warm, sliced with butter and a with a nice cup of tea.
Jo Ebisujima is a Brit living in Japan. She loves creating for children and helping parents to organize themselves and their children so that they can spend more quality time together. She writes about her work at My Organized Chaos. She can also be found at her personal blog jojoebi designs where she shares about her everyday life, Montessori, crafting, and raising a bilingual child in Japan.