“Hi, Auntie Claire! We came over to help you guys make chocolate zucchini cake!” My 4 year-old nephew bursts into the kitchen, as excited about cooking with us as he is about the prospect of cake.
I try to cook with the kids regularly. They love making tortillas from scratch — especially smushing the balls of masa. We make banana bread from the abandoned half-bananas the kids leave behind — I just peel them, pop them into a bag in the freezer, and then thaw them when I have enough.
Today, my husband has offered to teach Ev how to make chocolate zucchini cake, using the gargantuan zucchini that’s been sitting on our table for the last week. Sadly, my own squash plants are not doing especially well this season. They’re rather pathetic, really. Fortunately, the weekly neighborhood crop swap is just full of people who are happy to unload their runaway summer squash.
And yes, that does mean that if you too are plagued with zucchini, you can feel free to leave them by my back door.
While Uncle M. gets out the recipe and ingredients, Ev goes to wash his hands — critical, since they will be all over the food.
Why it’s important to wash your hands
- Before you touch food: wash your hands so you don’t get dirt and germs in the food.
- After you touch food: wash your hands because Auntie Claire will be very, very unhappy if you get sticky little fingerprints all over the house.
The kids like to touch, smell, and taste everything. As long as most of it stays in the bowl and they’re not eating raw eggs or hot peppers or blowing into the flour so it flies everywhere, I generally try to go with the flow.
When they get to the cocoa powder, Uncle M. warns Ev that although it smells like chocolate, unsweetened cocoa powder does NOT taste very good, because there’s no sugar in it yet. But, he tells him, you can go ahead and try it if you want.
Maybe next time Ev will take his word for it.
Eventually, we get everything mixed together, more or less according to the instructions. I try to go for recipes that won’t suffer if there’s a little too much or too little of one ingredient, or if you accidentally add them in the wrong order. I’d rather that the kids learn to love cooking.
Fortunately, I find that most recipes written for the home cook are remarkably forgiving. As are small children and their parents. No one’s going to complain if it doesn’t come out exactly the way it’s supposed to. Especially if someone else cleans up the kitchen.
Fortunately, Ev still thinks that getting to load and unload my dishwasher is a special treat.