Most of the time I love to cook. There are weeks where I have a complete blank about what we ought to eat, I can’t think of anything to cook and we subsist off a diet of ‘things I can put in the oven and leave for a bit’, but for the most part I’ll be quite happy giving a new recipe a whirl, or playing and tweaking something we’ve already tried.
And ever since the girls have been tall enough to wobble on a step stool I have loved having them in the kitchen with me to help me. Or should that be ‘help’ me?
They’ve made ginormous messes, tasted raw potato and onion, eaten far more uncooked pastry and/or bread dough than can really be tasty for anyone, and on one memorable occasion, added a gentle sprinkling of porridge to a creme caramel.
It’s been a lot of fun; and not too much more clean up – well apart from the giant avalanche of flour that once swamped the kitchen floor.
But I’m starting to see a little sea change; Elma is still very much in the stage of prodding and poking a sacrifical bit of whatever it is we’re baking, though she’s very good at cutting out bells and trees from a biscuit mix, but Kitty is starting to get into real cooking. She’ll have a good go at peeling a carrot for the casserole, she’s getting the idea of folding and squishing to knead the bread, and if I tell her that I need three cups of flour measuring out into the bowl she know to make sure that they’re full, and we end up with pretty much the amount we were looking for.
This week we made our mincemeat and the first batch of mince pies and for the first time I had Kitty with me in the kitchen as an actual assistant. I peeled and cored all of the apples and she sliced them all into chunks with a table knife; she helped me measure out the dried fruit, smashed flaked almonds up with a wooden spoon because I’d forgotten to buy the chopped version, and chopped up almost as many glace cherries as she ate all while Elma napped and Pip chattered at the washing machine.
When she was a teeny tiny baby I would look at her and imagine the toddler and the little girl she would become, and plot and plan all the things we would do together; all the things I remember doing with my Mum, and all the things I love so much I can’t not want her to experience them too.
And occasionally I suspect impatience got the better of me and we’d do something that was really meant for slightly older little people just because I wanted to share it right now.
But now we’re there. The pleasure we shared in pottering around in the kitchen, with the smell of warm spicy apples fugging up the windows wasn’t just the fun in having a little sort of one on one time together, or in the conversations about Father Christmas, the origins of cherries, and whether we ought to put stars or angels on top of the mince pies, it was the realisation that perhaps for the first time we were truly cooking together; I wasn’t redoing Kitty’s contributions, and if the mince pies are a success (and they are) it’s just as much her work as mine.
It’s the moment I dreamt of holding my tiny mewling newborn come to reality.
And it seems odd to say that it took me by surprise, but it did; the last four years seem very short when what you thought was way off in the future is suddenly standing right their in front of you. But after the surprise came that warmth, that glow that seems to come from the very heart of you and stretch all the way to your finger tips, that looks around you, from the post piling up on the counter, the dirty dishes waiting to be washed and the stray currants dotted over the floor to the intense concentration of your daughter and knows that it is for moments exactly like these that you became a mother.