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Unchaperoned kitchen experiments

| 07 Jun 2024 | 12:26

I have been trying to teach my children how to cook for years, bits and pieces at a time. They are proud to know how to make meals they like: pancakes, oatmeal, tuna melts. I always fantasized about my kids taking over bigger meals. There are just so many meals in a week, as every parent knows, and it would be nice to share the burden with these children who have opinions about food and always seem to be ready for a snack.

And so I was delighted when my son took a strong interest in a few old cookbooks we pulled off our shelves one day. We were talking about older recipes, so we showed him my grandmother’s Settlement Cookbook from 1951 and a few others we’ve collected.

His favorite turned out to be the Pictorial Review Standard Cookbook: A Sure Guide for Every Bride (1934). Confusingly, it has no pictures, though it was published by the Pictorial Review, a fashion and home magazine that ran from 1899 to 1939.

My son read through the recipes, which included directions to use a “slow oven” and “cook until done.” This week he read aloud a recipe that called for “one sheet of marshmallow,” which could be found at “your local supply house.” And as I write this, he called out another recipe directing him to “put all ingredients in the meat chopper and moisten with salad dressing.”

I guess it’s no surprise that, for his first recipe, he chose to tackle the Perfection Salad. This is a molded Jello salad including cabbage, celery and stuffed olives. We had all the ingredients on hand, and so he had the salad chilling in the refrigerator within an hour. The vinegar that was mixed into the gelatin packs quite a punch! He was delighted by how terrible it was. I lovingly ate a portion, while the chickens ate the rest.

Then he decided to make hard butterscotch candies, because every 12-year-old should know how to caramelize sugar, right? Well, I had to step in there because making candy is precision work and mildly dangerous.

He has chosen a few more recipes that we have enjoyed, some very experimental – like the delicious cake made from ground-up graham crackers (in place of flour and sugar); and some classics – like the ginger cookies.

I have vetoed a few recipes, including one that involves both boiling sugar and stretching hot candy like you would a taffy. Nice idea, kid, but we don’t need any third degree burns this week. Don’t you want to make some pancakes for breakfast?