I don’t know that my mom loved to cook as much as she dug the reactions she got from her standout meals. A daughter of the South, Bettye was renowned for her southern dishes, and her macaroni and cheese was the stuff of legend. People heard she was whipping up a pan, and they’d get into car accidents and break stuff and whatnot trying to get in line for a heaping serving before it was all gone. It wasn’t an easy dish to make back then; the grocery stores didn’t have those glorious pre-shredded bags of cheese, so she had to scrape countless blocks of sharp and mild cheddar over her beat-up hand-held shredder to get the right amount of cheese she needed for ginormous pans of mac and cheese, which should explain why she wasn’t a fan of the cooking part.
As a kid, I didn’t quite get my mom’s foot dragging in the kitchen; I’d beg her to let me help, and on the days when she’d hand over a block of cheese for me to shred, I’d handle it with great glee. I loved helping out in the kitchen! But as a mom charged with cooking three squares for a family of five most days of the week, I kinda get it now. After the writing and the chores and the homework help and the after-school activities, I barely want to think through what to cook, let alone stand over a hot stove. It’s plain exhausting.
Which is why I’m training my girls how to handle themselves in the kitchen. Oh, it’s not a game: I’ve had Mari and Lila cracking eggs, seasoning chicken, slicing fruit (with kid-friendly knives), and buttering biscuits practically from the moment they were able to walk themselves into the kitchen.
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