If you can't stand the heat - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Anyone who has followed this column in recent years will know that I’ve taken a bit of an interest in cooking. Since we first found out that Jess was pregnant with Tallulah, way back in the winter of 2019, I began to experiment in the kitchen - first as a means of catering to a pregnant wife and then as something I’ve truly come to enjoy.
Now, all these years later, it’s been a real joy to bring Tallulah into the kitchen with me and teach her some of the things I’ve learned about cooking along the way. So, of course, I read Cindy Norgate’s “The Reading Web” piece in last week’s paper (she’s just taking a break for this week, dear readers, so do not fear) with great interest because I’ve found it to be fun to cook with Tallulah, even in a limited capacity.
It really started (and largely remains) with a big breakfast on weekends. I began making a proper breakfast for Jess and myself every weekend and with all the pans banging, eggs cracking and very loud stirring, it must have interested Tallulah, because she eventually made her way over to watch and ask questions.
Soon enough, she was helping me put salt in the eggs (a relatively straightforward job for a toddler, which she was then - as opposed to the preschooler we have now *tear*) and, on occasion, helping with the pepper. And while her “help” has, at times, really just been her sitting on the counter eating cheese, bread and bacon, she has graduated to cracking eggs.
She’s quite good at it, actually. She knows to crack the eggs on the counter (a flat surface) and she knows how the sound of the egg on the counter changes once it’s been cracked, which is when she knows then to pass it off to me.
I take it from there, cracking the egg into the mixing bowl and checking for shell bits (which Tallulah knows to look for too, though she’s getting better all the time, so it’s not as much of a concern as it once was). She has flattened the occasional egg, either because she’s bored without shell bits or just a bit overzealous - she is just a kid after all - but she’s a good helper.
The best part of it, honestly, has been her asking questions about what’s going on in the kitchen. Sure, she likes to focus a lot of her attention on her cheese and her bacon and her bread, but she’ll ask to see the bacon as it cooks away in the oven, asking me if it’s done yet or not. Plus, she always tells me when things are hot and to be careful, which I enjoy.
So, perhaps we have a future chef on our hands, or perhaps not. Either way, I’m glad that she has a bit of a foothold in an essential skill such as cooking. Growing up - which I probably loved at the time - my mother did a lot of stuff for me. When I moved to Huron County in my early 20s, I had to learn how to do a lot of things on my own because my mom just did them for me without asking, like cooking, laundry and mowing the lawn. The sooner Tallulah learns how to do these kinds of things, the better college roommate she’ll be.
She has a bit to go, still, however. The other day I took a crack at one of my most ambitious projects yet: baking my own cheesecake from scratch, including the crust, for my mom’s 70th birthday. I bought all the stuff we’d need, thinking it would be a good baking project for us (she’s taken to making a loaf of banana bread daily with Jess - not because we need it, but because she likes the fun of it all).
Well, she was interested... for about 10 minutes, crushing graham crackers with a potato masher, but then I was left to finish on my own and Jess was left to handle both kids, because I had gone too far to go back. So, she needs to find patience when cooking, but, again, she is a preschooler after all.