by Daniel Meyer
(More of Daniel’s weekly adventures in cooking with kids. – mb)
On Tuesday we cooked zucchini boats and strawberry shortcake for ourselves. On Wednesday we cooked zucchini boats and strawberry shortcake for our parents. On Thursday we cooked zucchini boats and strawberry shortcake for our benefactors. I fear that cooking class may have just had its soft opening.
The repetition was a chance to practice our boat carving and biscuit making, and a welcome opportunity to explain to the kids that cooking is the delicate art of messing something up until it tastes good enough to eat for dinner – or, in this case, good enough to swallow in front of your mother.
For evidently a canoe made from a zucchini magically becomes more palatable when your mom is watching you eat it. The boats (which amounted to a formidable flotilla by the end of the week) were sculpted with spoons, stuffed with a mixture of sautéed zucchini pulp and red onion, egg, breadcrumbs and cheese, then baked until golden and crisp. For some of the kids you could have stuffed the boats with McNuggets and chocolate frosting and it wouldn’t have eased the indignity of being told to eat an entire half of a zucchini. One of them even noted that the boat would be far more enjoyable if it sat at the bottom of a hot fudge sundae. He ate the cheesy cargo, then sunk the boat in the trash can.
Yet when we made the very same dish on the very next day he ate two of them, zucchini and all, proclaiming all the while how much better they were than yesterday’s. I would have attributed the shift to his discovery of sour cream had his mother not been sitting next to him as he ate. A kid’s aversion to vegetables can be a powerful thing, but sometimes it just can’t stand up to his desire to please and impress his mom.
When it came to making biscuits for strawberry shortcake, the kids were even more eager to show off their cooking chops. When we had made the biscuits the day before, the kids were more or less content to hand over the duties of kneading and patting out the dough to me, but in front of their parents they were having none of it. The ten of them spouted recently acquired facts about baking powder, gluten, and the merits of cold butter as they proudly pounded the dough into submission. They knew well that the whole idea was to handle the dough as little as possible, but knew even better that they were not about to pass up an opportunity to show their parents what they could do. With twenty warm and frenzied hands laying claim to the dough that they had built, the cold butter didn’t stand a chance.
So the biscuits were flat, but the cooks and their parents couldn’t have been happier. A successful soft opening in my book.