I have always loved to cook. I assume it is the same with many families but for me it was always a time of togetherness with a side of great adventure. My mother had this spiral notebook which held mystical recipes that she used to turn boring dinners into tasty delights. I remember fondly my excitement at being old enough to use that notebook with my mom, and one day on my own. We would wear these matching aprons my grandmother made for us. They were reserved for these special occasions. Now my children fight over who gets to wear them (too many kids, not enough aprons!).
So my mother taught me how to follow recipes, how to make the time special, and how to keep organized. She was always patient with me. My dad taught me how to think on the fly. Can I add that looking back it was fantastic that I actually cooked with my dad. My fondest memory is of him and I baking a cake for my mom and promptly dropping it on the floor. My dad picked it up and pieced it together and used icing to glue it in place….thinking on the fly, being creative and having fun. Those are things I carry with me to this day.
I have always cooked with my kids. I have not always been patient but I try.
There have been a few times in our married life when money has gotten super tight. My love of cooking has gotten us through. I found reasonable (and super cheap) meals to cook. I’ve gotten creative with ingredients I have on hand. The most recent tight spot I found myself in was a blessing in disguise.
I had bought a bag of flour right before it went downhill for us and boy that was our saving grace. I ended up using almost the whole 10lb bag in a week. I baked our bread fresh daily (with the help of the kids of course) and when I cooked spaghetti that loaf of french bread became tasty garlic bread! We usually pay about 4$ a loaf at the store for garlic bread and here I spent 9$ on this big bag of flour. I made two loaves of garlic bread, several pizza crusts, six loaves of bread and countless muffins, scones and cookies!!! What a deal ! What I learned during those early cooking sessions sure came in handy.
But the super great thing was when I ran out of olive oil to put in my pizza crust, I substituted the Kraft greek olive oil dressing we had in the fridge and my kids loved it so much that now they won’t have it any other way. I also managed to substitute sugar for honey which gave the crust a richer taste. That’s thinking on the fly.
What else made it even better you might ask? I decided to check through the cupboards and found all sorts of ingredients I had bought over time and never used up.
Ok so I go in stages….I make everything from scratch for a period and insist everything that goes into my kids mouths is healthy or at the very least a healthy version I made. Then one day I walk into the kitchen and see my daughter eating Mr Noodle raw out of the pack. Whaaaaa? How did I get here, I wonder. I take a look back and realize that slowly my resolve weakens and one day I buy a pizza pocket (and yes I have made my own they are fantastic) and between birthing and nursing and changing diapers it happens… we’re eating questionable pre-made food.
So back to those magic ingredients…..I found some cocoa and decided to make brownies while my sweet husband put the littles to bed. My daughter joined me and decided she would make the icing. Of course there was not enough cocoa but she said its ok mom I got this and improvised a fantastic icing for our brownies that I wish I could replicate. Of course most of those times we are not paying attention, we are creating and never write down and only some of the time remember how we made it.
So now I see it in my kids …those gifts my parents gave to me….. of learning to cook, of learning to be resourceful and make it up as we go along… and I’m pleasantly surprised to find that even being short on cash can be such a great gift.