My non-D-daughter is taking "Family & Consumer Science" right now at school. I'd say that I'm pretty sure that's 2013 for "Home Economics," but I'm probably not allowed to. Anyway, tonight was one of her major projects: making dinner for the family, starting with menu planning and grocery shopping. This is a HUGE undertaking for her. I love her dearly, in so many ways, but this promised trouble from the start. She is an extremely picky eater, shows no interest in cooking, and her only expressed interest in grocery shopping is to get a donut when her D-sister isn't there (not that we don't allow her to eat donuts...). This is amplified by her sister's ever too ready side by side comparison; my other daughter is an adventurous eater, loves to cook, and can easily find her way around the grocery store.
She looked through numerous cookbooks and selected her recipes. She went through the ingredients we had on hand and then made a grocery list of the items she'd need. So, with the greatest of attitudes, I took her shopping today. We collected the items she'd need, went home, and she started to cook.
She did fine with the appetizer she had selected--spiced pecans. She learned about how to measure butter by the markings on the stick. She learned about cayenne and cumin, which were new to her. She learned how important the stove temperature can be. Her feelings were a little hurt when her sister didn't want to try the nuts, and wasn't very appreciative when I couldn't help pointing out the obvious: "See how someone's feelings can be hurt when you cook something and they won't even try it?" (I really couldn't help it.) But she was learning! So far, so good. And then she shifted to the main course, and that's where we hit a speed bump.
"Dad, where's the chicken?"
"What chicken, sweetheart?"
"Dad, I'm making chicken teriyaki. I forgot to put chicken on the list. Oh no, I guess we're eating nuts for dinner."
"Honey, that's okay. Mom or I can take you to get chicken. But making dinner really is harder than it looks, isn't it?" (I couldn't help it again.)
So my wife took her, with heavier than usual traffic due to the evening rush, and they came back 6 miles and 1 hour later.
She was a little deflated, but I got to make up for my previous utterances and tell her the story of how when I started cooking I was eager and adventurous, but completely incapable of getting dinner on the table before 9 (or 10) pm. She still needed a lot of cheerleading, because the poor thing was really struggling and feeling the effort and the burden grow. ("Everyone is getting hungrier and it's getting later and later. I can't believe I forgot the chicken. Please eat the nuts. At least you'll have something. I'm going to fail this class.")
We sat down to eat, and no sooner did she sit, with apron on--very cute--than she sprang back up to go make dessert.
"Dad, where's the powdered sugar?"
"Where's the vanilla extract?"
"Do we have a 'fine mesh sieve' Dad?"
It took four tries to get the beaters attached to the hand mixer, but she watched with amusement as the cream formed firm peaks, then took the blackberry puree ("Dad, do we have a food processor?") and folded it in ("Where is the rubber spatula?!") along with some whole fresh blackberries.
In the end, everything was delicious, and she learned a ton. She obviously learned the most from her stumbles. She lamented that she thought everyone else in class probably did better than she did, and that she really was no good at it. I reminded her that it all tasted great, and that she just needs more practice and more experience. She was glad it tasted good, but was tired and it was getting late, and she had other homework to do, which she hadn't had a chance to start. She struggled through that, and her shower, and lost even more steam as she made her way to bed. She was visibly relieved when I told her I'd do the dishes--she had done quite enough. I tucked her in and wished her good night.
And then I went down to clean up and do those dishes. I eventually cleared away enough debris to find the pile of cookbooks on the counter. Sitting on top, still open to her recipe, was the one she had used tonight. I closed it to put it away--and I stopped. It was only then that I realized she had used a cookbook "for families living with type 1 diabetes." She had made low-carb selections, and adapted them to be gluten free. She hadn't had to ask for any help with those parts. She knows that stuff cold, though she has neither diabetes nor celiac herself. She was already asleep, but in the morning I'll be sure to tell her that despite what she thinks, I'm pretty certain that no one else in her class can do what she did tonight.