Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fostering Creativity in the Kitchen by Christina of Frankly Entertaining

Nearly a decade ago, I had the privilege of attending college with my two cousins, Sarah and Christina. Having grown up on opposite sides of the continent (Southern Oregon is a long way from Nova Scotia), we relished our sisterly time together at Brigham Young University. One Saturday they asked if I'd like to help them cater their friend's baby shower. So I did help (read: I scooped salad onto plates while I stared, slack-jawed, as Sarah and Christina put on a Martha Stewart-worthy luncheon). Good grief--all I knew how to make was toast and bean burritos, and they were ready for a catering business!

Now, though separated by geography themselves (Whidbey Island is a long way from San Antonio), they are gracing the cyber world with their new blog, Frankly Entertaining. On it they share their recipes, their tips, and their two cents on cookbooks. We're excited to have them at Bloom this week, beginning today, with Christina.

A picture of my oldest helping me make granola bars.

My sister and I sometimes give our mom a hard time about her lack of cooking lessons when we were growing up. Not the sign-your-kid-up, drop-your-kid-off kind. We had those. But the one on one mom-and-me kind. We didn't have too many of those.

So how did I learn to cook? I did take cooking lessons a couple of different times as a kid. And I remember things like scooping and leveling and the importance of accurate measurements. But I feel like most of my learning came from the freedom that I had in my mother's kitchen. My mom, by un-involving herself from my cooking, was fostering creativity in the kitchen without even knowing it. Or maybe that was her plan all along?

My mother gave me complete freedom in the kitchen. There were no restrictions placed on the foods I could eat, or when I could eat, or what I could make for myself. If it was in the kitchen, it was fair game. We had lots of cookbooks and some cookbooks just for kids. I loved reading those cookbooks. Searching through recipes and picking out ones that sound too good to pass up was, and still is, one of my favorite things to do.

I remember one of the first recipes I tried was for a mint chocolate pudding that was made in the blender. I asked my mom if I could make it, and she said something about it not sounding very appetizing to her but I could make it if I wanted to. I think I was only about 8 years old, but I made that recipe all by myself. I served it for dessert that night while we had company. It made me feel great to be able to make something for others and have them like it (or at least pretend to). Mint chocolate blender pudding doesn't sound all that appetizing to me anymore either, but to a little girl, trying out her independence, it was magic!

I remember another time when I tried to make a chocolate torte - a family favorite - and it didn't turn out at all. I must have left out some crucial ingredient. I'm sure it was frustrating for my mom to throw out that wasted food, but I don't remember one complaint from her about it. She knew I was learning, and sometimes wasted ingredients are a cost of becoming a better baker.

I try to remember some of the lessons I learned from my mom when I'm in the kitchen with my kids. Things are going to get messy. We may ruin some things. But the end goal is for them to want to be in the kitchen. And I feel like my mom made it a safe place for me to be me. A place where I could experiment and create without fear.

I need to be more like that. Too often I'm too uptight - "Don't touch that," "Stir more gently, please," "Here, let me finish that." When all I really need to do is get out of their way and set them free.

On the days when I've got three sets of busy little hands that all want to help and my patience is wearing thin, that's when I really need to just let go and trust the wisdom in my mother's hands-off method.


jeanine said...

I find myself being too uptight in the kitchen as well! My boys LOVE to help... I need to let them do it more often!

Bloom said...

This was really sweet, Christina.
Thanks for sharing it with Bloom.


Sally said...

That is something I know I need to to get better at. Usually I say "everyone out of the kitchen until dinner is ready." My Mom never taught me how to cook though and I really struggled when I first got married. I don't want my kids to go through that too.

Melissa said...

My girls and I started a cupcake projects sans Julie & Julia. It has been good practice for me to show them how a couple of times and let them go. It takes some restraint to watch the egg shells fall, but we break them into a cup first which helps me breathe easier. :D