Give the woman a rolling pin and a fresh ball of dough and my Babcia (grandma) was a boss in the kitchen. Between her and my mom, they could whip up enough pierogi to feed an army in less time than it takes for most to buy a frozen package of ravioli. As for the flavor: those ravioli could take a back seat. Each pierog was rolled with precision; the dough delicately stretched, the filling made from scratch and perfectly laid, then gently folded into a half-moon, strongly pinched with even spaces between imprints. With everything baked or cooked, our kitchen exhibited a well-rehearsed dance routine as my mom and her mom waltzed around one another. They magically added ingredients to recipes, which resulted in a dish that silenced the room when it touched our family and friend’s lips. Recipes were never exact because their expertise forced measurements to be done with the senses rather than a measuring tool. Eyeing it or feeling the consistency and texture was their guidance.
Food was more than something to fuel us through the day, but instead something that brought us together. Is there any better way to pass down history than from fork to mouth? For any celebration the first matter discussed was always the menu. On holidays, the menu was pre-determined because of the beauty of tradition. From planning the courses, shopping the ingredients and finally readying the dishes in anticipation of eating first with our eyes, food was a special affair. Once it was finally time to indulge, we relished in the familiar flavors of an often labor intensive meal. Old recipes were always embraced, but introducing new flavors to our palates was a must: there are too many in so many cuisines, it would be shameful to leave them untouched.
I would be lying if I said I ate everything and acquired a sophisticated palate at a young age (not to say I have one now). I turned my nose up to plenty put under it and spent my share of time flushing food wrapped in a napkin down the toilet, then convincing my mom I ate everything. We had to at least try something and my parents proved the theory correct that often times, if you try something enough, you will like it and that variety is the spice of life.
It is, however, safe to say we had a healthy relationship with food – although my derrière begged to differ at certain periods in my life. So, contrary to popular belief amongst my friends, Giada and Ina were not who lured me into the kitchen, but rather my Babcia and Mom. Outside of all other elements mentioned above, time in the kitchen was an opportunity to talk and learn as well as a chance to pour out our hearts or gripe and moan. When cooking alone, I’ve learned it’s a good opportunity to decompress – especially when paired with a glass of wine. Brian and I love to share this pastime and revere meals with one another and with the kids. It should then come as no surprise that I have a strong drive to pass down this foodie mentality to my daughter.
(Proud mommy moment – excuse me while I brag for a bit: When my oldest was just learning to eat, she refused to! My stress level was through the roof because I was convinced she was surviving on air alone. I of course mentioned this to the doctor and I was sent to other doctors, speech therapists and given many ridiculous exercises. I did them all and nothing worked. Finally, I could get her to eat sausage and canned corn. Sometimes a bagel was a hit and I would let her eat whenever and wherever, often in front of a cartoon because she would zone and eat. I finally realized it was my stress and bad “environment” that were causing such poor eating habits. With the help of some French-inspired books (French Children Don’t Throw Food by Pamela Druckermanhttp://www.amazon.com/French-Children-Dont-Throw-Food/dp/0552779172/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1451853600&sr=8-1&keywords=french+children+don%27t+throw+food and French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billonhttp://www.amazon.com/French-Kids-Eat-Everything-Discovered/dp/006210330X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1451853649&sr=8-1&keywords=french+kids+eat+everything) as well as unsolicited advice from my French friend in Australia, I did an overhaul on my pantry and drastically changed my approach for what I thought was my overly picky eater. Fast forward and just last weekend as a family we shared appetizers of goat cheese with fig jam bruschetta and a baguette with paté. She still of course has to be persuaded to eat certain things, but her food habits are night and day from several years ago.)
For a fun Valentine’s activity last year, my daughter and I enrolled in a family baking class. Her faced beamed when we surprised her. It was with Sur la Table, which I consider a cook’s mecca. Swooning over the vibrant colors of Le Creuset or discovering new tools I simply can’t live without, a trip there is always a treat. The class was located in the back of the Pearl location, so we managed to quickly peruse the aisles before each robing in chef-like aprons. One of the sous-chefs greeted me with a latte (note to self – I need to acquire a fancy cappuccino machine) and then Audrey and I settled in, reviewing the recipes. She could barely contain her smile and I was giddy to roll up our sleeves and bake some cupcakes and kiss cookies.
Grouped with two other elementary aged girls, we all worked together in sharing the designated tasks given by the instructor. My daughter didn’t have an ounce of shyness and volunteered to pour, mix, roll, and work the stand mixer. She exercised self-control by not licking her fingers while frosting the cupcakes and by the end of the class, was at home as she moved about the class kitchen. Once the last sprinkles were sprinkled and cupcakes frosted, we were each passed out boxes to pack up our treats to take home. Her wide eyes expressed her glee in taking all that we made home to share with the rest of the family.
After class, we again did some shopping and my daughter too found things she could just not live without, including a perfect Paris apron. That class was one of the best times I shared with her and we look forward to enrolling in another in the future. I’ve also heavily hinted to Brian that their “date-night” classes would be a perfect surprise for me. Cheers to home cooking!
For more information on Sur La Table cooking classes near you, please check out their website. http://www.surlatable.com/category/cat2211278/Cooking+Classes