Action in the kitchen

March 15, 2009

My daughter Sally, who is nine, has a terrific little cookbook that has been inspiring her in the kitchen.


Lately she’s been flicking through this book and ‘independently’ making stuff. On Friday after school I found her sitting at the bench with her apron on. “I’m going to make garlic bread!” she announced.

“Great, we have half a baguette left from yesterday. How much butter do you need?”

“One hundred grams”. Sally took the butter out of the fridge and placed it on the cutting board. She took a paring knife out of the drawer. 

“Do you know how much one hunderd grams is?”

“Yes. This much”. She indicated her estimate with the knife and tried to cut the firm block of butter”.

“Perhaps only make half the recipe”, I suggested, “we only have half a baguette”.

“Yeah, great idea”.

“So fifty would be there. Would you like me to cut it?”

She moved back and allowed me to cut the butter for her. She expressed her relief. It was quite solid just out of the fridge. 

With the precarious job of cutting over, I decided to let her work independently. I knew she’d call me if she needed me. I flicked the oven onto preheat and went back to my study.

A little while later, she called out to me from the kitchen. “What colour is garlic?”

I keep the garlic together with onions and shallots in a wooden bowl in a drawer. We had red onions. The shallots are red.

“The garlic is in the drawer with the onions”, I replied.

“Yeah I know, but what colour is it?”


This was all the information she needed and things became quiet in the kitchen. After a few minutes I decided to go in to help her with the garlic press. I found her microwaving the butter. She was reading the instructions aloud. “On high for forty seconds”. She was engrossed and busy. I picked up the clove of garlic and while I sliced off the excess skin asked her if she’d like me to show her how to use the crusher. She looked confused. 

“Oh, I didn’t know you had to use that part of the garlic”, she said.  I suddenly noticed little flecks of white garlic skin in a bowl that she’d carefully peeled off the bulb and desiccated. “Ah Sally, this is the skin!”. I demonstrated to her which piece of the garlic is of interest and placed the skin in the compost. I showed her how the press worked and demonstrated the removal of the skin from the inside of the press. She watched me with a serious expression on her face but said nothing.

“Well, you learn something new everyday!” I said, jollying her with the cliched expression. She replied with a half-smile,”No, I don’t! Not everyday”.

She watched me crush the garlic into her melted butter, then she stirred the mixture vigorously. I hung around because the next step was to slice the bread. 

“Don’t slice it all the way through”, I advised.

“I know that. It says so in the book!”.

I watched her use the bread knife. 

“Just use a butter knife to spread on the mixture”, I suggested. 

With the butter knife in her hand she hesitated over the runny mixture. I suggested that she spread it on both sides and demonstrated it quickly. I went to leave, but she said “I just need that paper stuff to wrap the garlic bread in. Where’s it kept?”.

“Don’t you mean foil?” I corrected as I opened the drawer.

“No! Its a microwave cookbook mum. I need waxed paper because you can’t put foil in the microwave. That’s the point of the book! Its all microwave! Kids can do it all by themselves! All the recipes are safe! No hot oven!”. 

“Oh”, I said, standing corrected. I handed her the roll of waxed paper and turned off the preheating oven. 

She finished it off by herself and called me and her sister into the kitchen when it was ready. She had placed it on the table and put out three plates. It was actually delicious. I was most impressed and so was her sister. Sally puffed up with pride.

I’m pleased because we often have day-old baguette that ends up in the compost. Now we have a handy solution to prevent waste and a willing little cook.

That was Friday. On Saturday her sister made Brownies. On Sunday Sally was back in the kitchen again. She had begun making marmalade from her microwave book before I was aware of any action in the kitchen. She called me in to help when she needed to use the blender. She was in her apron and she’d already peeled and sliced carrots, chopped oranges and a lemon.

I showed her how to operate it safely and prepared to give her a demonstration, but the blades seemed to get stuck over the slices of carrot and in the skin of the citrus. It was with much frustrated effort that we worked out that it wasn’t the size of the pieces she’d cut that was making the blades stick, but that the motor in the blender was broken. 

My plans for the morning were forgotten as I took out my cooks knife and resolved to be her “blender”. I have a wonderful new knife (from the Japanese range ‘Global’). The work of chopping was strangely satisfying. I ran the knife quickly over and back through small portions of fruit and veg she’d already cut into small pieces. These I scraped into her mixing bowl in increments making room on the cutting board for the next small portion. As I worked Sally watched, half mesmerized. 

Halfway through the process the door bell rang and her grandfather (my father) entered the kitchen. He’d been on a cycling tour in country Victoria. His impromptu visit was on his way home from our local station. He sat at the bench in his cycling gear and had a cuppa and spoke of his trip whilst I chopped. Sally supervised the growing mound of chopped stuff in her bowl with satisfaction. Her grandfather took an interest in what she was making and asked if she had enough jars. She’d found one she told him. He offered to drop a couple off for her, which he did an hour later.

I watched her as she added the sugar to the chopped ingredients and followed the cooking instructions, which included stirring after an initial blast in the microwave on high. Finally the mixture had to cook for thirty minutes on medium. “When its cooked, Sally, don’t take it out without supervision, will you? It’s going to be very hot”.

I’m pleased to report that it was another cooking success. She scooped the marmalade into the jars after it had cooled. I tasted some on bread and it was delicious. I told her so and had a second piece. “Try some”, I offered, holding out my piece of toast for her to bite.

“No. I hate marmalade”, she admitted.

“Why did you make it if you hate it?”, I enquired, laughing.

“It was the only thing in the book without butter”, she said matter-of-factly. (We’d run out because her sister had made the brownies with the block that was left).

Sally was proud of her work. She made labels, set one of the jars aside for her grandfather and informed him by phone.



6 Responses to “Action in the kitchen”

  1. Kit said

    Well done Sally! It looks great.

  2. mennogirl said

    What a great story! I too remember my early interest in messing around in the kitchen and it is great how you are letting Sally explore on her own. Also you capture this moment so well with your writing, great job!

  3. ejenne said

    Hi Kit. I must admit I was surprised at how good it did look (and taste). I’d never before seen a recipe for marmalade with carrot as one of the ingredients!

  4. ejenne said

    Hey mennogirl! I agree, these times in the kitchen are fond memories of own girlhood. I remember being taught scones by my mother and grandmother. I remember at the time taking the whole thing very seriously and feeling that I was being trained and made privy to privileged information.

    And thankyou! I’m glad it was a good read 🙂

  5. trousers said

    I have to admit, I was reading this and half-expecting some sort of unfortunate but amusing mishap to crop up somewhere. I’m very glad that it didn’t though, this was good and enjoyable to read, and that marmalade looks delicious.

  6. ejenne said

    Hi trousers. lol. I’m glad it didn’t too. Your anticipation mirrors my dilemma at the time. There’s always risk when you let kids go for it.

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