Teachable moments. When a child is five, it seems there are a thousand of them. By the time they’re twelve, the stack starts to dwindle. And, at almost 20, I am now down to five or six. Or so it seems.
Noah wants an apartment next year and, with that, will come cooking his own meals. He will have a budget of $100 a week (what, in a year, his meal plan would cost) and I am superior in my assumption that he has no idea how to make that money stretch for a week. So we test the theory. We go to the grocery store with a calculator.
We hit the perimeter of the store first. That’s where you want to shop. The produce, meat and dairy sections. Only go to the dark side for staples like pasta, oil and spices. Hamburger Helper? NO! Chips Ahoy? DANGER! Velveeta? Okay, you’ve got me there. I love me some Velveeta.
So, to make a long story short, he did great. Dammit. He bought (I bought) a package of chicken breasts, thin-cut pork chops and two pounds of bulk sausage. Low rent ham for sandwiches. Lower rent bread. Frozen vegetables, rice, pasta, apples, coffee, canned soup and store brand cheese. He bypassed the relatively expensive convenience foods. He was unsuitably smug in his victory and totally discounted the fact that I had guided him away from the frozen pizza.
Having a basket full of groceries and knowing what to do with them are two different things, however.
Hah! I’ll get him here. “So, son?” I say coyly. “Why don’t you cook us supper with your new groceries? Just whip something up. Anything, really.”
And I leave. I go down to the garage to smoke and play World of Warcraft, confident in the fact that when I ascend again there will be mass chaos, a smoke-filled kitchen and burnt shards of something inedible on the plate.
“Mom?” he says. “Supper’s ready.”
I ascend. I gasp. How did friggin’ Emeril Lagasse find my kitchen? Noah has made coffee rub/breadcrumb coated pork chops, cooked perfectly until just rosy in the middle. He has made buttery mashed potatoes with garlic. He has made hericot verts with garlic. Alright, too much garlic but I am not going to quibble. It was all delicious.
So, tonight we go again. Chicken breasts, chopped green and yellow pepper, red onion, mushrooms.
He chops the chicken and seasons it with Montreal Chicken Seasoning. Sautes in oil, removes the chicken and then adds the vegetables. When they’re nice and brown he adds a bit of Madeira (not something he’ll have on campus – I can’t see you) and then adds a can of cream of mushroom soup. This is going to suck, I think. He thins the soup with milk, adds back the chicken, and then puts the entire mixture over pasta.
Dang it! It’s good. If I hadn’t watched him add the soup, I would never have known. I had seconds. And I wasn’t being polite.
I am proud of my boy. I would like to think that my miniscule attempt at one of the last few teachable moments had the seeds of germination in the hours he’s spent watching me cook over the last 19 years. But as I told him tonight there is no way to teach someone to cook. You either have the intuition or you don’t. You’re a recipe follower or you’re a creator. You can pick up tips and tricks, but you have to just have the knowledge of what goes with what and how much in your gut.
And he has it. No brag, just fact.