Nicholas: Sous-Chef

n-sous-chefLast Monday, I had a great plan for dinner. It was quite relaxing. It involved leftovers and a microwave. And bar cookies made from a box cake mix. (Totally not my normal modus operandi for cooking, but y’know.)

At 4:20, Nicholas arrived home from Chess Club and came into the kitchen. “Did you make the mousse?” he asked.

And suddenly I remembered: he had a book of French cooking, which included three recipes he wanted to make with me: ham and cheese crepes, macaroni and cheese with Béchamel, and chocolate mousse.

And the book was due back at the library the next morning.

So at 4:20 p.m., I launched into an entirely new, not-so-relaxing dinner plan, involving cleaning the beaters twice (because we had to beat egg yolks, then egg whites, then whipping cream); allowing crepe batter to rest in the refrigerator; and babysitting the stove while we cooked said crepes. All with the help of my sous-chef, Nicholas.

It was pretty intense, but worth it. It was a yummy meal, of course, but more than that, Nicholas is really invested in the process. He really likes to cook, and I’m trying to encourage that interest.

n-basketballA couple of weeks ago, he wanted to make pancakes. I was doing something else intensive in the kitchen—I can’t even remember what, now—so I told him to do it on his own. I answered questions and gave instructions and explanations as necessary. It was the easy pancake recipe, not the fiddly “cloud cakes” that require beating egg whites and so on—but they turned out quite tasty, and he got a healthy shot of pride at cooking for the family all by himself.

He seems to be maturing nicely these days. We still have some strong-willed moments, but they’re getting fewer and farther between. We’ve reached a point where he can stop to think and process things instead of going into rational-mind-shut-down mode. Where we can give him instructions and it’s not a full-on war to get him to comply. He gets distracted easily, but that’s a different issue.

He still asks more questions than any child I have ever met—and they’re not easy questions. It takes brain work to go on a car ride with him, I’m telling you. It wears you out. He frequently asks the next question before you’ve finished answering the first, and it’s often the same question worded a different way, indicating either a break in communication or that he’s not really listening (more likely). I think he’s a Child-Without-filter. He says everything that comes into his head.

Occasionally I will invoke the “only three questions in this fifteen-minute block” rule. (When he gets on a question binge, it’s more like three questions in two minutes, and not ones that can be answered “yes” or “no”.)

He’s not the dreamer in the family—he’s the one who seems to want to hang around the adults and ask what they’re doing and learn about it. This applies across the spectrum—from church questions to home repair. It’s fun to see how wide-ranging his curiosity is, and I look forward to seeing where his interests lead him.