My toddlers climb up on the counter, crowd around the mixer, unwrap sticks of butter, crack eggs, and take reluctant turns with the measuring cups and spoons. They sneak spoonfuls of cookie dough, pinch of bites of bread dough. They learn to count eggs and cups of flour.
My husband, who prefers cakes from a mix to cakes made from scratch, canned frosting to homemade, is convinced that someone is going to fall off the counter or lose a finger to the whirring mixer.
Although I outsource my deep-cleaning, employ the good cooks at Cafe Rio and Domino’s Pizza to provide weeknight dinners for my family more often than I’d care to admit, and consider laundry a chore, our baking time is worth all of the messes, and all of the extra calories no one really needs. A few months ago, I considered joining the #whole30 craze, but decided I’d miss the ritual of baking, the scamper of little feet when I ask if anyone wants to bake cookies, the looks of deep contentment that come over my kids’ faces when they arrive home from school and smell brownies in the oven.
Thirty years ago, I was the child on the counter, fetching baking soda and begging for a beater. When the women in my family get together, we cook. We gather in the kitchen, putting together showstopping meals that are probably two notches fancier than any of the guys would care to eat. I slip back into my designated role as the fetcher and peeler, no longer the mother of six, but the daughter and granddaughter who knows her place. Like billions of women around the world, the women in my family come together in the kitchen.
If your family is like mine, take a moment to read Tessa Hagulid’s nonfiction piece “On the Menu” from the May 2014 issue of Segullah. As she invites friends and family to a party, the ghosts from her past, her mother, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, take their place in the kitchen to prep a southern feast. The story, which enfolds in footnotes, resonated strongly with me, right down to the lost recipes and the bickering.
How do you bond with the women in your family? Is putting your toddlers on the counter a risk you’re willing to take (I remember reading an article online a few years ago about a celebrity whose son broke his arm in a fall from the counter, and it seemed that the commenters sided squarely with my more risk-averse husband)? What would you serve at a meal that exemplified all of the food traditions from your maternal line?