Lessons From a Little Chef

I knew that little face would get your attention!!

When I was little, my parents would let me take over the kitchen and cook or bake something (mostly) on my own. I remember three of those occasions especially made an impact.

  • Every summer, my sister Mary and I would hold “Mommy’s Day” which was a day we’d plan for weeks, scheduling DIY activities like at-home spa treatments for my mom (AKA smearing serums on her face!), little outings to local places she loved, and cooking breakfast in bed and lunch fit for a queen! One year, I was particularly proud of a turkey sandwich we made. Store-bought pesto, dried cranberries, turkey and lettuce piled high on toasted oatmeal bread. We stood by the toaster, watching for the exact moment that the bread turned the perfect golden hue. I bossed Mary around to layer the turkey and pesto ever so slowly to make sure the proportions were right. I cut the sandwich in triangles to make the sandwich look extra fancy. I was full of pride. It meant the world when my mom took her first bite and declared it the best turkey sandwich ever. Oh the love she had for us!!
  • I was somewhere around twelve years old, and I begged my parents to let me make Sunday dinner for the family, start to finish. I planned this dinner for what seemed like months, printing out recipes from my favorite Food Network chefs. I settled on some kind of chicken dish with pasta on the side which was half improv and half recipe. The day of, I remember feeling the “heat” in the best way. Setting the table for dinner was like wrapping a present. I wanted it to be perfect. Lining up the little fork on the outside of the big fork, carefully folding paper napkins and lighting candles, playing my favorite Frank Sinatra album at the perfect decibel: I wanted to prove that I could do it all. I don’t particularly remember the dinner itself, but the events leading up to it made a real impact. I’m sure the chicken resembled saw dust and the pasta wiggled, but I made it happen start to finish. It meant a lot.
  • My final impactful cooking memory actually involved baking. I was super young, maybe seven or eight years old. Everyone in my family loved lemon poppy seed cake except for me. I wanted to impress everyone by making a treat I knew they’d love. So I made a lemon poppy seed loaf from another one of my Food Network favs, half improv and half recipe. It was terrible, likely due to extreme baker’s error. Given I was so young and didn’t really like lemon poppy seed in the first place, I didn’t know it was so bad tasting. My family tried a slice and they seemed to love it! But the next morning, I walked into our pantry closet, and the cake was gone! R.I.P. because the cake was in the trash. LOL.

At a VERY young age, I remember my stubbornness, zeal, and tenacity which manifested itself especially in the kitchen. “No you can’t” or “no you’re too young” or “no it wasn’t good” were some of the most impactful moments, especially in my life now that exists primarily in the kitchen.

There’s still some days where I feel like “I can’t,” or I’m “too young,” or something turned out “no good.” But it’s hard to grow out of that Little Grace mentality.

So today and every day — it’s time to go make a lemon poppy seed loaf!!


picture of grace eating

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