Every day that he is here, The Moose breezes into the kitchen and immediately starts pulling out “stuff.” Most days he starts with my grandmother’s glass juicer and an orange. He has to ask for a cup (because, even with a stool, cups are too high for him to reach; he has not tried climbing on the counters yet, although that is just a matter of time) and he has to ask me to slice the orange in half. Then he makes himself some freshly squeezed orange juice and chugs it down.
He would dearly love to wield the knife himself, but 3½ is a bit too young, even with an indulgent Grammy. I imagine The Moose and a knife would be a bit like a Japanese chef at a steak house in the speed and direction of the knife; and a bit like a slasher movie in the results of the knife.
I am sure that in the years to come we will work on his knife skills as his favorite activity with Grammy is cooking.
A couple of months ago I wrote to his great grandmother telling her about our day, which had included Moose-prepared tacos for lunch:
I fried up the hamburger meat, made up the spice mix, chopped the tomatoes and lettuce, put the cheese in a bowl, got out the sour cream and taco sauce and heated up the taco shells. Wait a minute: putting it like that makes it seem too ordered and easy. This is how it really went:
I plonked the meat in the frying pan and put myself between it and The Moose – who wanted to help break it up. I took out the spices for the mix and let The Moose scoop them into a little bowl, which meant a little in the bowl and a lot on the counter. I let him put the tomatoes in the bowl, after I chopped them – he wanted to do it while I was chopping and his fingers were constantly straying into the region of the knife coming down. And I let him put the packet of grated cheese into a bowl, which he insisted on pouring in by himself, and which meant the counter was once again awash in our coming lunch. (Even I, as laid back as I am about cooking with him, don’t want to introduce the hand grater just yet.) As I was putting everything on the table, I discovered I had turned on the lower oven and put the taco shells in the upper one.
BUT, we finally did all sit down. I fixed The Moose a taco with a little meat and cheese and gave it to him. Before I could even sit down myself, or put a thing on my plate, The Ravenous Moose had taken a big chomp, the shell shattered, and meat and cheese slid down out of his hands, all over him and his chair and the floor.
Three year olds don’t appear to have changed since I was raising them in the 1980s.
A couple of days ago, it was too chilly for me to enjoy standing around a playground, so I thought we could spend the afternoon cooking together. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home from school to pick up the few things we needed, like apples and milk, and a few we didn’t, like a three pack of bubble swords/wands.
The Moose insisted on holding the bubbles. We were just getting ready to pull into traffic when I hear “whoosh – glug glug.” The Moose, who had gotten not only through the packaging, but had also opened one of the containers, was soaking wet. Our bubble supply was down by a third. (What I want to know is how two gallons of soap and water came flooding out of a wand that holds maybe 6 or 8 ounces.)
The cleanup of moose and car delayed lunch and our cooking project, but we eventually got there. First up was applesauce -probably his favorite thing to make. I chopped the apples and The Moose put them in the pot, to which he had already added a little water. He also added a little water to the counter and my sweater (aren’t spray faucets fun, Grammy?)
At one point he got a little impatient at putting in the apple chunks one by one, so he took the cutting board, tilted it over the pot and swept everything in like the pro he is. (I just managed to keep the seeds and cores out.)
I put the pot lid on, and he took it off and replaced it himself. (Sometimes I forget the jobs he claims as his own.) Once the apple chunks cooked down nice and soft, I scraped them into the food mill which had been set over a bowl and The Moose cranked away. He is very earnest and thorough in his cranking. Finally, he scooped up some sugar, put most of it in the bowl, and stirred it all up. And we had applesauce.
My little helper has decided that emptying the fruit and vegetable scrapings into the compost pile is also part of his duties. It is really just a clever plan on his part to get access to the outside. At the moment I am not sure he would come back inside on his own, so when he does the emptying, he has to take The Hunter, aka Papa, with him.
Next up was custard. Both The Moose and The Hunter have a fondness for custard – especially if I bake it with a dollop of maple syrup at the bottom. I have to be a bit sneaky about letting the young moose pour the syrup because he is happy to continue pouring until the container is empty, and while we may live in syrup country, it is still mighty dear at the market.
To get around The Moose’s generous pour, I tipped out a scant ounce of maple syrup into a shot glass and let him pour the syrup from the shot glass into each custard cup. I cracked the eggs into a small bowl, he slid them into the large bowl (mostly without incident), and then I gave him the egg beater and he went at those eggs with a lot of enthusiasm. He has been entranced with the eggbeater since he was a wee little moose and I let him use it to whip up a froth of bubbles in a pot of water and soap in the sink.
When he was done with the eggs, he dumped in the sugar I had already measured out (I was getting a little tired) and poured in the milk and vanilla (ditto already measured.) He supervised while I divided it all into the custard cups, after which Papa had to play safety while I slid the whole tray into the oven and poured in the hot water bath.
For the hour and a half the custard took to bake The Moose kept coming back to the oven with a plaintive “Eat custard now?” When the timer (finally) rang, he insisted on eating his custard, even though it was very hot. We took turns blowing on his spoon.
I sent him home with a tub of applesauce and two more custards of his very own.
Yesterday when he walked through the door, he went right to refrigerator and took out a custard, brought it to his place at the table and dug in. He was very neat about it and didn’t waste a drop.
Thank heavens there was still a custard to distract him as I was out of oranges.