June 10, 2014
I love cooking for my son.
As is the case with everyone in my life, I derive great joy from making things I think Shiv will like and from seeing his responses when he tries them; lately, he’s been doing this pretty cute extended “Mmmm!” thing with a corresponding raised-shoulder gesture. I gotta say, it’s rather gratifying.
Popsicles are what often induce the above-mentioned response these days ; I’ve been making a steady stream of homemade fruit pops (Shiv calls them “hops” & they are pictured in last week’s post) since I bought this mold at Whole Foods a few weeks ago. It’s by far the best one I’ve encountered; you can remove just one popsicle at a time, and the molds clean up super-easily. What goes in them? Whatever glorious summer fruit we happen to have around; I toss ~2 cups of fruit in the blender, add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, maybe a hit of honey or agave nectar (though right now everything is so sweet on its own, this isn’t needed), and blend, adding a little water if necessary to get thin the mixture out. Pour in the molds, freeze for a few hours, & your backyard dessert awaits.
Cooking for Shiv I’ve been doing for a while; cooking with Shiv is relatively new. This kid wants to participate in e-v-er-y-thing. Why would I use the little watering can you got for me when I can use the BIG GREEN watering can that Gigi uses? Why would I use a plastic fork when I can use the same kind of fork as y’all? Why would I cook in my play kitchen when I can cook in an actual kitchen?
Jill & I love this, this determination to be a part of things, to learn how to do real stuff. Competence is one of the values that we selected to help guide our choices as we raise him, and neither of us see any reason why he can’t start building that competence now. When he makes a mess, he helps clean it up—he helps spray the Mrs. Meyer’s, he wipes up with a paper towel, he throws the paper towel in the trash. He knows how to strike a match and light a candle, with help from an adult. He helps Jill with cleaning out the litter box, taking out the trash, refilling the bird feeder, & vacuuming/sweeping the kitchen.
Completing tasks with Shiv’s “assistance” is more time-consuming than simply doing them ourselves, at least for now. But to simply do them ourselves not only leaves him out but also robs him of the opportunity to learn, to be empowered, to contribute—as is the case when he helps cook the family meal.
The sight of a not-quite-two-year-old perched atop a step-ladder in front of a stove draws cheers from some folks but alarm from many others. Then again, a lot of things about how we parent alarm people…we own no Purell, our son goes barefoot in the backyard, etc.
For us, the choices are simple, and made on principle. Jill & I feel that our safety-obsessed culture has lost perspective on what kids—even the littlest ones—are capable of. We’re so busy trying to make everything safe that we’ve forgotten that danger is an important part of a natural life. Do I want Shiv to get hurt? Of course not. But I think the best way to protect him is to teach him.
That’s why we’ll be working on knife skills next!
inspired by this recipe from 101 Cookbooks
What we have here is basically a hybrid of Indian-style rice pudding, known as kheer, and Thai coconut sticky rice, which is one of the best things on the planet. Shiv is really into rice AND mango AND all forms of coconut, so I wanted to bring them all together for him using what I happened to have at home. It was all improvisation, so feel free to do the same when you make this! If you don’t have coconut cream but you have (full-fat) coconut milk, you could omit the cream and substitute the coconut milk for the water. It won’t be quite as rich, but it will still taste good. If you prefer a looser, more-pudding-like version, add more liquid at the start or finish with a splash of coconut milk.
You could also go a more savory route when serving & grate some fresh lime zest on top of everything before serving. I also think that a sprinkling of black sesame seeds would be nice, should you happen to have some on hand.
1 cup white jasmine rice, rinsed
2 cups water
½- ¾ cup coconut cream
¼ cup sugar
to serve: 1 ripe mango, diced
optional: shredded, unsweetened coconut & ground cardamom
Place the rice in a heavy-bottomed pot (make sure it’s one with a lid!). Rinse the rice 2-3 times using cold water and swishing it around with your hand. Once you’ve drained the rinsing water, add 2 cups of fresh water, a pinch of salt, and whisk in the coconut cream—you can heat up the cream first, which will make things easier. Cover the pot with the lid and turn the heat to medium-low.
The goal here is to bring the rice to a simmer, not to a boil. Once you’ve reached a simmer, give the rice a good stir, scraping up the bottom to make sure it’s not sticking. Stir in the sugar & salt and cover, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a very gentle simmer.
Check the rice occasionally, stirring gently, until it’s fully cooked and nearly all of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, cover, and let the rice cool slightly before serving.