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Cooking (With) the Child

October 3, 2011

I don’t know how to make pants or even fix them. And I hope you are not waiting for me to craft a bunny rabbit out of the cylindrical box that used to house the oatmeal, because you will be waiting for a long time.

I realize, though, that one of the greatest satisfactions for a person of any age is self-reliance, and that another is creating. Thank goodness there are so many ways to do it! The most typical ways for me to create are writing and cooking.

I suspect that Henry’s gift might be music, but I can’t wait to see what his relationship to writing will be. He already has a fantastic relationship with books, and that makes me happier than almost anything.

He’s also a very enthusiastic cook. I’m not so much of a baker, but baking is a lovely thing to do with a child. It doesn’t involve knives. It involves stirring together lots of powders that you likely already own. There is sugar, and cornmeal, and vanilla, and eggs are fun to crack and watch transmogrify from individual yellow eye-looking things you can count into one binding paste. Batter is yummy, and the results are splendid. We love to cook and eat.

We are always looking for something to do  together, and we need to eat anyhow, so why not involve him? Yesterday he hugged the KitchenAid mixer and said “I love this.”

Also, I have a confession: I hate toys.  What good are toys? I ask my husband. They let you be creative, and manipulate things with your hands, which is very satisfying. Don’t worry, lots of people play with toys with my son. And he plays with them alone. But I have a hard time getting myself to sit down with a giant pile of stuff and, I don’t know, play.

Ok. We do play, but it’s more like word play. Henry and I do a lot of snuggling and a lot of talking and singing and a lot of hiding and a lot of pretending.

Also, I pretend to eat him a lot.

“I’m hungry . . . ” I’ll start, and glance around the room, not looking at him. He starts to laugh and kick ” . . . but I can’t find anything to eat.” He shrieks and kicks his arm or leg closer to me.

I once read some story about a family who was pretending to eat a baby and they were all laughing, but the baby was laughing the hardest of all. Perhaps because of that, and perhaps because eating is a motif around here, I frequently pretend to eat my baby.

“I think I’ll just take this nice fat leggy and put some butter on it, and maybe some blueberry jam.” I pretend to gobble the leg and he shouts “no!” Still, he wants me to do it many more times.

I used to joke that I knew just how I would cook my cat if I were going to eat her. Braised, like a rabbit, I’d say, moving her soft and pliant back leg to and fro in its joint. She was just so soft and pliable, already just like a yummy braised thing should be, but in the version of my alive and much-loved cat. Let me be clear that my idea was not a violent one, but rather an expression of my love for her, for her physical self, for her overall appeal. I wasn’t ever thinking of killing the cat, I was instead conflating my love of food and cooking and goofy play with my good friend and loyal charge, the cat. But not everyone thought it was in great taste.

I guess I pretend to cook Henry sometimes, too. Matthew heard me doing this the other day as he was getting ready for work.

“I will take this leg and fry it up in the pan and pour butter and syrup on . . .”

“What? You can’t cook him!”

“I can’t cook him?”

“No! That would hurt him!”

I guess that if I actually fried my child, even just a limb, it would hurt him.

“What about toasting?” I ask. “That’s more like surface cooking. It’s not on the stove.”

“No cooking Henry. No toasting.”

Ok. Just lemon juice and a little powdered sugar right on his tummy and I’ll roll him right up. We’ll pretend he’s . . . precooked. A precooked crepe.

Another game we play is that his feet are really, really stinky. We have been playing that since long before he could talk. Now he often tears off his socks and waves his perfect and perfectly clean little loaves of feet around so that his father or I can roll our eyes and begin to choke on the fake fumes, protesting about how odiferous they are. Oh, the laughter.

I also sniff Henry’s neck, because it tickles him. Sometimes he gets confused with the word “sniff” and points to his neck and yells “Stink me!”

And I pretend that his toes are raisins (his favorite food) and that I am plucking them off and eating them one by one.

The other day he shoved his feet in my face. I pretended that they stank but that’s not what he wanted. I pretend-plucked off two toes and pretended that they were raisins: no dice.

I looked at him to get another idea, and he looked at me waiting, expectantly. Finally he shook them at me.

“Cook them!” he finally implored. “Cook these feet!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2011 8:08 am

    So sweet. I hate playing with my daughter’s toys too.

  2. Michelle permalink
    October 3, 2011 8:53 am

    Oh, Meredith. I just LOVE that tasty kid!

    And also, I was never good on the floor with the toys, either. We each have our talents, right? I would do reading, baking, watching, singing, talking, and driving around looking at things. But I just got so bored on the floor with the toys … my mind would drift far away to clothes and shoes, sewing, gardening, and nail polish, and they could tell. Not worth it to any of us.

  3. Karen permalink
    October 3, 2011 10:56 am

    I don’t do well with toys either. Mia loves to read and color and “cook,” but her blocks and puzzles and things do not get a lot of use. She makes us chocolate in her play kitchen and puts us down for naps, complete with story. And Henry is totally delicious- saw him at the Tot Lot yesterday with his dad.

    I talk about this with a friend who also has kids, but I think the fact that they came from inside our bodies makes it relatively easy for us to imagine ingesting them back into it- not in a desire to kill them but just a desire to be that close again. I think it may horrify men because when males eat their young it IS a bad thing, you know? That’s our theory. Mia licks my togue daily when we’re brushing teeth, and this makes daddy gag- like, literal gag reflex, not like gag me with a spoon. He thinks it’s really odd.

    Speaking of stink: this is probably my own fault b/c I tell Mia a story about a bear that farts and poops in Princess Margaret’s beautiful bedroom, but she’s been telling her little schoolmates that “Mommy has a stinky butt.” So much for my creative stories that make her laugh:)

  4. rachel permalink
    October 3, 2011 11:58 am

    Great! Have you read “Pete’s a Pizza” by William Steig. It’s clear that wanting to eat your child (and be eaten by your parents) is a universal tale.

  5. Alana permalink
    October 3, 2011 5:45 pm

    I am cracking up! And the comments are keeping me going. Yes, I am also eating my child of nearly five months and he thinks it’s just the funniest thing! While he has his bottle in my lap, his little hand wanders around touching my face. It’s truly something to drink in, right? But while he’s doing this I make gobble sounds and pretend to eat his fingers. He cracks a smile expectantly as I move my gaze to his tiny fingers. Soon he’s in a full-on giggling session with milk pouring down his chin. It’s a regular game. So precious.

  6. chris permalink
    October 27, 2011 7:17 am

    Wonderful! I love this so very much. Henry is a doll, as adorable as his mother. xo

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