By Laura J. Tafe
“By the end of the summer you will both be grill masters,” my husband declared one evening in early June.
The virtual school year was wrapping up and summer was looking very quiet for our two teens. Our daughter’s plans for her first summer job were rapidly evaporating. Our son’s spring and summer baseball teams were cancelled. We were looking at two teens at home all summer with too much free time.
My husband’s “grill masters” announcement launched our summer cooking experiment. Alternating weeks, each kid assumed the role of head chef for the week. My husband and I acted as the sous chefs. Each week, they had to plan five meals that they wanted to cook and create a shopping list.
After a few reluctant groans, they took to it very well. Soon, both were scouring over our collection of cookbooks picking out some of their favorite recipes but also designing new meals. By their second week, they were in the groove and ventured into new, more challenging recipes. Now, it’s “this is my week coming up, right?” They know to have a grocery list prepared by Tuesday night so shopping can be done on Wednesday. They know to read a recipe through before starting to cook. They’ve learned to taste the food for seasoning along the way.
My son decided that he wanted to master homemade pasta, something he and I had done a few times since March, but now he wanted to make independently. Eggs, flour, salt, olive oil, water, kneaded by hand on our kitchen counter, rolled and cut into tender delicious fettuccini became his signature dish. My daughter’s love of Mexican food led her to enchiladas with green tomatillo sauce. The execution and care with which she rolled each enchilada was comparable, I can imagine, to that of a Cuban cigar roller.
There were certainly a few bumps along the way: a pasta dough that was too dry and crumbly to roll correctly, which he learned could be salvaged with a bit of water; fried rice recipe, designed for two, which had to be improvisationally expanded to feed our family of four.
Sitting down to a family dinner prepared by one of your teenage children is a treat. I couldn’t be more proud of how they’ve taken to this challenge. As for “grill masters,” both have become comfortable and proficient with grilling vegetables and proteins. In fact, my daughter is making grilled salmon and zucchini for dinner tonight.
Laura Tafe is a Pathologist and collage artist living with her family in the Upper Valley. She loves a good story and is thrilled to be included in the "What Has Changed" issue of Junction Magazine.