Today is my daughter's 9th birthday. Nine - I truly cannot believe it. Nine years of fun, play, creativity, a few fits (from both of us), and nine years of companionship in the kitchen. Never in my life have I had someone continually around me that seems equally fascinated with cooking, equally eager to share ideas about food and even at times equally enthralled with recipes and creative possibilities. It seems that she has always been there at my side in the kitchen. Her favorite kitchen activity as a toddler was the morning ritual of grinding the coffee - pouring the shiny beans into the grinder, the manual dexterity of fitting on the lid, the excitingly loud noise of the grinder and best of all, the smell. Every morning, we would pull the top off the grinder and take a moment for both of us to take a deep smell of the rich coffee. I would invariably say "ah, that is my favorite smell" to which she would always agree. Such a small thing - to smell the coffee with my child, but really it was so important because she was excited about being in the kitchen, she was taking charge of the task and she was learning to stop and take a moment to reflect on the joy that these moments produce. Today the coffee grinding is a task taken over by her younger brother and he is equally enthusiastic.
Cooking with my daughter has always been larger than the food itself, it has been a new route to learning math and measurements, sequencing, memory, problem solving, creativity and even self confidence. I still remember the day when she was two and in a creative dance class. The dance movements mimicked the stirring of a cookie dough and each child was asked for their addition to the dough. Chocolate chips, candy, peanut butter, sprinkles were some of the children's suggestions - my daughter's was "baking powder." What I find most gratifying about this moment is that even as a 2 year old, she saw what others brought to the dough and knew what else was really necessary. When she was a bit older she spent about an entire year thinking of how fun it would be to open a healthy, "No Sugar" bakery. And still today I am continually amazed at the ideas she comes up with, her rich knowledge and her flair for the creative.
Even though the television and computer often pull her away, and her younger brother is now deep in the mix, she is always willing and often eager to help in the kitchen. Most importantly, beyond being an infuriatingly picky eater, my daughter is growing up to be a wonderfully kind, thoughtful, amazingly intelligent and beautiful human being. I truly value the time that we can spend together both in and out of the kitchen and I can't wait to tell her how proud I am of her and perhaps let us both stop and smell the coffee. Happy Birthday Em!