Friday, 21 March 2008

Masterchef chez Grit

We have been cooking. Dig shakes his head and whispers 'Why Grit, Why?'

I say it is hope. Despair I can manage, just. If I concentrate on the hope, then one day in the future I will arrive home from my pensioner's trip to the library, and because of today's cooking, happening now, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger will have cooked me dinner. And it will taste delicious. This is what I tell Dig, and he looks glum and sighs, and says that he will secure an escape route dinner for us after the children have gone to bed, even though it will be ten o'clock at night and I am probably put off food for life.

Handing the family supper menu over to three 8-year olds is not just Masterchef-inspired, although that is part of it. This cooking thing has been going on a long time chez Grit. And one day, I will be proud of it. If I keep going for long enough. When the children were aged just two years they had a hand in making their birthday cakes, three round ones, with Smarties on top. They helped beat, pour, mix, scrape and splatter. Then Shark put the bowl direct onto her head and spun it round, all the better to lick the sides. At that time we laughed and took photos. Last year I said if she did that again I will ground her for a week.

But since that time, my miniature chefs have gone from strength to strength. They have made bread, cakes, biscuits, more cakes, jammy tarts, cakes again, flans, meringues, cakes, sweeties, did I say cakes? trifles, ices, cakes, biscuits and cakes. But now, ten inches more round the waistline, I say 'No more cakes!' I have thrown down the gauntlet. I say from now on I cook cakes! And you lot cook three-course meals which do not include cake.

In December we did this. Tiger excelled herself and went to the top of the Masterchef ladder with a Gary Rhodes menu which included leeks in pastry and pears steeped in honey. Shark got down the Roald Dahl cook book and made witch green soup, worms in soil, and wallpaper pudding. Squirrel excluded herself with a menu plan of butterfly cake, followed by fairy fudge and peppermint cream. Grit's rescue dinner was pasta in tomato sauce.

Well today supper is in their hands. Again. And worse, thanks to Emily, they have turned their backs on the cookery book shelves and decided to go it alone. Here is today's menu:

Fruit soup
Rice pies
Mud fruit biscuits

To get this done on the same day, Grit organises and plans. First, accompany each miniature chef to the shops to buy ingredients. Second, feed everyone a nutritious lunch because goodness knows what we'll get later. Finally, Grit crosses her fingers, bites her lip and makes some silent resolutions. I am not to shout at any time. I am to be kitchen assistant and put things in the oven and do as I am told. I am not to direct, comment or criticise, even though I see Squirrel hammering her biscuit dough with her fists like she's training it to go sixteen rounds in the ring with Mike Tyson.

First, Shark, with her fruit soup. Dig says it looks very nice and he's not fond of fruit in soup. But this is a simple dish. It consists of stewed apple, pureed melon and grapes. You dollop the melon in a bowl, drop in the stewed apple and bomb the bowl with grapes. Simplicity itself. This may come in handy when I am an OAP because for this I need no teeth:

Second, Tiger with her Rice pies. Dig has to go shopping with Tiger for her filo pastry because I have disgraced myself in Tesco with Shark, buying her melon. There are self-service checkouts and they never go right for me. I wave for help, press the screen which reads 'I need assistance' and wave again, helplessly. Then I call, and call. Louder. Until shouting seems the only option left.

Anyway, here is Tiger's:

Yes, that's right. It's rice. Specifically, it's boiled rice. And no flavouring. Nope, not a bit. Nothing else, either, except a filo basket. Dig suggests that maybe the taste would be improved next time, if there was something else on the plate apart from rice and a basket of filo pastry. Everyone agrees, even Tiger.

Relieved, we're next served Squirrel's Mud fruit biscuits. Momentarily, Dig looks excited. I think you wouldn't have that look of anticipation on your face if you'd seen how they've been made. These little beauties took four hours to make. Four hours! Three hours were spent hammering the biscuit dough until it pleaded for mercy. But Squirrel has vision: the clever thing about these is that two biscuits are cemented together with an unlikely mortar: stewed raisin and more apple.

Squirrel, Shark and Tiger are delighted with their efforts, and try hard to offer positive critical praise to each other and not squeal 'Ugh! Pewk!' Dig peers quizzically at the Mud biscuit for a while, as if he's bitten into an iron bar, and I declare the entire meal delicious. I hand round some bread and butter and say with a determined smile that everyone goes on to the next round, next month, when we once again give over the entire family supper to the new chefs on the block.

And Dig nods his head sorrowfully, and murmurs that a late night supper for two is hiding in the office fridge, next door.


Brad said...

You've given both Partner & I quite the laugh, again unfortunatly at your expense.

Sheesh guys, team up. one sit with the girls and the other duck out to the pub for food. survial skills ?

Kelly Jene said...

God bless their hearts! How wonderful that you let them loose like that. My boys cook with me. I'll admit I haven't let them loose alone except for the simplest of dishes.

Poor Daddy Dig. He's a good sport though.

the mother of this lot said...

Grit, you are a superstar! You can send the Masterchefs round here any time - they sound far more advanced in culinary skills than this lot.

And I can't work those self-service tills in Tesco either. Perhaps it is a sign that we are both highly intelligent.

these boots said...

Ha, yes, all this rings so true for this household too.

I have been doing my Best Kitchen Assistant ever, after much much preamble from 6 year old A, where she checks again and again that I will "just do the hot things and help me clear up" and not actually interfere in her experiments, or make 'helpful' suggestions. She flatly refuses to consult a recipe book (despite our best hints about actually trying a recipe for once and then comparing the results). She's also very good at delegating the more splattery jobs to 4 year old M.

I sometimes just have to walk out of the kitchen so I don't shout, and come back later to clear up after the kids' 'clearing up'. (Isn't it amazing how flour that's been half heartedly cleared up with a soaking wet cloth can really weld itself to a wooden table if you leave it long enough?)

And much celebration all round when our nearest supermarket (in France) started stocking organic vegetarian ready-made tomato pasta sauce in jars!

dragon boy said...

hahahahaha, ahhh, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for having such a great way of telling your stories, you've cheered me up no end!!

Potty Mummy said...

I am totally impressed at the high level of fruit (in two of the courses, anyway). Boy 1 would no more use that volountarily than he would eat a courgette...

Minnie said...

What a menu!!

Junior at one point loved doing this....and last time I got salad, sliced onion sandwiches and maltesers:O))

Good job there's only me to experiment on:O))

Grit said...

hi brad - i think on this event, dig needs to suffer along with me. and if it looked like he was making a move to the pub, i may have to nail his shoes to the floor.

i agree kelly jean! dig can be like a labrador at times. btw, the girls are contemplating the contents of their first letter!

hello motl. i am flattered at the stardom. and agree about the intelligence :)

hello these boots! i think all home educators deserve a meal out once a month!

i am humbled, dragon boy, and glad for laughter.

hi potty mummy! for this i am truly grateful - fruit has never been a problem here, apart from supplying enough of the stuff.

and hello minnie. i have to say, those sandwiches sound gruesome. (but i bet the maltesers were nice!)

Michelle said...

I've been served crisp sandwiches before. Picnic style on a tablecloth on the carpet. Quite nice actually :-)

Elizabeth said...

I haven't been brave enough to let mine alone in the menu process--and I only have 2! Just hoping if I do they won't emulate Emily too much. Ecxept for the mud pie! H cried when Emily lost!

Grit said...

hi michelle - crisps! crisps! crisps! crisps!!

hello elizabeth - ours were also shouting for emily, but she's probably going to be successful, winner or not!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

that's fab! kids love cooking and you are a better woman than me to let three children loose in the kitchen!

Grit said...

aha! pig, we are coming over to yours shortly and trying out some recipes from you! you are in my educational planner as the next cooking session, so watch out! (your blog obviously, not your kitchen. We would not be able to get past the barricades now we've told you.)