Night before last I handed an apron to our granddaughter, pointed her towards the stove, armed her with utensils and a pan, and gave her her first official cooking lesson. This in answer to her request to be taught. It came as a bit of a surprise to me I must admit. Up until this week the only interest I had observed from her with regards to cooking was watching me from time to time in the kitchen, and an avid interest in consuming what appeared on her plate around dinner time. However, this was the first time she’d asked to participate in how the food actually came to arrive in such a place.
Coincidentally, this would come to tie in with conversations we’ve had lately on an entirely unrelated subject or so one would think, her education. Up until the past several weeks she indicated upon graduating her intentions were to dive directly into her chosen profession, working at the drive-up window at Taco Bell. More recently, however, she seems to be leaning more toward hair stylist or esthetician. Personally, I have no issues as to what a person does, as long as they pursue doing something. Ideally it could be hoped that on some level it makes them happy (it is work after all), doesn’t require posting of bail, and provides a fairly decent living that has no cardboard sign involved. A bright and lovely girl, I’m sure her direction will become less muddied with a few more years under her belt. At fourteen I wanted to be a nurse, a psychic or an archaeologist and look at me now. Smile.
A bonus occurred while in pursuit of knowledge about cooking, in that it inadvertently slopped over (sorry) into other facets of her education. The fact has concerned me that hovering on the precipice of high school next year parts of her education seem to be incomplete for approaching this level, and even more shocking, she is not the only one. Is it just me or is our educational system falling down like a drunken sailor in an alley? They seem to have no need to tell time in the conventional sense, as every device provides it digitally. Also, they seem to view math as a completely unnecessary skill unless aspiring to be a CPA or mathematician, a point of view to which I’ve interjected some thoughts from an opposing side of the coin as often as possible without shifting into lecture mode.
Lecturing is a waste of air. Often when talking to kids her age, or any age really, you become aware that your words are just dancing about without an audience in an empty hall without much notice as to how the sentences are being put together or the meaning thereof. From what I understand from teachers, upon repeating your thoughts for emphasis, teens will store them in the snore drawer, most probably never to be retrieved again. I see this phenomenon daily. In my mind, an object lesson can be a far more meaningful than a lecture and produce more beneficial results.
Even after stressing that taco emporium employees require math skills to make change and better serve their customers, I still didn’t get much enthusiasm. Cooking, the great leveler, actually made my point for me.
I gave her the task of selecting the menu, writing the list of needed ingredients, choosing which tools to work with and who would be invited to “Dinner with Lizzie – Part Un” (her best friend and younger brother). Tacos were to be the main attraction with sides consisting of rice and frijoles prepared by her excellent assistant sous chef, Susie.
In my humble estimation, to entice a teenager (other than money, of course, which always commands their immediate attention) you must present a project that incorporates their interests (in this case Mexican fast food), is an easy concept to grasp (reducing the boredom quotient), and brings the most results with the least amount of effort. Tacos, verdad?
Before she came home from school I laid out a working surface. To expedite the proceedings I purchased 2 pounds of ground meat and got 2 prepared packages of taco seasoning mix to get her started and make it fun. On a cutting board I put the tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and avocados to be chopped. Tortillas were laid out to be warmed or quick fried and the sides were in the warmer. Santa Maria, life was muy bueno. I thawed salsa and put it in the fridge and filled small containers with sour cream topped with chives.
Her young guests arrived to mark the momentous occasion, and sat on a bar stool while our debuting gourmand got busy getting dinner on the table. In my mentor role, I suggested reading the directions on the taco seasoning packages and preparing the necessary additions while the meat was browning. Pretty basic, it was taco seasoning and 2/3 cup water per package. At the time I did not perceive this to be a stumbling block. It did present itself surprisingly as a perplexing problem to said nouveau chef. Math reared its ugly head and there was no one in the room to slay the beast except grandmum, and she was mum.
Quickly it became clear that in order to make the best tacos on the universe, which was the stated goal, she would need to crack the code and the code could only be worked with math. Was life as we knew it over? Could tacos, as with so many other things, lie in the obsolete file gathering cobwebs along with libraries, newspapers, land lines, and Blockbuster. OMG.
I handed her a 1/3 measuring cup and a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup. As she measured out each 1/3 increment, I had her place it in the Pyrex cup until she had the called out for 1 1/3 cups. For a moment I saw a light go on in the interest zone. Afterwards I pointed out that even if hair styling was to be her chosen profession, when measuring hair color and product you needed to know what you were doing or someone wishing to be blonde, could leave the salon a lovely shade of lilac.
Truly, it was a lesson for me. Where are the teachers and the guidelines for moving kids through our educational system? Two girls going into high school that cannot figure out what 2/3 and 2/3 equals? That’s just scary. However, the tacos were amazing, so it was fun and hopefully a bit educational for both of us.
My other half and I are on our own tonight so we’re doing “euuuwee night”. I’m cooking scallops which he can’t stand and he’s manning the flame under the calf’s liver which I consider put the revolt in revolting. Always fun.
Sauteed Lime Butter Scallops
1 Tbsp. EV olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 sea scallops, cleaned, muscle removed and patted dry
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 tsp. white pepper
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons Lime Ginger Butter (recipe follows), chilled
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
For the Lime Ginger Butter
4 Tbsp. butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. grated lime zest
1/2 tsp. freshly ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For lime butter, mix all ingredients in small bowl. Refrigerate 2 hrs. prior to use.
Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add garlic and cook until just fragrant. Add the scallops, sprinkle with white pepper and stir until lite golden brown (about 2 mins. – do not overcook).
Add lime juice to skillet and cook 1 min. Reduce heat and stir in the Lime Ginger butter 1 Tbsp. at a time. Cook just until a sauce forms. Sprinkle with cilantro.
We had watermelon for dessert!