We have long considered Eric our family baker. He’s worked in a lab for most of his adult life, and I think there’s something about the precision of baking recipes that is similar to following experiments in a lab setting. Follow the steps laid out on the page. I lean more towards cooking which, ironically, leaves a bit more room for experimentation. A little of this. A little of that. Oy! Maybe not quite so much next time.
But this idea of pre-assigned roles is made for disruption. With all of us at home, Eric has taken over more of the meal cooking, I’ve picked up a bit more baking. And more often then not, Ms7yo has joined me. Two things she loves about baking: the feel of dough in her hands and any sort of decorating or icing. She’s happy to do the rest, measuring and stirring and whatnot, too but the dough and the decorating are her favorite.
It’s cookie baking season. Every year, I’ve thought to myself that during advent, I would really like to make baking a regular thing. Prior to 2020, those ambitions have always fallen apart. I don’t know whether it’s just more time at home this year or because Eric (the baker) is doing the grocery shopping so he’s always stocking our shelves with baking ingredients or if it’s because my sister gave us this book last year or what, but it’s actually kind of coming together this year.
We started off with these lovely (and surprisingly easy) Swedish shortbread cookies. We are technically a Norwegian family, but we don’t hold their Swedishness against these cookies. (See! Baking builds bridges across life-long rivalries even of the Scandinavian sort.)
As I’ve mentioned a few times, we homeschool, and baking is a great source of lessons — but academic and life lessons. Do not underestimate the power of a child experiencing ownership over a project from beginning to end, and particularly when the project has such tangible, innate, and sweet (!) rewards. This is aside from the obvious lessons that come with baking: fractions and measuring and all the math that goes with it. Ms7yo recently needed to reduce a recipe. At first, she only cut one of the ingredients in half, so I explained to her how each of the ingredients have to be cut in half. Later on, as she was working on balancing equations, she remarked, “You have to do the same thing on both sides, just like all the ingredients in a recipe!” If you had been looking, you too would have seen the lightbulb floating gently above her head actually turn on.
Later on, we shared the cookies with my parents and enjoyed some at home. And it’s with utter pride that Ms7yo could confidently say that she had made them with me and explained what tasks she had been responsible for.
“And what parts did you do?” my mom asked Ms10yo.
“Oh no!,” she exclaimed, shaking her head and hands as if to say that baking is something she would never do, “I didn’t help make the cookies. I was watching [Mr2yo] while they were making the cookies.”
She paused a moment. “Oh. So I guess I did help!”
And so the learning continues.