I bake, my partner cooks. If I cooked, we wouldn't eat, but I can bake her under the table. It's a balance that works quite well. I make the breads, the biscuits, the cookies, the cakes, and basically anything and everything else that is in any way a carbohydrate.
I'm incredibly popular come the holidays, and this month will be no exception. I've got a handful of requests from family, a few classics, and a series of new things I'd like to try, but what will occupy our kitchen more than anything else is sugar cookies. Every year it's the same recipe, and every year it's the same reaction from everyone: "Mmmm," followed by indecipherable, food-in-mouth mumbles of delight (or at least I assume it to be delight).
The cookies are not gaudy or elaborate (though my mini frosted houses could be framed), or available in three dozen different shapes, but they're phenomenal. In fact, they're so good and so simple that they're one of the few baked goods we collaborate on.
All in all, despite our different styles in the kitchen, it works well. But of course if we're making cookies, our son wants to make cookies, too.
There's the conflict. Yes, it's cute that he wants to help, but it's less cute when he licks sprinkles off his fingers and then uses those same fingers, unwashed, to roll his dough. Something about that turns us off.
So how do we avoid his fingers while still enjoying his help and company? We embrace our inner consumer and buy stuff! `Tis the season, right? Child's rolling pin, tiny apron, and a set of plastic cookie cutters. Check, check, and check.
The total investment was under $30 and it made all the difference. Now we zone the counter by splitting it in two. He gets his half, covered in bits of flour and other baking essentials, and we get ours, clean and orderly. We make the dough, give him a portion, and let him do his thing in his own area.
He rolls, cuts, decorates and places the dough on a tray. Whether they're paper-thin or half-an-inch thick, we smile and encourage and, by all means, bake them separately. I advocate complete cookie segregation!
What we create is kitchen poetry with symmetrical cookies and color-coordinated sprinkles; what he creates is loose free verse with sprinkle mounds and glistening fingerprints.
But it's the holidays and we're making cookies as a family. Despite the unwashed hands, I wouldn't have it any other way.
I still won't eat them.
John Bray is a St. Charles dad and freelance writer.