How to Cook with One Hand

It all started one morning when my almost-2-year-old son was crying uncontrollably outside our bedroom door. Interrupting the little one in mid-cry, I tried unconvincingly to distract him. 

“E. Enough crying. Come play blocks with Daddy.” 

The young boy ignored me and persisted with his screaming.

“E. How about if you come cooking with Daddy?”


The boy suddenly stopped his crying. Without the further shedding of a single teardrop, he turned silently, and purposefully marched to the kitchen. 

“Cook with Daddy, “ he grunted.
Early indications of our younger son's interest in cooking.
All this happened about a month ago, and I recorded the events in a Facebook update:

I should publish a book entitled "How to Cook with One Hand", a compilation of recipes on how to cook with your almost-2-year-old child; ranging from simple recipes on how to get your son to beat eggs for an omelette dish to the "dos" and "don'ts" of cooking e.g. why you shouldn't eat raw sausages and mushrooms when you're cooking teriyaki beef and garlic fried rice. 

Quite a fun process. Till today I have yet to know of an almost-2yo who knows his onions and garlic and sesame oil!  
Little E helps Daddy to beat the eggs for our omelette breakfast.
It was truly a memorable moment. The little boy helped me to get the pre-chopped garlic and onions. He had asked me what these items were some time back, and I was surprised that little E still remembered what they were. I was naturally more hesitant about the eggs, despite the little one’s attempt to retrieve them from the fridge himself. Cutting the onions provided to be more than I had bargained for. This particularly because young E had climbed up on a kitchen stool, and was helping himself to the slices of raw onion from the chopping board. I had to quickly give him the unbeaten eggs and he helped to whisk them after observing me add herbs and black pepper to the mixture.

The highlight of the event was the actual frying of the eggs. You could almost hear an exclamation of joy when I cracked the eggs into the sizzling oil. Almost immediately, the little one’s eyes opened wide, as he observed the solidification of the raw egg. “Carry me,” he asked; and he refused to take no for an answer. That’s when I felt compelled to carry the little boy and continue the cooking process with one hand holding him and the other managing the frying pan.
Tasting the finished product.
From that moment onwards, E has come into the kitchen to "help" with the cooking on many different occasions. And he has asked to be carried during most of these moments in order to observe the proceedings on the stove, always pointing to the different ingredients as if trying to remember what each of these were. So imagine my surprise one day when he indicated to the pepper mill when I was cooking fried rice. "Add pepper," said the little boy. And after I had followed his instructions, he then pointed to the container of salt. "Add salt." I turned to him in astonishment, and knew he was absolutely serious in the words that he had uttered!

I believe I might be sharing my kitchen with the next Jamie Oliver!

The other incident which seems to indicate that I might have a gourmet chef for a son occurred just this week. My wife was accompanying the older child for an art class, and I had one hour to spend with the younger boy; so I took him to a nearby supermarket to buy food - one of our friends was coming for dinner and I had to buy a chicken and some vegetables for the meal.

It was all systems go the minute the little boy entered the supermarket. He went around the store enthusiastically, asking me for the names of all the different vegetables - eggplant, celery, cabbage; he was interested in them all! Then we went to the seafood section and he excitedly pointed at all the different kinds of fish, asking me for each of their names. I had to restrain him from touching each of the items, almost as though he was examining the freshness of each item.

"Fish," he said. "I want to eat it!'

"Oh?" I asked. "Do you prefer the sea bass or the red snapper?"

And the little boy pointed to the sea bass with an excited smile.
Examining the carrots that he had chosen that morning
in the supermarket.
Little E had a unique way of "chopping" the carrots into bite-sized pieces.
His method was to hit the carrot lengthwise against the side of the table with
so much force that it would snap into two.
When we were paying for the groceries at the counter, little E returned to the fruit section. He purposefully picked up one of the big baskets that customers normally use for their shopping, and proceeded to fill it with lychees. He had earlier taken a few of the fruit and given them to me, but I had returned them to the shelves, telling him that we would not be buying the lychees. The little boy had apparently not forgotten the fruit, and had now decided to take matters into his own hands! (Post-note: Daddy finally gave in and the little one got to take home a handful of lychees.)

In his book The 7 Secrets of Effective Fathers, Ken R. Canfield observed that there is a secret within each father that he longs to express with his kids. He noted that each man has an individual expression of his fathering that he longs to share with his children. For some, it could be a special time of camping in the woods, while for others it could be a precious time shared flying a plane.

I have realised that cooking has been my expression of fathering with E. I cherish the moments spent in the kitchen just teaching my son to do simple cooking tasks. And I was a very proud father that day in the supermarket, with the encouraging smiles I received from the other customers as the little boy walked out of the store carrying his own little bag of grocery purchases.

How to cook with one hand? You just have to make sure that the hand holding the child is the one that is always there to lift him up, to support and to guide him. And the result will be a delicious dish, wonderfully and lovingly created by both you and your son.

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