The superkid is going on sixteen and he is seriously thinking about leading a life away from home. I think it will be necessary for him to learn the skills that it takes, to learn to do some housework, and to learn to cook, and to at least wash his own butt and wipe his nose on something else than the sleeve of his black winter coat of which the left hand cuff is perpetually marked with greenish white slime-stripes. And hygiene. But maybe that is a little bit much to demand from any member of the male gender. We'll just lay off the hygiene for now, and start with something more immediately rewarding: he wants to learn how to cook. More precisely, how to cook pasta. It is very motivating to him that I am a lousy cook, in his opinion, with a deplorable penchant for vegetables. And not enough pasta. And my
So we have made a deal: he will cook for me one time each week. He will find a recipe and make a shopping list. I will accompany him to the supermarket, give him money, let him go in alone and wait for him to come out again with his groceries. Then we walk home where he will do the cooking. Today was the first time and it was a grand success. He made pasta. I was expecting lasagna, because it is his favourite dish. However, he had chosen a simple pasta with a sauce of whipped cream and beaten eggs, bacon and parmesan cheese. That was it. No veggies. Not even tomatoes. He told me that it would not be a problem if I wanted to throw in some tomatoes and onions out of my own pure-hearted generosity but this was the recipe he was going to cook. It was in the book, and that's what he was sticking to.
The shopping list:
The parsley he added by his own initative after I had insisted that the meal should comprise something "green".
We walked the three blocks to the supermarket. I gave him a twenty. Holding his pants up with one hand and his shopping list and the twenty flapping in the other hand, he walked through the entrance, looking around a litte bit bewildered, a little man all alone, with no teacher, no classmates, no mom...
After just two seconds he came back and gestured to me from the other side of the barrier.. would I push a trolley his way? That would be practical indeed. I did and also bade him to put his money in his pocket. Then I turned around and went to mail a letter on the other side of the street. After a little while, it felt like thirty minutes and it might have been three, I had to go see how he was doing. I didn't want to "cheat" and follow him in, but I stayed behind the counters and tried to peek down the aisles for a glimpse. I didn't see him. Only two of the five counters were occupied and the other three were not blocked with a chain like the supermarkets in the city always do with the empty counters, so I was free to walk in past one of them, and there I saw him. He was looking intently at the racks with the pasta condiments. I concluded that he was doing ok, he was in the right aisle, there was even something in his trolley. It looked green. So I went back. After a few more minutes I saw one of the boys who work there filling the racks, give him something.
Good, so he knows to ask if he can't find anything. I put on my ipod.
Not long afterwards, I saw him come up tho the counter. One of the two counters that were open had no line, the other one had two customers, each with trolleys stacked brimfull of groceries, one was paying, the other just starting to put her things on the conveyor. He joined the cosy little group at the busy counter. With a serious look on his face he picked up the little bar to separate his groceries from the customer in front of him and put his things on the line. I shuffled behind another customer because I didn't want to stare at him and make him nervous, his face was already so tight, he looked like he really meant business. When he had accepted his ticked I joined him and examined what he had got.
I was pleasantly suprprised by the improvisation of two sachets of dried tomato-pasta sauce. They had not been on the list. However, the spaghetti was missing. I pointed this out. He in turn pointed at the sachets. "Spaghetti", it said in red lettering. They were what the shop assistant had given him, when he had asked where the pasta was. But that is sauce, I said. He told me that he had hoped it was "spaghetti with sauce".
The cream he brought back was a can of sugared whipped cream. The bacon, thin sliced bacon for sandwiches. But he did have the parmesan cheese and the parsley. Found it all by himself, he said. He knew where to find the parmesan cheese. And six eggs.
We decided that the cream would be nice for the coffee afterwards, and it wasn't really necessary for the sauce now with the tomato spaghetti sachets. The thin bacon would do. But he'd have to go back to get the spaghetti.
The second time he came to the counters, one more had closed. This time he was fourth in line. The lady in front of him, with a very full trolley, turned around and offered to let him go first. He graciously declined. "But you only have one item" she tried again. "Oh but it's allright", he said, and smiled. "So you are not in a hurry" she said. "no, I'm fine." he said. "Because I really don't mind, if you go ahead of me" she said. "Oh I'm allright like this", he held up his part of the conversation, and smiled again. (He later told me that he had not wanted to appear selfish.)
This evening, we had a meal that he truly mostly cooked up all by himself except I had to light the fire for him a few times and help him drain the spaghetti. And the green beans that I sneaked in, but they really didn't spoil it at all because they were covered in dried tomato sauce so much you would have hardly been able to tell the difference if you didn't know about them. He has decided that he is a better cook than I am. It is like this, we each have our different talents. He is a little bit slow in understanding. But he is good at math. He's got a preference for adding but he can do subtracting if it must be. And he is a pretty good cook.