My children think that their Aunty Lucy always brings the most wonderful presents for them. They adore the glittery, shiny stickers that decorate the cards she writes and the luxurious ribbons that tie up her carefully wrapped packages. Tearing off the colourful, glossy paper, they are delighted to find all kinds of imaginative toys and gifts … magnetic fridge gears, candy floss makers, zoingo boingos, black holes.
Last month on her seventh birthday, L read proudly to us all from her new, special Aunty-Lucy present – Look and Cook, a gloriously vintage cookbook for children by Tina Davis. Not only does this superbly illustrated book provide recipes for such evocative things as popcorn balls and forgotten cookies, L was also captivated by the various sections that name each different kitchen utensil, discuss safety in the kitchen and describe how to measure, chop, dice, boil, steam and sauté with skill.
“Now I can cook dinner for all of us,” L announced, feeling sophisticated and grown-up.
She took her job very seriously. In her role as Mummy, she knew that cakes and cookies, however tempting, were not what she should be serving to her children as their main source of nourishment. I watched as she slowly thumbed her way from the delicious puddings and sweet treats at the end of the book, through the pasta and rice of the middle sections, towards the vegetables and main dishes in the opening chapters.
Then her eyes lit up as she spotted a recipe for vegetable soup.
“Just like at Granny and Grandpa’s house,” she smiled, thinking of how much she had enjoyed eating the soup that my Mum had made for us during our recent visit there.
Having made her decision, she set to, rummaging through the cutlery drawers to find the tools she needed for her task.
Of course, if L is busy in the kitchen, then so too are M and T. It’s a matter of sibling pride.
And this is how our quiet, end-of-summer evening became a little (but only slightly!) more chaotic than usual.
First, there were potatoes to be dug up from the garden ….
… and green beans to be picked …
… and chopped.
The vegetables were stirred …
… while M mixed the dough for some flatbreads to dip into the eagerly anticipated soup.
T did something he thought would be useful that involved flour …
… and M kneaded the dough.
L stirred the soup …
… and then M stirred the soup.
T swept flour onto the floor …
… and into the dustpan.
As if by magic (which is, after all, how most things take place in the kitchen), a hot pan of steaming vegetable soup …
… and a plate of griddled flatbreads …
… appeared at the table.
The unanimous verdict?
“Mmmm, it’s sooooo good!”
Vegetable Soup (adapted from a recipe by Tina Davis)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 sticks of celery, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 to 4 potatoes, diced
a handful of green beans, chopped
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Heat the oil in a large pot and stir in the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook over medium heat until softened.
Add 800 ml of water together with the tomatoes, potato, green beans and bay leaf. Boil then lower to a gentle simmer for about 40 minutes.
Season (to taste) with salt, pepper and sugar.
Stir in the parsley and then serve immediately.