I remember my mom in the kitchen before Christmas: smiling as she mixed a batter, flour and sugar scattered about the counter and cookie sheets stacked up ready for baking. Or on Thanksgiving, gently peeling and slicing apples for pie.
Baking always brings out happiness in my mom, something she had instilled in me early on.
I remember the joy I felt when she handed me the spatula so I could lick the remaining chocolate batter from a batch of brownies, or helped me add sprinkles to butter cookies before they went into the oven.
I must have only been very young when she introduced me to the kitchen to help her bake, because I can’t remember a time I wasn’t helping. And now that my oldest daughter, Antonia, is 3, I have started letting her help me.
It’s not always pretty, and it’s certainly never neat, but in the end, the look of accomplishment on her face is worth the next two hours of washing dishes, wiping counters and sweeping floors.
Baking with my tall and talkative daughter requires three things: patience, perseverance and a huge dose of humor. She is witty, even when she doesn’t mean to be, but can wear on you when she asks the same question 14,000 times.
When I ask her if she wants to help mommy bake a cake, her eager blue eyes light up and she quickly runs to grab a chair so she can reach the counter. Next, I find her undressing in the kitchen and stammering on about needing an apron.
“No, you need to wear clothes to bake,” I tell her as I pull her kid-sized pink apron from the pantry. “Now go wash your hands.”
When she gets back, I am sure to have pulled all of the ingredients out of the cabinets before she has a chance to ask for a snack. If she sees the chocolate chips at any point, I will not hear the end of it until she gets a handful.
“Now,” she states matter-of-factly, “what do we do first?”
I tell her it’s time to crack the eggs and she insists on doing it herself, so I oblige.
“O-K,” she pronounces, sometimes copying my stance or facial expression to make sure she gets it “just right.”
The first time I let her crack an egg she did great, but I quickly learned it was a fluke. Somehow, each time it gets messier and my patience grows, and so does hers.
When we first started baking, I had her sit and watch for most of it, but now she adds ingredients to the mixer, turns it off and on herself and can even help measure some ingredients. Sometimes, the flour flies up in the air and adds a thin coating to us and the kitchen. Sometimes, only half the milk makes it into the batter and the rest runs down the side of the bowl, pooling on the counter. Sometimes, we laugh. And sometimes we cry.
We still haven’t gotten to the point where she is scooping cookies onto the baking sheet in the assembly-line fashion my mom and I used to have, but we’re getting close. And as much of a mess as it is, when she offers her dad a treat and says “I made it,” I know she is proud.
And so am I.