Cooking with Minette

Cooking with Minette

Over the nearly seven years since Minette discovered that there is more to food than mere maternal milk (isn’t it funny the way some milestones stick in a mom’s memory?), she has grown a pronounced taste for French and Indian food. As I explained here the very title of this blog refers to two classics of South Indian cuisine and French cuisine respectively, which also happen to be some of her favorite things to eat.

As is well-known, familiarity is a powerful predictor of personal taste, particularly when it comes to food. So it is not surprising that, having been consistently fed Indian and French cuisine, our daughter is fond of both. Likewise, she doesn’t care too much for some American staples (hello peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) simply because they are hardly part of our diet.

Cooking for your child is sometimes a joy and sometimes a chore. Cooking with your child is always a joy in my experience — well, a pretty messy joy at times. For a child, making real food with a grownup is a delightful combination: it’s about touch, smells, and flavors; teaming up on a real-life project and eventually tasting the result; making things happen; learning some secrets of agency; and growing up. For a parent, the joy is to see all of this happen organically by your kitchen countertop.

With Appa, Minette loves making chapatis (unleavened flatbread) and idiyappam (a traditional rice noodle dish from South India). The attraction is that both recipes are a lot of tactile fun. With me, she likes baking French cakes and cookies. Measuring ingredients; breaking eggs; stirring batter (better than our blender, she points out); kneading dough. She also enjoys peeling and cutting vegetables, bless her soul!

Our kitchen has always been a significant place at the confluence of her French and Indian heritages but Minette’s increasingly taking things into her own hands has made it even more so. That said, she is also exposed to other cuisines, mostly thanks to Appa’s curiosity and eagerness to discover dishes from different cooking traditions, with a special nod to Italy.

I have to admit American cuisine is not our forte but we have made it up a little bit with the cooking challenge we decided to take up at the beginning of the lockdown last spring, drawing from Minette’s collection of 26 recipes starting each with a different letter of the alphabet. We cooked a new recipe everyday on 26 consecutive days, including our first mac ‘n cheese! We ended up adding a few American classics to our family repertoire in the process, including some new favorites: popovers (a sort of soufflé, if you ask me), oatmeal raisin cookies, and blueberry buckle.

That’s one of the neat things about cooking, it connects us to France, India, America, and the whole wide world “from the safety of our home” and there is nothing virtual about that experience. Something to be truly grateful for in this, the memorable 2020th year of our Common Era…

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