On Saturday, Jack asked me if he could officially be my kitchen assistant. I said yes and immediately put him to work peeling potatoes. So, okay, it took him thirty minutes to peel eight potatoes, and it took me thirty minutes to clean up the potato peels flung hither and yon, but I think we're at the beginning of something good. I've always wanted my own personal sous chef.
Jack has been helping me in the kitchen since he was two. We've made a lot of cookies together and kneaded a lot of dough. Around the time Jack turned three, Amy hipped us to Mollie Katzen's Pretend Soup cookbook for kids, and together we made just about every recipe in the book.
Jack hadn't shown much interest in cooking for awhile, until we signed up to serve refreshments at the church coffee hour. The first time we had coffee hour duty, we made brownies and chocolate chip cookies. They were a hit. Jack was a hit. He really, really gets into serving refreshments at coffee hour, and it's hard not to like an enthusiastic eight-year-old who's handing you a sumptuous brownie (Joy of Cooking recipe, mid-century edition, make sure eggs are at room temperature, etc.) in the name of God.
Last week, we made three Bundt cakes for coffee hour--pumpkin spice, coffee cake, and chocolate. I thought we were possibly overdoing it. Our church is of the Episcopalian variety, and there are some of us who are not often moved by the Spirit to stay after church and socialize. But there is always a core group of folks who do, probably about one and a half Bundt cake's worth.
Last week, coffee hour was in the Parish Hall, which is a hop, skip and a jump away from the main church building. It is a hop, skip and a jump that many won't make, not even for a cup of coffee, which is why coffee hour is usually held right outside the church doors. It ups the numbers significantly. However, on Sunday last, our good rector announced that coffee hour would be in the Parish Hall because of inclimate weather, and furthermore, he expected people to attend because Jack was serving refreshments. This child is serving God by serving you food, Father Bob said. In other words, Show up or else.
And show up they did. They ate all the cakes. The men shook Jack's hand, and the women all said to me, "Aren't you lucky to have a son that cooks?" I concurred. Later, my friend Sally, a long time church member, said, "They ate three Bundt cakes? At coffee hour?" Her mouth fell open in a shocked capital O. Clearly, the mass partaking of the cakes was unprecedented at our little church.
So Jack came victorious into Thanksgiving week. He made another Bundt cake to take to my mother-in-law's house in Charlotte. And on Friday night, preparing for our second Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, Jack made two pumpkin pies. By himself. All I did was help him pour the pumpkin pie mix into the pie shells. I wasn't even in the kitchen for the most part. And the pies were good. They were, in fact, excellent.
Today at coffee hour, Miss Betty came up to me and handed me her famous Ginger Snap cookie recipe. I've been looking for a good ginger snap recipe for ages. The ones I've tried have always yielded cakey ginger snaps, not snappy ones. Miss Betty promised me her recipe would rock my world. Okay, she's seventy-four and she didn't say that, but that's what her promise implied.
As soon as we got home, Jack went on ginger snap duty. I helped him measure out the vegetable shortening, but otherwise he was on his own. He was cool with that. And I have to tell you, what he ended up with are the best ginger snaps I've ever had. So of course I will share the recipe with you, because everyone needs to get snappy sometimes. These would make great Christmas cookies--have your kids bake some today!
Miss Betty's Ginger Snaps
2 C flour
1 Tbs ginger
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup Crisco
1 C sugar
1 unbeaten egg
1/4 cup molasses
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Whisk together dry ingredients (through salt). Miss Betty, of course, recommends sifting, but I don't have a sifter, so I told Jack just to whisk stuff real good.
3. In a separate, large bowl, cream shortening. Add sugar gradually until shortening and sugar are well blended. Beat in egg and molasses.
4. By hand, mix dry ingredients into shortening mixture. Form teaspoon-sized balls of dough by rolling in palms of hands. Roll dough balls in a pie pan of granulated sugar; cover entire surface.
5. Place cookies two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for ten minutes, or until tops are slightly rounded, cracked and lightly browned.
6. Remove and cool on rack.
2 hours ago