A Day in My Kitchen
from my archives: August 20, 2003
Last week while I was grocery shopping, I called my daughter Mary (16) to ask what ingredients we needed to prepare an authentic African meal to go along with our "Around the World" unit study. By divine coincidence, as I doubled back to the spice aisle to get some ginger, I met (for the first time) a Hope Chest reader, Lataine! She seemed fascinated by what really goes on in the Knowles house, where to an outsider, life seems like such an organized and educational adventure. So, Lataine, welcome to my recollections of what happened in my cozy kitchen on Wednesday, August 20. Let’s see how adventurous and (un)organized we can really be! Here’s the rundown.
Inspired by the arrival of a sample Taste of Home magazine, and the fact that I hadn’t had to cook for the previous two nights, I decided to have a "day in the kitchen" home ec class with two of my middle children, Joanna (10) and Lydia (8). They were rarin’ to go, but at least they let me take a shower first. Before we started, I neatly wrote a list of 6 goals for the day:
- Make an African dinner, with two kinds of chicken, banana-coconut bake, and peanut butter candy.
- Prepare sub sandwiches for a beach trip the next day.
- Make brownies to take to the home group Bible study that evening.
- Make dinner for tomorrow night, using ground beef I had browned earlier that morning.
- Reorganize the cabinets and refrigerator.
- CLEAN UP!
- I dropped and broke my favorite French White casserole dish, which I had used almost every day. After nostalgically moaning over the fact that it had been a wedding present, I realized I had broken the original one years ago, and this one was a replacement anyway. Cleaning up shards and splinters of glass definitely set back my schedule.
- With Julia’s help, Lydia typed in a menu for The Africafe’ (my nifty name for our "ethnic restaurant" that evening) on the computer. I told her not to print it yet, because there might be some changes. That was certainly prophetic... Later, when she actually went to print it out, the printer wouldn’t work, and she had to write it out by hand. This took two tries.
- Joanna cut up the onions, which made her eyes water fiercely. I discovered that she was painstakingly cutting each little piece. I had to show her how to slice the onion into several pieces in one direction, and then, holding it together, make slices in the other direction. Lydia diced the garlic, after I showed her how to pull off a clove and peel its natural papery covering. (Isn’t it amazing how God preserves even a lowly bulb of garlic?)
- I had planned to use leftover potatoes for one of the recipes, but found out at lunch time that they were almost gone. So we had to choose another recipe.
- It’s a good thing we had a little honey left over from the peanut butter candy, because it made a good substitution for the brown sugar in the Akwadu (banana-coconut bake). I THOUGHT we had some brown sugar in the cupboard, but it turned out to be Spike seasoning.
- Joanna wanted to make macaroni and cheese for lunch, but we discovered that we were out of butter, too. (Strike three! What IS this about running out of things I thought we had! So much for shopping efficiency... ) Joanna begged me to go to Sam’s and buy some, but I had already been to Sam’s the day before -- and the day before that! I had also been to Winn-Dixie the day before. Joanna made cornbread instead, which supplied continuous crumbs for our floor for the remainder of the day.
- My little boys were acting like a thundering herd of elephants, stampeding through the kitchen at regular intervals, despite me barking "OUT! OUT!" We finally sat them down to watch the Veggie Tales video The Ballad of Little Joe. Even I started dancing to The Belly Button Song!
- The only kitchen organizing I got done was putting my spice jars on a lazy Susan in the cupboard. That’s when I discovered that I had recently bought a tiny $3.29 jar of curry in vain -- we already had some! (I did finally get around to organizing the kitchen on Saturday. I hope everyone can find the stuff I moved around!)
- I had perched the cookbook on a book stand to keep it clean. Somehow, while I was putting Naomi (2) down for her nap, the book ended up flat on the counter, covered in peanut butter and honey. And it was a library book! (This cookbook is wonderful! It’s The Multicultural Cookbook for Students by Carole Lisa Albyn and Lois Sinaiko Webb j641.59)
- I also ended up with honey and other assorted sticky foodstuffs all over my clothes. It’s a good thing I remembered to change into a clean dress before my husband walked in!
- Speaking of my husband coming home, he hates to see dishes in the sink. We ran three dishwasher loads (mainly bulky stuff) before then -- but he still ended up scrubbing out the serving dishes! Sigh... Mary did a fourth dishwasher load after we left for the Bible study. Yes! Also, one child who had to help with dishes earlier in the day kept whining, "I hate dishes! I hate dishes!" Double sigh...
- The beach trip got cancelled due to a scheduling conflict, so I didn’t make the subs. I never did get around to making an extra dinner, either. Rachel (12) stepped in and made brownies for me when I was at the point of meltdown.
- All of this cooking adventure was interspersed with diaper changes, baby bottles, preschool mischief, potty messes, apple juice spills, several phone calls, and tutoring sessions with Julia (14), Rachel and Andrew (6). Rachel was trying to do an experiment for Physical Science which called for a 9 volt battery. We thought there was one in our science supply box, but it was a D battery, so I took one out of our smoke detector. The experiment involved hooking two pieces of insulated wire to the battery terminals, then submersing the other ends in a glass of water and baking soda to see them make the water bubble and turn blue. One wire end was supposed to turn blue, but it fell off. The other wire’s end turned black. Rachel was upset that the experiment didn’t turn out like the book said, but I told her just to write down in her lab book what actually happened and not worry about it. Of course, I was simultaneously trying to make sure that the Galinha Muambe (fried chicken marinated in lemon juice, garlic and onion) didn’t burn!
- There seemed to be way too much water in the Chicken Moambe, which is stewed. I asked Mary, who had just gotten home from work, whether I should pour it off or keep it in before adding the other ingredients. She wisely advised me to pour some off and keep some in. I guess I’ve taught her well, huh? I decided to use this extra broth to make a vegetable and rice curry dish with squash, carrots and turnip. Gotta use up all that curry powder! By the way, did you know that curry powder is not a single spice? It’s actually a blend of turmeric (which gives it that delicious yellow color), coriander, cumin, fenugreek, ginger, cinnamon, red pepper, cloves, allspice, mace and cardamom. Imagine that! I’m getting an education in my own kitchen!
- One of the kids, noting the similar recipe names, wondered if "moambe" and "muamba" both mean "chicken." One of her sisters retorted, "Of course not, because then Chicken Moambe would mean Chicken Chicken!" We conjectured that Moambe means stew, casserole or something like that. Does anybody out there know? Rachel wanted to know why I made TWO chicken recipes. "Because I’m crazy and like to make extra work for myself," was my tired reply.
- We finally got to sit down to our authentic African meal, which had cooled off by the time we sat down. Rachel informed me that she doesn’t like chicken, and would only eat the curry dish. Micah (4) didn’t want to eat his rice, but I told him to eat one more forkful. He had dropped his fork under his chair, so I said he could pick some up with his hands and eat it. He grinned and picked up one little grain of rice! Nobody complained about eating dessert, although a few of the little ones balked at the peanut butter balls until I told them it was candy. Sure enough, they liked it! After all, mother knows best! (HAH!)
So there’s the real scoop. Laugh if you want, but that’s what goes on in the Knowles house sometimes. Oh, and don’t think I do this every day, either. I'm not THAT crazy! Usually we have something easy and tame like spaghetti. (However, there is a method to my madness. This experience served as a practice run for a meal we are bringing over to my mother-in-law's house soon to share with her part-time caregiver, Dorothy, and her family. They are from Lusaka, Zambia!)
Note in 2012: We had another little girl, Melody, two years later, and she's learning to cook a little and make a lot of new kitchen messes. Mary and Julia are both married and in charge of their own kitchens, and Mary has two small sons. Rachel and Joanna are both in college, though living at home. Cooking for 10 can still be chaos, and getting kids to do dishes is still as difficult as it was then. :-) For more on what we do in our kitchen, check out my Recipe Box and Food Page at my other blog.
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