In a drive-thru, order out, microwave, Uber Eats world, one little girl is going to learn to cook the classics.
It was cute, the first time my daughter wanted to make my coffee for me. I’d let her fiddle a bit, then step in and help her out, taking paternal control of the situation and giving her a big thumbs up for effort.
Perfectly, flawlessly, adorably.
And that was when I knew I didn’t just have a talent on my hands, I had a responsibility.
To be a foodie means seeking out the special treats and the flavorful treasures in a world that would rather we ate the mass produced pulp, taste-tested, lowest common denominator-approved, commercially exploitable glop. Blended, homogenized, stabilized, denatured, enriched, skimmed, infused, and freeze dried to still be consumable years after we come across it while deep cleaning our cupboards, the food that makes up most of our diet is lacking in nutrition, lacking in flavor (salt is not a flavor…), and more than anything: lacking in soul.
To be a foodie means going the extra mile to taste a new spice, learn a new cooking technique from someplace that isn’t overrun with golden arches, experience the color, taste, smell, sizzle, and texture of a food that never touched styrofoam. We don’t just consume real food, we imbibe it, savor it… worship it. We know how important a basic food knowledge is to growing and experimenting with new items like jack fruit and octopus. It makes us brave enough to sample ghost pepper salsa, squid ink ice cream, and deep-fried Snickers bars.
So when my daughter expresses an interest in what I do both for joy and for a living, I have to express an interest in setting her down the path of variety, eclectic, and amazing flavors. I have a responsibility to teach her, by example and by lessons, what it means to use the tools and techniques that render great food.
And perhaps in teaching her, I am, by extension, teaching many others. Maybe she will take up the baton and go on to educate others through her own lessons and examples. Since I am working to move from the region of working in the food industry to working around it, it might be a good way for me to practice my skills, help my daughter learn some skills, and provide information to others. In that vein I decided that Zoë and I would work together in the kitchen learning new techniques and skills, experimenting with styles and flavors, and cooking the classic way. And that I would keep a video record of her progressing and developing. And that I would make that record available to others who might be interested in improving their eating staples, taking control of their food choices, and overcoming the number one hurdle to enjoying quality dinners instead of reheated, mold-pressed food in three compartment paper trays: a lack of fundamental knowledge about how to make food taste good… beyond good – great!
When Zoë and I go into the kitchen we are going to make some great, but basic and classic meals. Real macaroni and cheese, spaghetti bolognese, liege waffles, creme brulee… all basic and simple dishes that break the chain of microwave popcorn and extruded meat, breaded and fried. We are going to use techniques that any 4-year old can use, because she is 4. And we will post the videos on YouTube for her to reference as she grows in talent and skill, and to anyone else the videos can help.
Zoë Cooks The Classics will be a journey in the education of a little chef for as long as it is of interest to her. And of course I hope that will be for a long, long time, and across many, many courses.
Now, we started with some Easy Bake Cookies because food is not only part of our lives, but part of our emotional history. Who doesn’t have fond memories “play” baking in our light bulb ovens, using the same methods that mommy (or daddy, or grandma) used to make cookies, cakes and pies? What was more exciting than than crucial moment when we took our lopsided, half-baked brownies out of our plastic hot boxes and devoured that curious concoction like it was the best thing on Earth? So I want Zoë to have that transitional and exciting memory that she once played at making food. But we will be moving on to the real stuff.
And because I am a dad and I can’t cut a single cute scene with my munchkin, the first video is toooooooooo long. But I am sure that as we practice, we will get better, just like when we cook.
So here’s to our first real journey in cooking, and the elementary education of a future foodie!