Cooking Lessons

Zach’s PieIn preparation for real life, we’re trying to teach the boys some basic life skills, like laundry, cleaning, and cooking. When we asked Zach if he could cook, his first response was, “Of course! I can warm up pre-packaged food in the microwave.”

Ha! That’s expensive, and nearly as unhealthy as Morgan Spurlock’s all-McDonalds menu.

So, we clarified, and he now understands we mean scratch cooking – at a level of complexity beyond grilled cheese sandwiches – although that’s a good start. The benefits? Besides self-sufficiency and economy, it’ll make him popular with his college apartment-mates – and maybe even more attractive to girls.

So, our approach is to ask him what his favorite foods are, and then teach him to cook them, both from scratch and using shortcuts. I’m involving him in the whole process – intelligent grocery shopping, recipe comparison and selection, learning cooking techniques, and eventually producing an entire meal.

Blackberry Pie

Tonight we made one of his favorite foods – blackberry pie. He is a wise grasshopper, he says:

There is no “I” in team,
But there is an “I” in pie.
Pie ties it all together.

We started with picking the blackberries ourselves before dinner. We didn’t go completely scratch, since this is his first adventure in measuring cups and food preparation. We bought rolled up pre-made crusts to simplify a bit.

We looked at several recipes on Food Network and Cooks.com, and settled on this one as simple and easy to adapt for quantity.

I had to walk him through the recipe one step at a time. We adapted the four-cup recipe to use six cups of berries, and he did the math. He learned some basic food science during the process. Why do you premix the flour with the sugar? To avoid lumps. What’s the best way to mix the flour mixture into the berries with minimum mashing? Folding.

We poured the berry mixture in, carefully unrolled the top crust, and he learned how to fold and seal the crust with a fork (the easy way). For the steam vent, I had him cut a “Z” in the crust – an artist’s signature. ;)

It tasted superb, although it could have thickened up a little more.

Recipe Notes

I did some research on runny pies. (I’m a geek, I can’t help it…) First, we should have cooked the pie longer, it would have thickened better. It probably was not bubbling all the way through. Second, it seems flour is not the recommended thickener for blackberries; most sources seem to recommend instant tapioca starch or even potato flour.

So now we need to go all America’s Test Kitchen, pick more berries, and bake another one. We’ll keep applying lessons learned until we get it perfect. :)

Next Lesson

This weekend we’ll make spaghetti! Maybe even with meatballs.

4 Responses to “Cooking Lessons”

  1. Brenda Says:

    Is omelet making on the list? The girls will swoon… at least I do when hubs makes his power omelet. It’s heavenly, let me tell you.

    Good work preparing the guys w/basic life skills. What a role model you are for parents everywhere! (And here I am still working on getting people to take out the trash.)

  2. Jeri Says:

    He is the pickiest fink in the world – and eggs are on his yuck list. (I actually wrote a whole post on his pickies… http://smugpuppies.com/2006/12/09/picky-picky/) Hopefully he will outgrow some of it when he gets older – he’s 15 now.

  3. Beast Mom Says:

    If I come over, will you teach me how to make a pie too? That’s one thing I have failed at many times. Can’t seem to get it right!
    Very cool that you’re doing this together. Gives me good ideas for my kids too.
    -bm

  4. Jeri Says:

    It’s still a learning process for us too… but if I use premade piecrust it’s so much easier! Although I do know how to make one by hand, I just prefer to avoid the work and mess. :)