Tonight our 11-year old daughter excitedly embraced her role as Chef. She has been looking forward to this particular meal since the day we floated the idea of the kids taking over dinner time. She wouldn’t share her secret menu with our family, but apparently her friends at school blessed the menu and hoped they would get a similar opportunity to cook.

Since we had all her ingredients last week, today was her first trip to Tom Thumb as cook. I left the others at home to play so we could go alone. We had such a nice time. As on my trip with the 7-yr old last week, I took the opportunity to teach her shopping 101. (I don’t go much past 101). We gathered her goods, learned that each aisle has a sign heralding its products, and that a small cart of groceries can cost over $100 (that was an eye-popper for her … glad this is all hitting home).

I learned that she chose to keep her menu on the sly because she was afraid her siblings wouldn’t like it. She loved it, but didn’t want to disappoint. She decided to stack her hand by topping off her creation with very cute, on sale, single serving cartons of Hagen Das and Ben & Jerry ice cream. Hey, we’re not raising dummies over here.

Thus began the night of firsts since this kitchen experiment began.

1) She used real plates. Yes, we’ve been paper plating for over a week.

2) The agreeable gloves were off. The dreaded complaining reared its ugly head (so sad it hit this meal.) I’ve been waiting for it … almost looking forward to them getting to experience what I do almost every night — dissatisfaction with my cooking. Minutes after the complaint assault, another child came in from playing outside, heard the menu, and genuinely/enthusiastically told Chef, “You make the BEST meals we’ve had!!” That brought a smile.

3) More words that, up to this point, had yet to be uttered. To set the stage, one of the kids asked how many weeks they will have to cook dinner. I told them we might keep it up for a very long time (not necessarily in this form, but something). Then the teen said it …

“NO ONE else I know has to do this!!! When I go to Henry’s house, HIS MOM cooks!”

It’s never easy being counter-cultural.

The meal was great. Her menu: Fusilli pasta tossed with a little butter and parmesan cheese, Rotisserie chicken, carrots with ranch dressing, cantaloupe, grapes and garlic bread. — Oh yeah, and ice cream.

Everyone ate. We sat and talked. It was a blast. In fact, Chef wouldn’t let us start eating until everyone was seated and Dad prayed. I looked around for Norman Rockwell, but didn’t see him. This one would have been right up his ally.

Bon-Appetite. And, thanks for walking the road with me.

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