On Saturday morning while the kids were in karate classes, Mo and I were discussing Shakeel (13)'s recent lack of passion for anything (other than his Playstation). He had loved hand-rearing his birds, but after two of them died recently, he seems to be afraid to get to close to the others, so tries to remain uninvolved.
But then I remembered the times he'd google his favourite cake recipes and bake them. Or invent food recipes to serve his dad and me on special days (like our birthdays, Mothers and Fathers Day). So I decided to rope him into cooking duties since he seems to show both the interest in and flair for cooking and baking.
My mum, sis-in-law, brothers and their kids were coming for supper on Saturday night and I had been planning to serve butter chicken. Shakeel was so excited when I told him that he'd be making supper. But then, as I should have anticipated, came ten year old Tharaa 's whiny accusation, '' Mommy, you just want to spend time with Shakeel. You don't care about me. Why can't I help?''
I considered it for a moment. I had really wanted Shakeel to complete the dish by himself from start to finish. I'd wanted him to experience that sense of accomplishment, which would hopefully further fuel his passion for cooking. So, cleverly I suggested that she make any dessert of her choice.
Or, I'd only thought that I was being clever, for immediately upon hearing that her sister had been commissioned to bake a chocolate cake for dessert, Nuha (7) started to grumble, '' What about me? Why can't I help? Why must I always spend time with boring old Aisha (2) so that the rest of you can have fun? It's not fair!''
Shakeel must have sensed my exasperation and probably fearing that I was about to call everything off and cook supper myself, he exclaimed excitedly, '' You should make the rice! I don't have time to make rice and it is the most important part of the meal''. Clever boy.
With a feeling of importance and purpose, Nuha headed to fetch a chair to get the tub of Basmati rice from the top shelf. When - yes, you guessed it - we heard another (more terrifying) nagging voice - that of Aisha (2), '' I want to help! I want to help!''
Oh crap. The involvement of our drama/tantrum queen had the potential to ruin our plans before we even got started. Luckily the kids jumped to the rescue by fetching the flour.
''Yay, I make roti!'' she squealed gleefully. That simply meant that she wanted to mess with flour and water. But, since everything seemed to be riding on her non-interference and compliance, I happily allowed it.
I assisted Shakeel with some of the cooking, simply because I do not work from a recipe, which meant that I guided him with instructions like '' Add a little bit of this'' or '' a dash of that''.
With Tharaa, I oversaw the melting of the chocolate for the ganache - this simply to avoid her from devouring all the chocolate before it reached the cake.
Nuha obviously needed me to handle the boiling water for the rice. Surprisingly, she remembered the proportions of water:rice: salt from all the times I had issued the instructions to Elizabeth, the domestic worker.
The only one who proceeded from start to finish without my help, was Aisha. Her 'dish' was perfect - a perfect mess. She delighted in the sticky mess she'd created and earnestly stirred and prodded the gooey dough.
The kids' meal was hugely successful. Shakeel's butter chicken was creamy; flavoured with a perfect balance of spiciness and tomato. Tharaa's chocolate cake slab - which was filled with fresh cream in the centre and topped with a chocolate ganache - was light and moist. Nuha's rice was light and fluffy, much to my mother's excitement, since my mum always complains that her own rice is too sticky. Aisha's ''roti'' served its purpose, i.e. it kept her occupied and out of the way so that the rest of them could get on with their culinary masterpieces. Later she and my little nephew delighted in messing her ''roti'' all over their hands and clothes.
Although I had a chest pain after the entire experience (yelling instructions and warnings while trying to prevent dishes from splattering all over the floor, is anxious work), I will definitely do it again. Maybe not soon - I first need the chest pain to subside before my next attempt at hosting Masterchef.
But I shall persevere in the hopes that their success could spell the end of my time in front of the stove. One can but hope.