Plenty of options

I recently treated myself to the fabulous new cookbook Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes From London’s Ottolenghi, by Yotam Ottolenghi. Everything I’ve made from it has been delicious but the Chickpea, Tomato and Bread soup has quickly turned into my Favourite Soup Of All Time.

The first time I served it, it was more of a stew: I skipped the pesto (to be added toward the end), omitted celery and served it topped with couscous. The second time, I blended it with the hand blender and made it into a thick, puréed soup. Each time, it was rich and flavourful and made me feel good about the world. I could eat this hearty soup every day and never tire of it.

Sadly, my children feel otherwise.

The tolerated it the first time, but the most recent variation met with a wholesale boycott.

The upside of this potentially challenging family moment was that when I told our older son if he didn’t like it, he could make his own dinner, he gladly agreed. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s about to start cooking class at his new middle school and wanted to give it a whirl on his own. Or he wanted to show us (again) that he doesn’t need us all that much. But he pulled out a children’s cookbook that’s been gathering dust at our house for some time, and made Pesto Toast—pesto on grilled bread topped with melted cheese. And he actually learned a few things. Like, say, you should read the entire recipe before starting. And a garlic clove is different from a garlic head (I stopped him before he turned into a vampire destroyer, but he was still burping garlic for two days). And you have to watch things under the broiler. And cleaning up isn’t all that great, but cooking is actually quite fun.

In fact, it was a teachable moment for all of us. I’m often trying to find ways to get my children cooking and preparing food—coming up with various gimmicks, including kids’ choice nights, etc.—but maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe all this meddling is working against me and given the opportunity, they’ll come to this cooking/appreciating food thing on their own terms. Or maybe I should stage a boycott of my own…

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