Tag: vegetablesoup

Charlie’s Room: Chef for a Day

“I want to make something for mom,” Charlie said. “Something special. A surprise.”

“Well, we have lots of materials for all sorts of crafts in the closet.” Isaac started counting things off on his fingers. “Colored paper, yarn, googly eyes, glue, glitter…”

“No, no, no.” Charlie waved his arms. “I want to make something in the kitchen. Something yummy, like on the cooking shows.”

“Ah. What recipe would you like to make?”

Charlie frowned. “I can’t tell you. Then it wouldn’t be a surprise.”

“I thought it was a surprise for mom?”

“Nope.” Charlie folded his arms. “I know better. The best way to keep a secret is not to tell anybody. Besides, if I tell you what I want to do, then you’ll want to help. If you help, then it won’t just be from me.”

“I could be your helper. Real chefs have helpers in the kitchen. They chop things and use the stove and such.” Isaac smiled. “It would still be you in charge, so the surprise would come from you.”

“I’d be in charge?”

Isaac nodded. “Of course.”

“And you would listen to me and not try to change things?”

“Unless it was something dangerous,” Isaac said. “I am a dad, and safety rules are important to dads.”

Charlie sighed. “Fine. You can come. But it’s my idea, so I’m the chef.”

“Okay. Let’s go.” Isaac and Charlie went to the kitchen. Isaac took two aprons off the hook. He gave the smaller one to Charlie and put on the other one. “What are we going to make?”

Charlie took down the family recipe book. “Hmmmm.” He flipped through the pages. “None of this is special. We’ve tried all of it before. I’m going to make something new. Then it will be a big surprise.”

“Making up a new recipe can be difficult,” Isaac said.

“I can do it.” Charlie tugged on his apron. “See, I’m wearing an apron. I’m a chef. I’ll just look at what ingredients we have. Then I’ll decide what to make.”

Charlie found eggs and butter and cocoa powder and peanuts and oranges and celery. He found flour and pepper and salt and cinnamon sugar and chili powder and milk. He found an onion, but he put it back. “No onions,” he said. “Not today.”

He looked at his collection of ingredients. “I think I’ll make a cake. You can peel the oranges. I’ll start mixing things.”

“Do you want me to preheat the oven first?” Isaac asked.

“Yeah. Put it to cake temperature. I’ll get out the mixing bowl.”

“We should probably wash our hands,” Isaac said.

“I was going to say that. I didn’t forget.” Charlie turned and headed to the sink instead of the cupboards.

In the big plastic mixing bowl, Charlie mixed the flour, milk, cocoa powder, peanuts and spices. The eggs didn’t crack very well, and he spent a lot of time trying to get the bits of eggshell out. “I can’t see the eggshells in all this flour. You should have cracked the eggs.”

Isaac looked over his shoulder. “I think you got them all.”

Charlie frowned and pushed his wooden spoon around in the batter. “I guess so. What’s next?” He looked at the ingredients. “Did you peel and mash the oranges?”

“I just peeled them, but I didn’t mash them.”

“Could you mash them? And chop up the celery?”

“Of course.” Isaac started mashing and chopping. Charlie found the cake pan and smeared the inside with butter. When Isaac was done, he brought them over to Charlie. “Now what?”

Charlie pointed to the plastic bowl. “Put them in there. After I wash my hands again, I’ll mix it all up.”

Charlie stirred the batter energetically and poured it in the pan. Only a little bit spattered over the sides. “Okay. You put it in the oven and set the time,” Charlie said. “When the timer goes off, we can check it.”

“After it’s in the oven, we can clean up a bit,” Isaac said.

It took a little time after the cake was brown for it to stop being jiggly. It puffed up a lot, but then deflated pretty soon after they took it out of the oven. Isaac set it on a potholder on the counter.

“Should we taste it?” Isaac asked.

“No, it has to be a surprise,” Charlie said. “We’ll wait until Mom gets home.”

“Let’s make dinner while we wait. What should we make?”

Charlie grinned. “Spaghetti! I’ll go get the noodles.”

By the time Marianne came home, dinner was waiting on the table, the dirty dishes were washed, and Isaac was lighting candles. “What’s the occasion?” she asked.

Charlie jumped up from where he was sitting and hugged her. “It’s a surprise for you, mom.” He looked up at her and grinned. “Do you like it?”

“Of course I do. Let’s sit down and eat, and you can tell me all about your day,” she said.

“We have cake for later, too. It’s my recipe, because I was the chef today.”

“I’m sure it will be wonderful.”

It wasn’t. Not really. The flavor and the textures just weren’t very cake-like. Charlie took one bite and spit it out. “Don’t eat it,” he said. “It’s awful. I’m sorry.” He looked close to tears.

Isaac and Marianne each took a bite.

“It’s different,” Isaac said. “But it’s not awful.”

“It’s my surprise cake, and I love it,” Marianne said.

Charlie frowned. “You don’t have to eat it. I know it doesn’t taste good.”

But Marianne ate every bite. Isaac hid most of his in his napkin. Charlie threw his away and ate a Popsicle.

“Did you have fun being a chef?” Isaac asked later at bedtime.

“Yes. But next time I’m going to taste what I make before I give it to someone.”

“Or you could use a recipe that you know will turn out well.” Isaac sat in the chair by the bookshelf in Charlie’s room and opened up the book they were reading.

“I think I’ll be fine. I’m a chef,” Charlie said. “But next time, you can crack the eggs.”

Charlie’s Room: The Junk Drawer

Marianne pulled the big, blue rubber band off of the bunch of asparagus and dropped it into the junk drawer. She took the asparagus to the table and held it out like a bouquet. “Let me show you the best way to cut up asparagus.”

Charlie glanced over at Isaac, who was cutting up carrots. “But dad has the cutting board.”

“We don’t need a cutting board.” Marianne held up a stalk of asparagus and began to snap it into pieces.

“Let me try.” Charlie held out a hand for a stalk of asparagus. He quickly snapped it into pieces. “This is fun. Why aren’t carrots so easy to cut up?”

“Maybe they would be if they were as skinny as asparagus.” Marianne picked up a thinner carrot and snapped it in half. “See?”

After the asparagus and potatoes and carrots and cabbage were cut into pieces and added to the soup pot, Charlie took the ends to the compost container in the sink. He turned and pulled the junk drawer open. “Hey, where did the rubber band go?”

“It should be somewhere in there.” Marianne put a lid on the pot. “You saw me put it in.”

“I know. But it’s not there.” Charlie turned to Isaac, who was wiping down the table. “Dad, you saw it, right?”

“I did. Were you thinking about the rubber band when you opened the drawer?” Isaac went to the sink to rinse out the sponge.

“How does that make a difference?” Charlie pushed the things in the drawer around. They made a scraping, rumbling sound as they moved around the drawer. “It’s not here.”

“Close it and try again. Think about the rubber band.” Isaac started drying the table with a kitchen table.

“But that won’t work.” Charlie frowned. “Either it’s there or it’s not. Thinking about it isn’t going to change that.”

“Just try it and see,” Marianne said. “Who knows?”

Charlie closed the drawer. He squeezed his eyes closed and opened the drawer again. He looked down. “It’s right there on top. How did that happen? It wasn’t there when I closed the drawer. It doesn’t make sense.”

“Maybe you didn’t see it,” Marianne said. “Sometimes that happens to me, too.”

“But it was right on top,” Charlie said. He swung around to glare at Isaac, who was hanging up the kitchen towel to dry.

Isaac, feeling the glare, turned to face Charlie. He laughed. “Don’t get mad. It’s just how junk drawers work. Their random structure attracts chaos. Once it reaches critical mass, it functions as a portal to the in-between.”

Charlie stopped glaring. Instead, he looked confused. “Is that like another dimension? I thought those weren’t real.”

“If they are, I don’t think that junk drawers are portals to them,” Marianne said. “I think someone would have noticed by now.”

“People don’t pay attention to junk drawers, because they think they already understand them.” Isaac shrugged. “I think there are more things out there than we understand right now. Sometimes that’s because we aren’t willing to look at what’s in front of us.”

Charlie twirled the rubber band between his fingers. “Huh.” He dropped the rubber band back into the drawer and closed it. Then he closed his eyes tightly and opened the drawer again. He looked down. “It didn’t work. I wanted an ice cream cone.”

“Before dinner?” Marianne smiled and shook her head. “It’s a good thing it didn’t work. After all our effort making the soup, you would have spoiled your appetite.”

Charlie turned to look at Isaac. Isaac smiled. “It only works for things you put in the junk drawer. Otherwise people would have unlimited change, and then our currency would destabilize.”

Charlie nodded. “So it just means that it’s easier to find things and you have unlimited space?”

“As long as the assortment is sufficiently random.” Isaac pulled some bowls out of the cupboard and handed them to Charlie. “Do you want to help me set the table?”

They set the table, and later sat down to a lovely dinner of vegetable soup and crackers. After dinner, they cleared the table, and there was enough time before bedtime to watch a dinosaur movie. They settled in with popcorn.

Partway through the movie, Charlie sat up straight and turned to look at Isaac. “Wait a minute! Is that where you hide the Christmas presents? In the junk drawer?”

Isaac smiled. “Maybe.”

Charlie clapped his hands together. “Now I know where to look for them! I know the secret of the drawer.”

“Only if you know exactly what you’re looking for,” Isaac pointed out.

Charlie slumped in his seat. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Marianne laughed. “Don’t worry about it. Look, it’s your favorite part of the movie.” They turned back to the screen and forgot all about the junk drawer.

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