June 9, 2022
June 9, 2022
My grandmother's chrusciki recipe is super-sticky. Variable Pizza Pi and Atomic Popcorn Balls are even stickier. And it's possible that chicken pakora with tomato chutney is the stickiest of all. By sticky, though, I don't mean that the food sticks to your fingers; I mean that it sticks you to the person cooking next to you, and connects you with the history of our species' survival on the planet.
Ammu is the new cookbook from Asma Khan, a British chef who hails from Kolkata in India; she owns the restaurant Darjeeling Express in London. My daughter Ella and I had watched the Chef's Table episode about Asma on Netflix and were eager to try her recipes for ourselves. "Ammu" means "mother," and the book is a tribute to Asma's mother, who started a catering business in India in the 1970s at a time few women were businesspeople. Each Ammu recipe is accompanied by a beautifully-written little essay about what that dish means to their family and to South Asian cultural history.
Ella is older now, so cooking with her is a pleasure. But when she was little, it wasn't. Young kids have lots more enthusiasm than they do know-how, plus they want all the fun parts of cooking and eating with none of the drudgery of cleanup. So the process can be frustrating, and it's tempting to encourage them to go off and do something else (anything else). But the connection that cooking with your kids gives you... to the food, to the history, to each other... well, there's nothing else like it. So when Ella was young, we used recipe books for kids. Our favorites were Ann McCallum's books Eat Your Math Homework and Eat Your Science Homework; those, too, were more than just recipes, they connected my kids to the math and science that fuels our knowledge of the world. Another favorite was the Little House Cookbook, which connected my girls to the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and connected me to my childhood love of those stories as well. What was even better was cooking with Ella during fruit-picking season: The dirt stuck to our fingers, and the history of our species' relationship to food stuck to our souls.
So when your children complain this summer that there's nothing to do, invite them into the messy, mad world of cooking and eating. Especially when bowls need to be licked, things will get gloriously sticky.