And I know what you're thinking, 'cause I was too, that it could've totally turned out to be a royal mess. But they were unbelievably awesome, listening to instructions, considerate of one another's tastes, and conscious of really trying to make a healthy and delicious meal.
Santiago went first.
"What protein do you want, Chago?"
"Well, Saia really likes shrimp," he says thoughtfully.
"Okay, and what grain?"
"Rice, I think," he says with his hand under his chin.
"Great. And now, your vegetable," I say.
"How about a mixed stir-fry?" I suggest.
"Oooh, she likes that! Does it have the red peppers?"
So, I send him off to the freezer and pantry to collect his ingredients. And then into the cupboard to pull out the pans, and steamer, and rice cooker.
I did all the plugging in and turning on of appliances, of course, but he did all the pouring and seasoning. He was a little nervous that he might get burned (but that's mainly 'cause his Mama's a little accident prone), but he sucked it up and did his job. He tasted the chicken broth and decided to add that to the rice. He asked to taste and smell the lemon juice and garlic salt before he put it in with the shrimp saute, and then just added a pat of butter to the steaming veggies.
He chose a "fancy plate" and cup for her, and set her table. Proud as a peacock, he was.
Then it was her turn. She cooks with me regularly, so there was a lot less of the hovering that I had to do. She chose beef for his protein, which I thought was a little unusual, but she said he hadn't had any in a while, so we went with it. Then she picked whole wheat pasta shells and sweet corn.
As I was filling the pot of water for the pasta, she reminded me, "Mama, remember that the water has to boil first before we put the pasta in."
She asked for the meat to be cubed, so I did that and tossed it into her pan. She put in some olive oil, comino, sea salt, lemon pepper, a little A-1, and some cilantro.
As it was cooking, she kept staring at the meat as if she were thinking about something.
"What is it, Saia?"
"I think the meat needs something," she said.
"Ok, let's look in the pantry."
Beans, soups, mushrooms, couscous..."WATER CHESTNUTS!!" she yells. "He LOVES water chestnuts." So into the pan they went.
Then she said she wanted to pick a "manly" plate for him, which I found hilarious because she ended up choosing one of Mommy's favorite outdoor plates. But she got his table all set up, they said their thank-yous (we reheated her plate), and they dug in.
They finished every last bite, were so gracious to one another, and even helped clean up (sort of).
Mommy said it all kinda tasted like Benihana, which was sorta true, but I think it's because they were using minimal seasoning and only the basics. But hey, if I can just teach them to fling a shrimp into their hat, I may be able to put them to work long enough for me to finish my book this summer after all!