You Give Me Fifteen Minutes in the Kitchen, I'll Give You Dinner

10.14.10: Leo's 29th Month

Leo's 29th Month blog.jpg

I’m not here to say that two-year-olds are easy to live with. They are demanding, impossible, imperious, contrary, complicated, alarming, messy, touchy, and insistent upon rigid consistency and repetition yet constantly changing. It doesn’t help that Aaron’s been traveling and working a ton, I’m working in midtown, Leo is on nap strike, and I have this weird phenomenon known as ‘pine mouth’ that apparently comes from eating Asian pine nuts and makes everything taste unbearably bitter for a little while (up to 2 weeks).

But you know, I am here to say I wouldn’t trade it all up for some other way of life. Even when our boy is puking after over-indulging in seltzer and somersaults at a party, even when he’s jumping up and down in bed for an hour during “quiet time” or insisting that he’s not in the least hungry for dinner unless ice cream sandwiches will be served, there are great joys to be had in Leo’s company. Chief among them are new developments in the field of play—both with other kids and on his own.

Finally, after repeating the same old sharing dramas every time we got together with another toddler, Leo and his friends, all around 2 and a few months, seem able to play on their own. I’ll sit in the living room, sipping tea with another mom, while Leo takes his friend into his room, and we’ll just shake our heads in wonder at the experience. Wow, this is what it’s like to have kids who know how to have a good time without constant parental assistance. When things get too quiet, I’ll tiptoe past the open door to see Sadie saying “That’s not nice Leo, now give me a hug,” and Leo obliging, or Leo telling Sadie “Here Sadie, this is a better [book].” Civilized little beings!

Interestingly, Leo’s newfound moments of self-sufficiency include both solitary and social play. For the first time in the past 2 years, this week I find myself making dinner while a softly humming child keeps me company from the living room floor, where he’s working on puzzles, playing with stickers, or looking through a book. Mind you, this is probably a fifteen-minute period, and often he’s strewing breadstick crumbs on the carpet simultaneously, but when you’re used to wildly entertaining while you cook, it’s amazing how productive a solid fifteen minutes of cooking can feel!

Here are some of our recent menus, none requiring more than 15 minutes active time in the kitchen:

Roasted maple-glazed butternut squash, lemony roasted asparagus, honey-oat bran biscuits and roast chicken parts

Sesame Noodles with leftover chicken, sugar snaps and cucumbers

Rice and Beans, served with steamed broccoli and super-simple guacamole (avocado, lemon and salt)

Whole Wheat Macaroni with Goat Cheese, Spinach and Sausage

Zoe Singer is a freelance food writer and cookbook editor and co-author of The Flexitarian Table. Food Editor and blogger for The Faster Times, she tries not to eat for two now that her son is a toddler.