Grandma's kitchen rules a stealthy way to bond and learn

“To be or not to be, that is the question.”

So said Hamlet, having an existential moment about the worthiness of living. My existential moment was a little less dramatic, but nonetheless important. What type of grandparent would I be?

During the months of lockdown, I had the time and opportunity to contemplate this. Finally, when I was able to see the grandkids, I thought I could be useful with the online teaching work that they had to complete. Nah, was the response of the little ones, in between a curl of the lip and a bit of a sneer to boot.

Okay, plan B evolved, as I quietly took that rebuke and hid it away in the realm of memories to be dragged out when they turned 21.

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I would find an activity that would both fill in time and keep them happy. Cooking was the answer.

Every household with kids has a fruit bowl with over-ripe bananas. I seized these one day, grabbed the grandkids and began to teach them the joys of banana bread and muffins. We mashed, we weighed, we cracked eggs, we found the self-raising flour and I explained the difference between that and plain flour. We put the timer on for the oven and couldn’t wait for the bread to bake and the eating to start. The smells were so inviting. Success.

Now black bananas find their way into the freezer for when grandma turns them into magic cakes.

But where to from here? We moved onto biscuits, reading the recipes and weighing the butter and the coconut and the sugar. The tricky part was moulding the dough into shapes that would vaguely end up looking biscuit-like as they came out of the oven. Success again – well sort of.

We made a variety of biscuits, but then I wanted another challenge and found a recipe for Portuguese custard tarts – my favourite food. I taught the grandson how to cut and roll the pastry and congratulated him on his dexterity. His chest puffed out and then he helped to mould the pastry into the tins. Custard was made and poured and the tarts put into a super-hot oven. Oh joy, oh bliss, success again and once they cooled down, the tarts lasted a few seconds. No leftovers for the next day.

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Not content with these efforts, I trawled another cookbook looking for inspiration. I asked the little ones if they liked chocolate eclairs. ‘Oh yes,’ came the reply. So the next lesson was on how to make eclairs. We read, we pondered, we found the ingredients and the right baking trays. We whipped cream together and melted chocolate over our pastries. We waited a few moments for the chocolate to set and then devoured our creations.

Now my granddaughter can brag that she can make choux pastry, and she can! My grandson knows how to find the correct scraper to extract the final smear of cake mix from the inside of a bowl. Brilliant. No waste here.

This grandparent gig has been a joy, and no doubt there will be many more recipes to work our way through. And maybe when I am gone, they will have fond remembrances of making and eating treats with their grandma. Better than doing homework.

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Written by Dianne Motton