Sometime in January, my daughter Alex decided that she wanted to learn to cook. For real. I was both surprised and pleased. In the past, between her and her sister, Sam was often the cook and Alex was the consumer. What nudged her interest in cooking, I’m not really sure. But, if I have to guess, I’d say it’s the creative process.
Like me and her sister, Alex doesn’t like people hovering over her in the kitchen so we just let her do her thing. She makes shopping lists and asks her father to buy ingredients, and then she goes to work. If she isn’t sure about something, she asks. But because I’m a believer of the philosophy that the best way to learn is to experiment, I don’t tell her how to do things. Let her make mistakes and let her learn from them. That’s the best way to remember how NOT to do things.
And, more importantly, we never — EVER — tell her that she’s just wasting money when some projects don’t turn out so well.
The first dish that Alex cooked was the brown sugar and garlic chicken that garnered quite a lot attention on my social media accounts. A month later, she was baking cupcakes (her tres leches are so good!). Another month later, after overcoming her aversion for handling dough, she was making dumplings from scratch (yes, she mixes and rolls her dumpling wrappers). Alex’s samosas are better than store-bought. Her gyoza is delicious.
By April, Alex was into bread. The first was a no-yeast project — fried donuts.
The fried donuts went so addictive that she made a second batch.
Encouraged by the results (and how we loved her fried donuts), she started working with yeast and baked meat rolls.
Our jaw dropped. Speedy and I have been baking bread for a couple of years and our first attempts were just terrible. And here was Alex’s first attempt at baking meat rolls and they were so good. We were so curious that we asked how long she kneaded the dough and so on, and so forth… And it turned out that her process was much simpler than ours — with better results.
We didn’t teach her how to bake bread. She goes to Pinterest for inspiration, she reads food blogs and watches a lot of videos on Youtube.
Pretty soon, her bread baking projects became more ambitious. She baked burger buns.
Unlike commercial burger buns, Alex’s had the texture of Vietnamese baguette with that delectable light and flaky crust.
And the most recent project? Egg custard hopia.
Oh, yes, she’s learning fast. And she’s not averse to repeating a project if she’s not completely satisfied with the results. I suppose that happens when one is truly interested in what one wants to learn. And she wants to learn because her dream is to put up a café someday.
So, Alex continues to learn and practice. She has clinched a deal to supply cupcakes (I’m not at liberty to say where) by June. The girl is in business.
And so (and this is really the reason why I wanted to write about Alex’s cooking and baking adventures in this manner rather than creating recipe posts), for you parents who think that the internet is bad for children, think again. I know that there are so many of you. On Facebook, especially, where it can be so darn tiresome when people keep repeating how today’s youth is so addicted to the internet that there’s not much else that they do.
The oldies — and I use the term not in reference to age but to a mindset — drone on and on about how “our” generation had it so much better because we played with real people out on the streets instead of texting and chatting with friends via Facetime and Skype, and playing Plants vs. Zombies on mobile phones. These people — yes, most of them belong to my generation — curse the internet for turning their children into people who are not like “us.”
Dear oldies, if our children were like “us”, they’d ask us parents for money to go to cooking school if they wanted to learn basic cooking and baking.
If they were like most of “us” (oh, exclude me!), they’d be of the mindset that traditional schools are the only legitimate venues for learning.
But they’re not like “us” because they have the HUGEST playground — and school — called the world wide web, and they have access to it because there is internet.