My daughter, Lilly, loves to lend a helping hand in the kitchen. She laboriously drags a chair from our dinner table across the sandstone-colored tile floor in my kitchen, to the small counter space by the sink. She climbs up on the chair, and then stands at attention--ready to take culinary direction from me, "Mama Betty Crocker." She is my right hand, my assistant. She is the perfect sous-chef.
One Sunday night, I decided to make "Autumn Stew" for dinner. (A fantastic and savory concoction of chicken, celery, carrots, onion, bay leaf, and thyme. Two pinches of allspice and a cup of apple juice added to the broth is what makes a "non-seasonal" stew autumnal.) Lilly was by my side, as usual. She patiently stood on her chair that was pulled up to the counter, and waited for me to chop all the vegetables--the salt and pepper shakers in her little, four year old hands. Her job was to season the vegetables, then dump them into the pan of olive oil.
"Mom, what are we making?," she asked.
I explained to her that we were making soup. I described the process to her, showed her the various ingredients we would be adding to the pot, told her the wonderful names of all the seasonings, and even had her smell the Allspice.
"You can add the Italian seasoning to the chicken, if you want," I said to Lilly as I began to saute the onions. "I'll let you pour the chicken broth into the pot too. You can help me stir everything together."
She grinned at me and happily said, "Okay."
The onion sizzled and the oil jumped and danced around in the pan--for a moment, those were the only sounds in my cozy kitchen. Lilly and I stood in silence, enjoying the warm aromas of vegetables and spices cooking on the stove top, enjoying the nearness of each other--her soft arm leaning against mine, her breath on my shoulder, my hands helping her hands with the spatula. My little sous-chef.
Suddenly, she turned to me, as if startled by a thought in her head. I saw perplexity on her face and in her bright eyes as she looked up and asked, "Chicken bra?! Mom! What the heck is chicken bra?!"