Adventures in Eating

Cooking with Children (Like, As Helpers, Not Ingredients): Christmas Edition

Eleanor turns two on New Year’s Eve so this is basically her first sentient Christmas. We had a couple of days in a row with -30° C weather and no car, so what the hell, let’s build a gingerbread house. I had no idyllic view of how this was going to unfurl, I cook with Eleanor all the time so I know what a shit-show it can be, but I also have just the one kid and no job and time on my hands, so.

Here we go.

Day One:

Pick gingerbread recipe, select template off the internet, go to the store for molasses.

Collect ingredients from pantry (toddler carries spices to build muscles). Whatever you have least of will determine how big of a recipe you are making. We’ll be making a half-batch because we only have, like, three cups of flour and we are not going to the store again, it is -30.

Mix dry ingredients. Taste-test flour liberally because it’s not like you were short or anything.

toddler baking eating flour

Cream butter and sugar. Tell toddler she can’t lick the beaters yet because we’re not done and there are germs in the mouth that will get into the food. Get as far as “You can’t” before hysterics ensue.

toddler tantrum baking

Wait a minute to see if hysterics subside. Tell toddler she can come help you dump the flour in the bowl or she can go be sad on the couch. Dump your own flour while she grumbles “Sad on the couch” while being sad on the couch.

Wrap dough and refrigerate several hours or, really, overnight because today is clearly not working for anyone.

Day Two:

Pull dough out to come to room temperature.

Carefully measure and trace your template, because you embarrassingly can’t figure out how to hook up your computer to your printer. Toddler does same.

toddler drawing

Roll out dough and cut out template. Toddler does same. Marvel at what a difference a day makes.

toddler baking rolling out dough

Eat as much dough as necessary. There’s so little sugar (and SO MUCH MOLASSES) in gingerbread dough that nobody’s binge reflex really kicks in.

toddler eating gingerbread dough

Bake pieces. Remember after the fact that you wanted to cut out windows. Cut out raggedy windows.

gingerbread house windows

Get all excited about assembling house while toddler naps. Rend garments when you realize that you bought cream of tartar instead of meringue powder and cannot now make royal icing, i.e. Gingerbread Mortar (unless you use uncooked egg whites, which you will not because urgh).

Day Three:

Find yourself inexplicably at Walmart. Check for meringue powder, give up and buy a tube of that horrible cookie icing that doesn’t have an expiration date, but which promises to dry to a hardness in four hours.

cookie icing

Wait til toddler naps. Assemble house; practice creative and enthusiastic cursing. Have something good on TV, because you will be sitting and holding pieces in place while your substandard icing dries. Contrariwise, rig up a contraption with ornament hooks and rubber bands because who has four hours to hold a gingerbread house together.

gingerbread house held together with rubber bands while drying

Day Four:

Assemble your decorations. Toddler checks for quality. Give up on plans for fence as she eats all the pretzels, and as you realize how useless your icing really is.

toddler eating gingerbread house decorations

Make roof out of almond flakes, which takes forever but in retrospect is all your flimsy icing is really capable of. Toddler helps

toddler decorating gingerbread house

but mostly just stores things in the chimney “for later.”

toddler decorates gingerbread house

Like a squirrel.

gingerbread house from above

Quickly finish other side of roof while toddler scarpers off to cadge toast from her dad. Let her wander off to pour fake coffee for her stuffed pig while you try to figure out how many places you can use sprinkles in. Promise yourself you’ll let her help more next year when she’s older, when you’re not half pregnant, when your icing can support more than sprinkles.

toddler with gingerbread house

Realize how little she cares, and how delighted she is by her own small involvement every time she walks into the living room and goes “That’s our gingerbread house! We MADE it.”

toddler with gingerbread houseYes, we did.



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About Raych Krueger

Raych reads books and raises babies, hobbies for which her BAs in Literature and Early Childhood Education come in handy. Follow her on Twitter: @raychraych.

  • Jeremiah N

    Hahaha this is great.