Sunday, May 20, 2012

Control, Power, Secrets and Lies: Tales of a 1st Grade Chef

Sis is a gift-giver. She loves to make things, grow things, wrap things and give them away. It’s beautiful to watch. Just this morning, she met me with two homemade pin cushions (in case I ever learn to sew) and a color-penciled mandala.

We have some mint in our yard that has somehow survived my neglect and is growing again. And since the weather turned towards Summer, Sis has been harvesting the little crop and making Mint Water for us. I love her industrious spirit and leave her alone in the kitchen to create. Her siblings love the amount of sugar she puts in, and drink tall glasses of the stuff with their dinner, offering amply praise. Grandpa and Grandma were here last weekend and were thus treated to this seasonal show of hospitality. They graciously drank and made over the little Miss as she poured them second glassfuls through a strainer, catching the mint leaves and stirring them back into the pitcher.

“This is lovely, Sis.”
“So refreshing.”
“What a good cook you are!”
“Can I have the recipe?”

At first Sis was flattered, and asked me in a very official voice if I could text Grandma the recipe for Mint Water once she had time to write it down. I agreed. But later in the afternoon, after Sis had been playing over in her mind the tapes of gratitude from her throng of parched and withered customers, she had a change of heart.

“I am not going to give Grandma the recipe after all,” she announced. “I am going to keep it a secret.”

I called Grandma to break the bad news and mulled over in my mind the situation that was unfolding. Children have such little real power over the daily lives, and my daughter had stumbled – by way of her impulse to give – into a bit of control and the distinct opportunity to withhold.

This afternoon, while honoring the living room with a much-overdue cleaning, I came across the recipe. It had been a few days since I had heard anything from Sis on the matter of her secret recipe, and I wondered if the sweetness of power and control had ebbed. Grandpa and Grandma had gone, taking with them the pomp and shining glory of the multigenerational audience. The siblings had stopped begging for a fix. I figured maybe the show was over and tested the waters with a casual passing word: “Sis, I found your recipe for Mint Water under the couch. Do you just want me to put in the recipe box?”

She was quick, unflinching. “You can if you want. I don’t mind that you found that old recipe. I have changed it. There is a new ingredient. It’s still a secret.

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