Gelato Mama Teaches Her Teenage Son the Joys of Cooking

Knives out.

  • Category
    Homes, People
  • Written by
    Emily Tecklenburg
  • Illustrated by
    Yuiko Sugino

“Is this the toaster oven or the microwave?”

I stared at my 15-year-old son—gauging the level of seriousness with which he proposed this question—then answered: “It’s the toaster oven.”

Followed by, “Are we sure you made the honor roll?”

Which was met with an eye roll.

This encounter, while amusing, simply made me realize that I am a failure. Because apparently for the last 15 years, I have been raising a human who cannot differentiate between small, basic kitchen appliances. And I have only myself to blame. Well, actually, I blame my assertive efficiency. Sure, others refer to it as “control issues,” but I think we can all agree that me doing everything exactly the way I want is 100% more efficient than everyone else doing it wrong and making a mess.

While raising young children, this efficiency was a protective instinct that comes along with small humans actively destroying your home. But with my young adults this efficiency is backfiring, and now I must untangle this mess to ensure my son doesn’t blow up his college roommate’s microwave and can make something other than pizza rolls. So I conjure teenage-proof patience, brace myself for willful stubbornness and announce to my son that it is time to learn how to cook.

I’ve always shown my love through food. I’m no Ina Garten, but I can roast a delicious chicken and my pasta will never be anything but al dente. I know these are things my kids don’t necessarily appreciate presently, but I relish the idea of my son struggling over a hot plate in a cramped dorm room with the sudden realization that OH MY GOD, SOMEONE FED ME EVERY DAY FOR 18 YEARS HOW PLEASE SEND HELP I MISS MY MOM AND HER SPAGHETTI, and then he’ll call me and move home.

Or more likely, he’ll burn his food and eat it anyway, just as I did while struggling over a hot plate in a cramped dorm room all those years ago.

So in preparation, we stand together in the kitchen, and I gently direct my son on a few basics. Remind him that eggs are best low and slow. Don’t forget the butter. Put your thumb here on the knife and rock it, don’t chop it. Absolutely always butter both sides of your grilled cheese, add mayo if you feel crazy. Don’t be afraid to flip it more than once. But never flip a burger more than once. Medium rare is always right, and never embarrass the family by overcooking pasta. Don’t forget to salt the water because salt is your best friend, along with pepper. But your very best friend is butter. Clean hands will always be your best tool. The right pan changes everything, and chicken will take twice as long as the recipe claims. When in doubt, call your mama and she’ll assertively and efficiently talk you through it. 

And don’t forget: The most important ingredient will always be love.

Just kidding.

It’s butter.

Now go wash the dishes.