The Case of the Chocolate Footprints
Today there was a mystery in my house, and we love a good mystery around here. If we can’t find one, we create one. For example: The Case of the Missing Car Keys, The Case of Mama’s Missing Cell Phone, The Case of the Little Lizard in the Paintbrush Drawer…
On this particular day, I was busy making lunch and when I turned around and saw a trail of footprints across the kitchen floor. I gasped. “Where did these footprints come from?” I asked. We all looked at the footprints and then each other’s feet, we being me, my two-year-old son, Henry, and my four-year-old daughter, Annabelle. It wasn’t long before we found the culprit— Henry’s little pink toes were covered in chocolate.
Henry is one of those amazing children that can eat one cookie and end up with it in his hair, across his face, down his belly, and yes, smeared all over his tiny plump feet.
I had just swept the floor, but it was impossible to feel anything but amusement. I stand by the motto I have taped on my refrigerator: “My favorite kitchen has chocolate fingerprints on the appliances and flour on the floor.”
In Italian architecture, the “hearth room” is often an extension of the kitchen. The Italian word for hearth is “focolare” from the same root for the word, “focus.” This makes sense as the kitchen is the heartbeat and focus of most homes. I like to fantasize about the hearth-like kitchen I’ll have one day: arched ceilings, a brick oven, Tuscan colored walls, a lavendar dishwasher, and plenty of room for family and friends to hang out with a glass of wine while I’m cooking. Recently, I was able to pick out a few things for the little kitchen in my new house. My coup de grace of the entire house? A blue granite farmhouse sink, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I love running my hands over the rough side, and I must say everyone who comes to the house gasps when they see the sink and says the kitchen is their favorite room.
I don’t know why I’m so devoted to kitchens as cooking has never been my forte. The only recipe I’ve ever mastered is chocolate chip cookies. I’ve been the cookie queen since I was twelve years old. But other food? What other food? To me, the essential food groups are all contained in a big bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough. Add oatmeal and the nutritional value increases exponentially.
However, I knew I couldn’t feed my growing children cookies, so I learned to cook, and amazingly enough, I’ve learned to enjoy it. I love making hot meals that nourish their growing bodies. I like thinking about which vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and proteins they might want to eat today, and I feel very fortunate that they love vegetables. The other night I told Annabelle she could pick whatever she wanted to eat for dinner and it could be anything. She shouted exuberantly, “Broccoli and carrots!” Wow. I offer you anything and you pick broccoli and carrots? I made oven-roasted cauliflower the other day and Annabelle said, “These are great Mom! They taste like candy!” My heart did a little flip. Of course, I made them again a couple of days later and they weren’t nearly as popular as the first time. In fact they were spit out accompanied by a nasty face. But I just keep presenting a wide array of colorful veggies and tell the kids we need to eat rainbows to be our strongest. Incredibly, they get very excited about eating rainbows and will usually try just about anything colorful I put in front of them. And I’ll tell you a little secret if you don’t already know: when you roast veggies in the oven at a very high heat (like 450-500) after you’ve massaged a little olive oil and salt into them, all the natural sugars in them rise to the surface making them taste—and I’m not kidding here—better than candy.
And so my cooking has become a labor of love, I never thought I’d see the day when I, self-proclaimed domestic disaster, reveled in cooking, but when you’re doing it to nurture the people you love, it takes on a whole new meaning. It becomes a sacred rite. And I get to reap the benefits of it myself by eating more healthy food then I ever thought possible.
And I still bake the cookies. And I have the curves to prove it.
As for Henry, he was delighted by his chocolate feet. After gazing at them with wonder for several minutes, he sat down, lifted his foot, and said, “Mama, lick my toes!”
It’s not every day you hear those words come out of someone’s mouth. And as tempting as tiny chocolate-covered chubby toes are, I ended up washing them and the footprints, although a bit sadly. I actually like having chocolate footprints on my floor.