When I was a kid, my best friend’s sister had an Easy-Bake Oven. We thought it was the coolest item ever. Although she did get the little cake mix packages for Christmas and on her birthday, mostly she made us apples sprinkled with cinnamon.
A few years ago, 13-year old McKenna Pope started an online petition demanding that Hasbro, the makers of the light bulb-powered appliance, offer the ovens in more “boy friendly” colors. It happened that her 4-year old brother, Gavyn, wanted one of the ovens, but refused to play with anything pink – a color he associated with being for girls. Well, 40,000 signatures later, Hasbro hit public relations pay dirt, and introduced new colors and packaging featuring both genders. Suddenly, a seemingly dated toy became popular again overnight.
Niko has always loved helping in the kitchen, so we shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that he was one of those boys who asked for an oven. Now, Kelly and I don’t have any hang ups about the “gender” of our kids’ toys, so naturally for Christmas that year he became the ecstatic owner of an Easy-Bake.
Being the loving fathers we are, we’ve suffered through some pretty atrocious culinary experiments baked by a light bulb. And in fairness, we’ve also nibbled on some pretty darn good treats, too.
While other kids his age are watching cartoons or sports on TV, Niko is viewing cooking shows. The other night he was watching Cupcake Wars: Kids. I wasn’t paying much attention to the program, until I heard him advise the girl on the screen, “Who the hell wants a curry cupcake?” I agreed with him but told him to watch his mouth.
I should have known he was learning a thing or two about the culinary arts when we explained to me what fondant is. (For those of you not lucky enough to have a 10-year-old kitchen whiz kid – it’s that weird rubbery icing that people use to make confections pretty.)
Let’s be clear: cooking isn’t exactly a love for musical theater or an obsession with Barbra Streisand, but it’s also not living and breathing football either. When I was a kid, cooking wasn’t something most guys admitted to enjoying.
Now, I’m not saying that having two dads is an advantage for a kid that loves to watch reruns of The Great British Bake Off but I think it probably helps. I think gay dads are probably a bit more liberal when it comes to these kinds of activities.
I have to admit; when I was his age I loved to cook too. I spent a lot of time with my immigrant grandmother and she was always in the kitchen. Mostly my job was to stir and taste. However, when I was about Niko’s age, my yia yia taught me how to make traditional Greek Easter cookies. Making koulourakia isn’t like whipping up a batch of chocolate chip cookies or some snickerdoodles. It’s an art. Over the next couple of years, I became an expert on how to tell if the dough was ready by feeling and smelling it. I learned just how thin to roll the dough with my palms so the braids wouldn’t be too thick.
This morning after church, my mom asked Niko if he’d like to come over to help her make those cookies. He was ecstatic, jumping at the opportunity to learn a new cooking skill. And I love the fact that he’s carrying on a great family tradition.
Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll see him on Cupcake Wars suggesting Greek Easter cookies as a legitimate flavor!