THE WASHINGTON POST – Let’s be honest. For many modern mothers, dinnertime has long veered away from food on the table at 6pm with everyone gathered. Until the shock of the novel coronavirus forced us all to involuntarily retreat into our homes, the fast pace of our lives, especially for single parents, cut into the sweet peace of sitting down over a home-cooked meal with our family.
As a single mother, I can say that after a long day of working, the last task I wanted to take on was pulling out pots and pans, cutting vegetables, and then being left to clean the kitchen afterward. Takeout and delivery companies such as Grubhub, UberEats and DoorDash reportedly made more than USD10 billion last year. Clearly, we were not cooking at home.
Now, we are home and, because of lost wages and job insecurity, ordering out has become a luxury.
That means the job of preparing inexpensive, quality meals most often depends on our ability to cook – breakfast, lunch and dinner – for our families. When this started, it was hard to see even a sliver of a silver lining in all of the turmoil.
One evening as I stood frustrated in my kitchen, trying to figure out how I would prepare meals for the week, my daughter tiptoed in and asked, “Mommy, can I cook with you?” My immediate response was to say no and rush her out of the kitchen.
How did I have time to actually teach her how to cook when I couldn’t even figure out what we were going to eat? She looked at me in that moment and asked again, “Mommy, can I cook with you? We can start a new tradition of cooking together.”
I stared at my daughter and realised that I had been going through my daily motions with her as a process – to get through the day. I had become robotic in my time spent with her. Everything was a duty, even cooking.
I thought back to my own childhood and my memories of peeling potatoes with my grandmother or shelling peas for Sunday dinner with all of my cousins, aunties and uncles. I smiled, remembering my grandmother’s delicious baked mac and cheese at Thanksgiving.
I realised in that moment that my daughter and I did not have those kind of memories.
Even though we were spending a full 24 hours a day together, I was not taking the time to start our own family traditions. I let out a sigh, silently crucified myself, apologised to my daughter and sat down with her to create our very first family tradition of cooking together on Sunday evenings.
One of the greatest lessons I have learned about parenting, especially during this uncertain time, is that quality time with those that you love must override any obligation or work deadline.
In the same manner that the pandemic gave new meaning to the term “home life”, it also forced us to slow down and rediscover the young people we live with.
A close friend confided in me that she felt as if she did not even know her daughters before quarantine. “Now that they are going to school virtually, I get to witness their frustration with assignments that would normally only happen at school. I have never seen this side of them,” she told me, adding that she has had to discover ways to comfort her children and help them cope with their emotions because of this drastic change in their adolescent lives.
I realised I had learned the same life lesson and that cooking with my daughter was a way of helping her – and me – cope with the tumult and uncertainty in our world.
I also learned that banana pancakes, topped with more fresh fruit, make a great alternative for dinner.
So here we are, many months into our new tradition, a handful of new recipes under our belt, and more quality time spent together intentionally than I could have ever hoped for.
Who knew a home-cooked meal could be so healing?
Four servings (makes about eight pancakes). Enjoy a healthier alternative to traditional pancakes with this fun recipe to try with kids. Get them involved in the kitchen by asking them to mash the bananas.
They will love helping with breakfast and reaping delicious results.
Two very ripe bananas
One cup (240 millilitres) whole milk
One large egg
One tablespoon vanilla extract
One cup (125 grammes) all-purpose flour
One teaspoon ground cinnamon
Two teaspoons baking powder
Two teaspoons olive oil
Chopped strawberries, bananas or coconut, for serving (optional)
Raw, unsalted walnuts, pecans or almonds, for serving (optional)
Maple syrup, for serving (optional)
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)
Place a large, rimmed baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 200 degrees.
In a large bowl, mash the bananas until mostly smooth but with a few remaining lumps. Add the milk, egg and vanilla and whisk to combine.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until a batter comes together.
In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, add the oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Using a generous quarter cup scoop, ladle the batter into the skillet, making sure to allow space for the pancakes to expand.
Cook until the bubbles form and don’t close, and the perimeter of the pancakes starts to brown, about three to four minutes per side. (Banana pancakes cook faster than traditional pancakes, so keep an eye
on them. As the skillet warms up, the second batch of pancakes may cook faster than the first, so adjust the heat as necessary.)
Transfer the cooked pancakes to the oven to keep warm.
Repeat with the remaining batter.
Divide the pancakes among four plates and top with fruit, nuts, maple syrup and/or whipped cream, if using, and serve.
Per serving: 254 calories, 7g protein, 42g carbohydrates, 6g fat, 2g saturated fat, 53mg cholesterol, 227mg sodium, 3g dietary fibre, 11g sugar