The Secret Ingredient Is…


Mattie and Charli sipping smoothies

I would not trade anything for the experience of having my granddaughter Mattie cooking in my kitchen. Or other fun events of the week–going fishing, enjoying lunch at Mr. Chick’s, or music time with piano and guitar. But the cooking, I guess, turned out to be the most fun.

Mattie is ten years old and is not a total novice to the geography and skills of a kitchen. She’s cooked a lot with her mother and her Pop Ashley. However, though she would like to do everything herself, she will take suggestions and an occasional stirring of the batter when her arm gets tired. And she doesn’t vigorously object to someone’s cleaning behind her.

She started out her first day with us by making pancakes. She said she could make pancakes “golden brown on both sides” and that’s exactly how they turned out. She reminded me of our Great Creator when she loaded our plates and pronounced, “They are very good.”

Next, she tackled the job of making cupcakes for a gathering of her cousins at our house. She couldn’t decide on one color for the whole batch so she tediously colored each one a different shade using a small spoon to swirl the food coloring just so. She did get mighty tired but wouldn’t give up.

Then there was the cake. That became necessary because there was too much chocolate frosting for the cupcakes. It wasn’t good enough that the cake would be loaded with frosting, though. Mattie wanted M&Ms in it too. With Mattie, following a recipe exactly is boring. She has to liven it up. The result was M&Ms stuck in the bottom of the pan. But she didn’t worry about that. We dug it out and patched the broken places with that very rich frosting. She crowned the cake with Oreo cookies turned on their edges like wagon wheels. And everyone enjoyed those goodies!

We made zucchini bread together. She really enjoyed turning the crank to shred the zucchinis in my old Saladmaster food preparer.

Some of the things she learned, or had reinforced, were: leveling a cup of flour without packing it, remembering the baking spray, that it’s not the end of the world when an eggshell drops in your batter, and that a Dustbuster works nicely vacuuming sugar and flour from the floor.

Mattie’s final culinary achievement of the week was her smoothies. She made them twice and had eager tasters both times.

She first made smoothies to surprise Charli, her cousin, who came to stay for a couple of days. Charli, who also loves to cook, showed great patience and fortitude waiting in the den with Grandaddy for the “surprise” while Mattie rinsed, peeled and chopped ingredients for the four smoothies. Mattie called out hints about what she was making but never gave conclusive clues. When she turned on the blender, though, everyone knew what the “surprise” was.

Making smoothies was only one of the activities these girls giggled over in their two days together. They played under the lawn sprinkler, took a trip to a park, competed for properties in Monopoly, rode bikes, braided colorful bracelets, built amazing block structures (only Grandaddy and Nana would have old-fashioned blocks instead of video games), swung for hours in the porch swing, and practiced doing each other’s hair.

They watched a movie Mattie had brought called “Soul Surfer.” Though it made us all cry, I would highly recommend it. One of the previews on that DVD was “Courageous.” We watched that movie too, and cried! In fact, both girls went to sleep before that one ended so the next day they insisted on a rerun with, of course, popcorn.

Mattie hasn’t finished perfecting her smoothie recipe. As with a fruit salad or a stir fry, much depends on the ingredients at hand. But Mattie did go shopping with me and chose her own items. Below is a semblance of her recipe.

Mattie’s Smoothie

1 c. diced strawberries                                   1 yogurt of your choice

1/2 c. chopped raspberries                             2 scoops vanilla ice cream

One banana sliced                                            milk to finish filling blender 1/2 full

Mattie says there needs to be a secret ingredient. That keeps everyone guessing while they sip. This time it was sugar. Her brother, William, who had arrived in time for a cup from the second making, told her sugar couldn’t be the secret since almost everything she used had sugar in it. She just rolled her eyes as if to say she could do without that comment. To finish off her smoothies she added a slice of banana to the edge of each glass.

I wonder which one of Mattie’s talents God is going to use the most. Will she be a gourmet cook or a fabulous cook at home? Will she write songs and sing them? Will she be a dance instructor or a gymnast? Actually, as He does whenever a person allows Him to, I believe He will use the whole package, the whole recipe, including the secret ingredient.


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