THE doll house came with a whole family of dolls--a strong handsome Daddy, a petite and pretty Mommy, and two nice children. Its 8-year-old landlord put the children in their respective bedrooms to play with their tiny toys. Daddy reclined on the dollhouse sofa with a tiny newspaper. And Mommy was propped up in the kitchen where she remained for the duration, head permanently inclined toward a sink full of dirty dishes.
Mom at the sink is a well-ingrained image. But somehow great literature, from Proust to Sendak, transforms the homely picture of Mom and food into a magic combination, the wand that can cure all with a single swipe.
Proust's version of Mom becomes a sort of fairy godmother who can elicit extraordinarily detailed and florid food memories from her son just by pressing upon him one little madeleine.
In Sendak's newer classic "Where the Wild Things Are," the smell of Mom's food tames Max and brings him home again. Max, who has made a lot of mischief of one kind and another and told his mother he will eat her up, gets sent to bed without supper, a punishment used by mothers through the ages. Max, who will show her, sails away to where the wild things are. He becomes king of all the wild things and even gets to preside over a "wild rumpus," which isn't a bad deal for a little boy.
But eventually even kings get lonely, and Max does too. "Then all around from far away across the world he smelled good things to eat so he gave up being king of where the wild things are." Max leaves the wild things and sails "into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him--and it was still hot."
Max's Mom, like Moms everywere, knew about the magic. We don't see her propped up at the kitchen sink fixing the supper that tamed the little wild beast in Max. In fact, we don't see her at all. But we know she's been there, because gleaming in the moonlight on Max's bedside table is a bowl of something steaming, plus a glass of milk and a piece of cake.
And so the magic is perpetuated. A mother is someone who can transform a little flour, a little sugar, a few eggs into things that smell wonderful and taste just as good. Even Mom standing at the stove in a pair of high heels pulling dinner-in-a-plastic-bag out of boiling water can seem like magic if you're hungry and small.
Mothers don't necessarily give up the magic when their children grow up and move away, either. They learn how to mail it--to universities, to graduate schools, and finally, to apartments and houses. Eventually to grandchildren. And the children and eventually the grandchildren learn that there can even be magic in a box full of cookie dust.
But today is Mother's Day, and time to turn the tables.
It is the day to let the kids prop themselves up in the kitchen for a little while, then deliver the magic to Mom for a change.
The following recipes are for kids to make. The fruit salad is simple enough for a five- or six-year-old to do more or less alone. The rest require either a more experienced hand or a little help from an older sibling or adult.
From here on in, the message is to the kids:
First of all, there are few things that make a mother more nervous than a really messy kitchen that she will have to clean up. Mothers can hear messes being made in the kitchen even if they're in the back yard. So even though you will have to make a little bit of a mess while you are cooking, try to clean it up as you go along. And don't leave a lot of dirty dishes around at the end.
These recipes are listed in order, from simple to more complicated. The last one, a recipe for some lovely cookies called Melting Moments, requires the use of an electric mixer and the oven.The recipe comes from Marianne Kelly, now 12, who was taught it by her mother, who learned how to make it from her own mother. Magic is, after all, transferable. FRUIT SALAD FOR MOM (1 serving)
If some of these fruits aren't available, don't worry. You can leave some of them out and add others. If you don't like yogurt, or your mother doesn't like yogurt, leave it out. 4 strawberries 1 banana 12 grapes 1 pear 1 cantaloupe or honeydew melon A little plain yogurt
Wash the strawberries under the faucet and dry them on paper towels. Then take the green stems off. With a regular knife, not a sharp kitchen knife, cut each strawberry in half from its top to its bottom. Lay the strawberry halves, cut side down, around the edges of a medium-sized plate, trying to make a nice design with them. Peel the banana and slice half of it into a large bowl. Wash the grapes, dry them with paper towels, and add them to the bowl. Then cut the pear in half, take out the core and cut the half-pear into little pieces. Add the little pieces to the bowl. Cut the melon in half and take out the seeds. With a spoon, scoop out a few bite-sized pieces of melon and add them to the bowl. Mix the contents of the bowl well and put a big spoonful in the middle of the plate that you put the strawberries on. If your mother likes yogurt, spoon a little yogurt over the top, then give her the whole plate, along with a fork and a napkin.
There will be fruit left over. You can make more salads or just eat it yourself. MARIANNE KELLY'S ONE--EYED EGG SANDWICH (1 serving) 1 slice of bread A little butter 1 egg
Cut out a hole in the middle of the piece of bread with a cookie cutter, a juice glass or with a knife. The hole should be about two inches wide, so that it can eventually hold an egg. Butter both sides of the bread. Take a skillet big enough to hold the bread slice and put it on a burner. Turn the burner to medium and let the bread fry until it is slightly crusty and brown on the bottom. Turn the bread over. Break an egg into a coffee cup. Then pour the egg from the coffee cup into the hole that you made in the bread. Try not to let the yolk break.
Cover the skillet with a lid and let the egg cook for three minutes. Look at it, and if you can't see through the white of the egg any more, the egg is done. With a spatula, carefully lift the bread and egg, all in one piece, to a big plate and serve it with a fork and knife. PUFFED PANCAKE (2 to 4 servings) 1 egg 1/2 cup milk 1/2 cup flour Pinch salt 1 to 2 tablespoons butter Confectioners' sugar
In a small bowl mix egg and milk until smooth. Add flour and salt and beat until smooth again. In an 8- or 9-inch cake pan, or skillet with ovenproof handle, melt the butter on top of the stove. (Use 1 to 2 tablespoons depending on how buttery you want your pancake.) When the butter is melted, pour in the batter. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pancake is puffed and brown. Sprinkle the top with confectioners' sugar and serve very hot. JEANIE TEARE'S CHOCOLATE CAKE (Makes 18 to 20 pieces)
This cake is like a rich chocolate brownie with frosting. It doesn't require the use of an electric mixer, but you do need to use the oven to bake it. For the cake: 1 cup water 6 tablespoons cocoa 2 sticks butter 2 cups sugar 2 cups flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 eggs 1/2 cup buttermilk 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon vanilla For frosting: 1 stick butter 4 tablespoons cocoa 6 tablespoons buttermilk 1-pound box confectioners' sugar
Grease and flour an 11-inch-by-15-inch jellyroll pan. (If you don't have a jellyroll pan, use two 9-inch cake pans.)
Make the cake: Cut the butter into pieces and put into a saucepan with the water and cocoa. Heat it over medium heat until the water boils and the butter is completely melted. In a large mixing bowl, mix the sugar, flour and salt. Add the hot cocoa mixture and beat until there are no lumps left. You don't need to use an electric mixer for this. Add the eggs, buttermilk, baking soda and vanilla and beat until smooth. Pour into the jellyroll pan or cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
When the cake is within five minutes of being done, make the frosting: Over medium heat, heat 1 stick butter with 4 tablespoons cocoa until it's melted. Add the buttermilk, then the box of confectioners' sugar. Beat until it's smooth. While the frosting and the cake are still hot, pour the frosting over the cake and spread around with a knife or spatula. Try to let the cake cool before you eat it. MELTING MOMENTS (Makes about 1 dozen double cookies) 1 stick butter 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar 1/2 cup cornstarch 1/2 cup all-purpose flour For the filling: 2 tablespoons butter 3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar 1 teaspoon grated orange rind 2 teaspoons orange juice
Put the butter into a bowl and sift the confectioners' sugar into the same bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until they get fluffy and very light in color. Sift the cornstarch and flour together and add them to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix well. The mixture will seem dry and a little crumbly. Pick up a 1-inch piece of dough in your hand and roll it around until it forms a ball. Put it on a lightly greased cookie sheet and press the top lightly with a fork to make a design. Continue until all the dough is formed into cookies. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Loosen the cookies while they are still hot but leave them on the cookie sheet to cool.
After the cookies are cool, you can make cookie sandwiches by putting a little strawberry jam on the bottom of one cookie and sticking another cookie to the jam. Or you can stick them together with the filling:
Mix all filling ingredients together until the mixture is smooth. Spread on the bottom of one cookie and make a sandwich by covering it with another cookie. --From "The Australian Woman's Weekly 100 Delicious Biscuits and Slices"