A couple of weeks ago Joel, a boy from down the street called to ask John for some help with a science fair project. Joel is 14. His mom died when he was younger and he can’t be with his dad right now so he lives with some of our neighbors.
I got John to the phone and pretty soon Joel came over to show John how far he’d gotten on the project. I was cooking dinner (spaghetti with Tante Lucia’s sauce). They worked for awhile in the basement and then came back up. I asked Joel if he’d eaten and he said he had, but then he just stood there. I asked him if he’d like to eat again, and he said he could probably eat a little more. So I had him call his foster mom to let her know where he was and he joined us for supper.
As we ate he talked about how he liked his school and about his cool friend who wouldn’t be going to his school next year. He told us about his foster brother who he was worried about and his favorite metal band.
Joel came by again that week, worked a little and had supper. John said later that Joel mentioned to him while they were working that for his last science project he studied growth hormones to try to figure out a way to make himself grow taller. At dinner Joel went on about the food, which is a sure way to get you more of it at our house.
Last night he came by to drop off the last of the supplies he’d used. I was frying bacon, slicing a bunch of onions and consequently crying buckets when he came to the door. It was a tricky point in the recipe so I had him come back to the kitchen rather than rushing him out the door.
I explained why I was crying. He said he hadn’t noticed.
“I’m thinking about taking cooking classes,” he said. “Anne Marie does all the cooking at our house, I think she took some classes. Did you take classes?”
I told him that I’d learned by helping my mom and by cooking food for potluck suppers at church on Wednesday nights when I was a kid.
“Cooking’s a great thing to know how to do, though. You’d be good at it, too because you’re arleady good at science and cooking is basically chemistry.”
“Is it hard?”
“If you learn a few things like how to cut vegetables and follow instructions pretty well it isn’t. And you can’t be afraid to make mistakes.”
“Yeah, I think I’m gonna take some classes. Hey, you guys can come to my science fair. It’s next Tuesday, 12:30-ish in the gym. That smells really good.”
“Frying onions with bacon makes any kitchen smell good. We’ll be there. You want to stay for supper?”
“Anne Marie’s cooking something for us so I can’t.”
After he left I could have kicked myself for not offering to teach him to cook myself. I was too distracted. I think I’ll see if he can come over this weekend and help me make Gumbo for his family so we can all celebrate his science fair on Tuesday.