"The toast will be ready in a minute," said Len, suspecting that I was impatient before breakfast this morning.
"I'm just having fun arranging butter and jam on my plate. No rush." I answered.
Playing with food! As I continued buttering my toast and then peeling a tangerine, I thought about how much fun it is to play with food. When you peel the tangerine, you have to pull off all those little white stringy things one by one. It's compelling sometimes. Do you ever smear peanut butter on a graham cracker and then squish it with the other half of the graham cracker? Did you ever microwave cocoa with marshmallows on top and watch them swell up? I hope you didn't set your microwave on fire. Do you think it's fun to whack the catsup bottle? As in the poem The Catsup Bottle by Ogden Nash "First a little/ Then a lottle."
Cooking can be like playing with food, sometimes. Do you like fooling around with the toppings for a pizza? Last night, I spread the sauce with a silicone basting brush and I arranged the toppings in patterns, especially the artichoke hearts. Watching the dough as the flour mixer forms a ball in the food processor is fun. Kneading the dough is kind of amusing too -- some people like it more than I do. (Yesterday was Pi Day, and I didn't think I would have pie but I made a pizza after all.)
During my actual childhood, my mother didn't tolerate a lot of fooling around at the dinner table, but I guess I tried a few things. I used to enjoy mushing up the three separate dishes that composed one of the meals she often made: salmon croquettes, mashed potatoes, and peas (that would have been canned peas; soft, for mushing). I'm sure there were a few other foods or combinations I would have liked to fool around with. My sister probably remembers more.
I can think of other things that allow a cook to play with food -- legitimately! Like making tuna salad, egg salad, deviled eggs, or almost anything smushed with mayonnaise, which is a very playful substance as any child knows. Like making ice cream. Like forming a messy meat mixture into meatballs, which you can roll between the palms of your hands. Like the tense moment when you have added flour to white sauce and it forms a smooth paste, not a lumpy mess. It's all play.