Looking around the table, my first glance appeared to show a scene straight out of a natural disaster documentary.
The table was littered with baron plates piled on top of each other. Crumbs of multiple colors lined the floor under the table with a tiny spill pooling.
I had only left the room two minutes prior to go get a glass of water for myself. But make no mistake: the tornadoes had touched down and left nothing but utter destruction in their paths.
Such is the life of two perpetually hungry boys living under one roof all the time.
Cooper, 7, and Milo, 4, have gone from little human beings to walking vacuums that seem to consume and erase any trace of food I put in front of them. Based on their current intake, I estimate they are eating enough daily calories to compete with those Coney Island hot dog eating champions that get airtime every Fourth of July.
I have compared them in the last month or so to a swarm of locusts, termites, a powerful pair of tornadoes (see above)—really anything that arrives at food and leaves nothing by an empty space behind.
(Note: Termites is a term of endearment, I swear—they are my little termites, after all.)
And yet, despite this consumption, their finely tuned appetites only seem to make them grow stronger, taller and readier for even more courses of food.
And when I mean “more courses”, I don’t mean three. Working from home during the past several months has been eye-opening when it comes to the frequency of meals around here.
Before lunch most weekdays, here is a breakdown of requests they put through to their personal kitchen (Read: Mom and dad):
6:30 a.m. Bowl of cereal with milk
6:45 a.m. Juice or chocolate milk (have to hydrate, after all)
7:30 a.m. Fig bar—both pieces that come in the packet, so don’t be stingy (I’m looking at you, dad!)
8:45 a.m. Bowl of yogurt with generous amount of fruit
9:30 a.m. More fruit please, because my brother got more blueberries
10 a.m. Crackers
10:30 a.m. Juice or chocolate milk again
The meals don’t ever really end. It is more just one day-long meal with lapses for their parents to catch their breath and clean off the dishes piling up by the minute.
In essence, I am raising hobbits.
Luckily, their love of food has borne fruit on the tree of opportunity. Food has become the prime form of entertainment in the Farnsworth household during the pandemic.
Without many places to go or many people to see this summer, food has filled in some of those empty gaps. Bringing them to swim, bike, play sports, campfires or other summertime fun has been a challenge filled with no’s and broken hearts.
Food, however, has been a ‘yes’.
It is probably now why I am the proud owner of a new air fryer, ice cream maker, popcorn maker, tabletop skillet, baking pans and more since school let out.
My kids have also become obsessed with cooking shows. From British baking competitions to amateur food construction to a mythical place known as Flavortown (pretty sure I told the kids Flavortown is somewhere south of Wakanda), they are also starting to consume knowledge on cooking.
It is getting to the point where my two smarty pants are even critiquing seasoned chefs on the decisions they make on these cooking competitions.
“No! Don’t bake the chicken! Grill it and cook onions!”
Sorry, contestants, but good to know my wife and I aren’t the only targets of criticism when it comes time to hit the kitchen for a meal.
That has led to several rounds in the kitchen baking, stirring, and otherwise contributing to the creative culinary process. Well, “creative culinary process” may just mean stirring in the powdered mix to help make mac n’ cheese, but contributing to food around here carries real weight with my kids.
And some projects have been downright impressive. For a few weeks running, we were making a fancy cake per week that we’d find on the internet. Some called for elaborate ingredients like homemade marshmallow fondant.
Luckily for them, metabolism on a 4- and 7-year-old is a wonderful thing. As long as they run around for ten minutes, they lose all that cake weight immediately.
As for me, my walking time has increased to compensate for “Cake Days.”
Milo especially has been officially bitten by the baking bug. He is infinitely curious about putting ingredients together to make something tasty.
As I pen this column, he helped my wife bake homemade cinnamon rolls. Even before a single roll came out of the oven, Milo was anxiously asking about taking some of the ingredients and making a second bakery item.
One culinary project at a time, master chef.
And also, maybe we take it easy with the thought that everything works together. I agree that, in theory, chili powder cookies sound great, but with a heavy hand stirring in the spices, I am afraid for my digestive system.
Most importantly, I can see confidence building in them with every wooden spoon stir.
They may not be ready for tons of labor intensive chores, but meals and the art of cooking have given them a focus in these crazy times. They are learning meaningful skills that will help them now and down the road.
With the future uncertain, we will continue to bake; continue to put our new cooking devices to work. Because confidence can be in short supply these days, simply baking a cookie can do amazing things for a kid in 2020.
Have a recipe? Email me below and I will send you one of ours.
From my little termites to yours, I thank you.
Josh Farnsworth is a husband, father of goofballs Cooper and Milo, goofball himself, and award-winning writer and columnist living in Worcester. He can be reached for column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.