I’ve never been able to get much out of any ‘how-to’ parenting books. Maybe it’s the part of me that hates being told what to do, but they never seem to help. A friend knew my distaste for them and suggested Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. After reading just the summary I could tell it was my kind of book.
An American journalist, Druckerman is living abroad in France and gives birth to her first child. She quickly begins to notice the differences among French and American parenting styles and subsequently how the children behave. What I enjoy most is that it’s simply an observation of some of the differences without saying one is right or wrong. A new perspective can be refreshing, and I think we can all find a little something we can take away from the book. Even if it’s just a recipe.
Chapter 4, wait! is one that has really stuck with me. It talks about how French parents try to instill the art of patience early on in the their children. And it’s not done by setting any strict rules or waiting out the tantrum. Instead, the parents allow kids to experience activities that require patience and help them learn to deal with ‘the wait’. My son just turned two, so we’ve officially entered toddlerhood, the good and the bad. He’s a ball of unconditional love with an emotional temper that he’s learning to control. At times it wears me thin, but I try to think back to this chapter, the importance of patience, and how he needs to learn it by watching me. Druckerman says,
“All this baking doesn’t just yield lots of cakes. It also teaches kids how to control themselves. With it’s orderly measuring and sequencing of ingredients, baking is a perfect lesson in patience. So is the fact that French families don’t devour the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven, as I would. They typically bake in the morning or early afternoon, then wait and eat the cake or muffins as a goûter (pronounced goo-tay) – the French afternoon snack.”
So I took inspiration from the book and followed along with the French weekend routine of letting my son bake (and wait for) the afternoon snack. He’s always been a fan of helping me in the kitchen so I knew he would enjoy getting to be the head chef. He was captivated and meticulous with my instructions and was beaming with pride each time he finished a new step. We put it in the oven, set the timer, and switched gears to trains and trucks. He ran back in to check the oven a couple times – I’m sure 35 minutes seems like an eternity to a two-year-old. But it seemed to be more about not wanting to forget about his creation. We ‘ooo-ed’ and ‘ahhhh-ed’ as it came out of the oven and talked about how we’d be eating it later. It took some outside playing to distract him, but when it came time to eat the cake the kid was pretty excited.
I’m not really sure who had more fun, him or me. I love baking, so seeing his eyes light up over it melted my heart. Some days it’s hard to think about slowing down to let him help as I rush to get dinner cooked. But with all this talk about teaching patience I realize maybe it’s me that needs a little lesson in it. After all, he’s learning by watching me. If dinner is done 15 minutes later we’ll all still survive. And hopefully we both got something out of it, and there is some cake to enjoy afterwards.
from ‘Bringing Up Bebe’
All measurements for containers are using the yogurt container.
2 6oz containers of plain whole-milk yogurt
2 containers of sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Just under 1 container vegetable oil
4 containers flour
1 1/2tsp. baking powder
Optional: Crème fraîche, berries, chocolate chips, lemon, etc.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9″ round cake pan or loaf pan.
Gently combine the yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and oil. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients; mix gently until ingredients are just combined (don’t overmix). You can add 2 containers frozen berries, a container of chocolate chips, or any flavoring you like. Bake for 35 minutes, then five minutes more if the cake doesn’t pass the knife test (sticking the knife in the center and coming out clean). It should almost be crispy on the outside, gut springy on the inside. Let it cool. The cake is delicious served with tea and a dollop of crème fraîche.