They came running through my front door with my pup right on their heels.  Two nephews and one small dog have a strange ability to make a vast amount of ruckus when they race into my world making my heart smile even as my mouth tells them to settle down.  They did as boys are apt to do and dumped their bags on the first flat surface they found and started asking questions.  What are we going to do?  Do we get to watch movies?  What’s for dinner?  They knew, of course, what was on the menu.  They chose the menu from my carefully planned list of options.  **Note to self – attempting to bake three gluten free things in one night and actually having time interact with the children is not a wise plan.  The idea they will bake with you will last approximately thirty seconds in their world.  Remember this**

They settled in, spreading their various army men and lego contraptions around my living room.  I mixed the dough.  They picked through the vast movie options, I gathered the mozzarella, marinara, basil, and parmesan.  They came, as I knew they would, and stood at the corner of the kitchen counter.  I handed the eldest the grater and the cheese.  I spread the dough, deciding that a more rustic rectangle with messy edges was not likely to keep an eight and ten year old from consuming dinner.  We sang along to the radio as the red headed boy grated and I threw a pesto together.
I talked to them about the difference between the red and the white pizzas.  They both gave me this look that clearly stated they felt I had lost my mind and stated quite firmly that they just wanted “normal” pizza.

I scraped down the sides of the food processor and held a utensil out to the boy, so he could taste the vivid green pesto he was staring at with a mixture of curiosity and disgust.  He scrunched up his nose and backed away from me as if I had asked him to taste an insect.  I convinced him to try it and laughed long as his face went from puckered up fear to pleasure as he allowed the pesto to coat his tongue.  It’s GOOD he exclaimed with a touch of awe.  “You must always try what you are making as you go, so you know how to change it or if it is even good” I instruct him.  He thought about this as he grated cheese, glancing at me every so often to see what my hands were doing.   I spread the dough with a water dipped spatula as we talked about the food we were making.  Slowly I saw the words sinking in.  He continued to pepper me with questions as he grated the parmesean.  I offered him as many answers as I held.

Those boys and I?  We share an unhealthy affection for cheese.  Those thin crusts were smeared with sauce – a red for them and a pesto for me.  The youngest placed the cheese on the red pizza, the eldest on the white.  I had them taste the real mozzarella I had sliced and the parmesan he grated.  I tore off a basil leaf and handed it to them to taste.  I want them to know that food should be interacted with, it should be explored, it should be experienced.  For a few moments, they indulged me.  They tasted as they spread, the eldest carefully noting my placement of cheese, the small dark eyed boy scampered off after one slice of mozzarella had been lain down.  Bit by bit the crusts were covered, and then covered just a little bit more. After all, it was a cheese pizza so there must be loads of cheese.  Just ask that ten year old, he’s very clear on this matter.  As the pizzas bubbled in the oven the the eldest boy turned to me and said “You sure know my heart, you know I love my cheese”.  Sweet words to an Aunt’s heart.

The pizza’s baked as the boys were called to the sink.  If you are going to indulge in the goodness, you must also participate in the less fun aspects like dishes, or so many philosophy goes. It helped when I mentioned we needed those particular items to be clean before we could make cookies 🙂  They were next on the agenda and the most anticipated part of our evening.  We had many talks that centered around the “how’s” of doing dishes and I wondered when I had learned these things and at who’s hand.  It seems to me as if I always knew but surely someone taught me just as their mother and I teach them. The elder boy offered encouraging words and even a helping hand on the more complicated items like big glass bowls.  He suspected that breaking dishes would seriously dampen his Aunt’s happy mood.  I watched them, wondering when they got big enough to really be in the kitchen with me for more than dumping of pre-measured items into bowls.  They chattered away as I stood there slightly frozen by the realization that they are growing up altogether too fast.  How many more years do we have of spending hours in the kitchen together?

I pulled the pizzas out of the oven and slid them onto the cutting board.  One boy fetched drinks while the other set the table.  Finally, it was time to consume our creations.  Despite their demands for “normal” pizza it was the pesto pizza that was consumed with great speed. One boy staring at his own plate and then his brothers and then glancing at the cutting board filled with pizza slices.  They seeemed to be in a race with one another, needing to make sure that there was more white pizza to stuff into their already full mouths.  The red pizza on the other hand is currently occupying a shelf in my refrigerator.