Cousins, Connection, and Kitchen Confections

Dara LevanBlogLeave a Comment


Last year I wrote about the “Cousin Connection.” Relationships with cousins are unique, layered, and lasting. My first (and older) cousin, Jen, said something to me recently that continues to resonate.

Jen and I were in the midst of a reflective, candid conversation when she said, “I knew you before you knew you.” It struck me as a simple yet powerful statement; we are now both in our ‘40s, and Jen’s wise words have echoed in my mind.

My nieces and nephew spent this Saturday afternoon and evening at our home. I thought about Jen’s words as I watched them interact with Alec and Zoe, who are my children. They are all quite close in both age and geographical proximity. But most importantly, they’re close at heart.

I decided to surprise the kids with a “bake-off,” just like those televised kids’ cooking challenges. So earlier in the day, Zoe chose and purchased various ingredients. Zoe paired with her older first cousin Tammy, and Alec was on a team with his younger cousin Sarah.

They collaborated, brainstormed, and created stunning cakes! My husband blasted one of my favorite artists (and songs)—Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” as the cousins blended ingredients and bopped around the kitchen. I, of course, danced and sang in the family room.     

“If this is thickening, I am not seeing it,” I heard Zoe say to Tammy. They were making raspberry coulis and had decided it was runny. The cornstarch they added apparently didn’t have the desired affect.

I then heard Alec, who is the oldest cousin, profess “Imperfection is perfection!” He said this to his teammate Sarah. I looked at him with admiration and subtle surprise. Alec often teases me that “everything is a lesson” and that I am “so spiritual.” I think the student is becoming the teacher!

They continued mixing, melting, and making sweet memories together. Then Zoe said, “Mom, you need to give us a “twist.” So at 4:30 p.m., I announced that each team had 30 minutes to come up with another baked item. The theme was family and it needed to somehow involve cookies.   

The kids concocted such wonderful treats. My nephew came over a bit later, and he was the judge. They spent at least three hours bonding, engaging, and collaborating.

Here are some other comments that I heard that afternoon. “No! It’s sabotage!! She’s using the freezer!” and “That doesn’t taste good. It has a weird aftertaste.” I quietly sat at the table in our nook and watched with delight.

I realized how much connection can happen in the kitchen. Three teenagers and one tween giggled and bantered for a few hours. They did not—gasp—play video games or watch You Tube! They not only survived; they were present and fully engaged. Compromise, collaboration, and creativity spread like frosting on a cake. They used problem solving and conflict resolution skills to remedy uneven layers and runny icing.

And most importantly, these five delicious kids sprinkled lasting love in each others souls. As they licked their fingers, I thought about my own cousins. I wondered if my kids and nieces/nephew realized how lucky they are to live near each other. (Many of my cousins lived in the Northeast; we rarely had the opportunity to spend this kind of time together.) I’ve tried to nurture some of these cousin relationships in recent years; I am grateful that we are growing closer in adulthood.

The ingredients and temperature are not always ideal. Just like a baker, you need to gage when it’s time to tweak, sift, and adapt. But if the recipe includes respect, honesty, loyalty, and most of all, love, it is forever.

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