'It's the cheese that makes it more delicious than anything else in the world,' I whispered.
My daughter tilted her head and waited for an answer. She stood on a purple chair, her hands covered in a combination of brown sugar, cinnamon, oats and corn starch.
"Yes, cheese," I said. Then I leaned in low, looking over my shoulder so the cats didn't hear. "It's the cheese that makes it more delicious than anything else in the world," I whispered.
"Cheese in a pie!" she replied. The cats scurried out of the kitchen. She wasn't sold, but I assured her I was about to teach her one of the great lessons of life: Cheese makes everything better, even an apple crisp.
I'm not sure what the draw of cooking is, but I always have loved to do it. Maybe it's because I like to eat, or maybe it's because I like to feed others. Maybe it's the way a well-cooked meal fills our home with wonderful smells. Or maybe I just like a hobby that involves sharp knives and fire.
And I try to get my kids involved whenever I can. So as my 3-year-old and I watched the rain come down sideways, I knew exactly how we were going to spend our day.
My daughter surmised the sideways rain was the result of a cloud that had fallen over.
"Can we do anything?" I asked.
"Maybe we could push it over," she replied, looking around for her raincoat. Then the rain shifted and started to come straight down. She took her hand off her coat and told me not to worry anymore.
The rain, she decided, had ruined the day. The only thing left to do was "watch YouTube videos all day."
I laughed loud and hard enough even a 3-year-old could understand my meaning. "Let's bake something," I said.
She shook her head and stood firm. "Nah," she said.
I thought for a moment and asked, "Do you want to make a big mess?" This always works.
"Come on, we'll make something special for your sister when she gets home from school," I said.
"OK, but we've got to wash our hands really good," she said. My wife and I have taught her well.
I guided her hand, and we carefully sliced apples and collected them in a big bowl. Then we loosely measured out the ingredients. Nothing is exact when you are cooking with kids. I gave her the cinnamon, and told her to add a little bit.
"How much?" she asked.
"As much as you think we need," I replied. She shook out enough to make us both sneeze.
"Ready to get messy?" I asked, pushing the bowl in front of her. She smiled wide, nodded her head yes, and dug in.
Then we poured it in a pie pan, added cheese, despite her objections, and put the topping on. Then it went into the oven.
When her sister came home, the house smelled delicious. "Daddy and I made you a surprise!" my little one announced.
Then we dug in. "That is so good," my older daughter said. "Is that cheese in it?"
"Oh, yes," my 3-year-old replied. "It's the secret ingredient that makes it taste really good."
Reach Dave at 330-580-8490 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @DaveManley