Kitchen Confidence Man (#140)
14 November 2005
A few days ago, on a break in the middle of his home therapy session, Charlie ran into the kitchen, grabbed the RevereWare pot on the stove, and ran back up the stairs with it. He set the pot on the carpet and went right back to working at his desk; I could on and off hear him saying "pot!" with a squeal and a laugh. The therapist and I laughed too at the end of the session, after she had directed Charlie to "give mom the pot so she can make you dinner." "White rice dinn-er!" said Charlie excitedly and, with an authoritative "knife fork," got out his silverware.
Charlie was born for fun and it doesn't take anything fancy, necessarily, to get a giggle out of him--and when you know how to make him laugh, you've got him interested, and he's ready and willing to learn. In the kinds of educational ABA programs that Charlie has thrived in, food has occasionally been used for reinforcement. But how many chips or bites of popcorn or sips of soda can anyone have before he or she is satiated and certainly not "reinforced"? But if someone where varying the giving of those chips by juggling them or setting them on her head.......or grinding them into bits and mixing them with something sticky or sweet......
Food is fun for Charlie because of what you can do with it as in cooking, which Charlie has been showing a lot of interest in, whether cooking rice or attempting to boil a hamburger. Sometimes I open the microwave and voilà! a frozen waffle!. I look in a pot and cold sausages glimmer, signs that Chef Charlie Has Been Here.
After cauliflower, carrots, chicken, and rice (with Charlie eating more than either my mom or me), he dipped a hand and then both hands into the sudsy water in the aforementioned pot, then dumped out the water and refilled it, then poured and splashed until a shower seemed slightly beside the point. Charlie made off with a bowl of radishes from the refrigerator and rolled them around the floor and couch like mini bowling balls. "So much for my lunch tomorrow," I said. "Oh, you can still eat them," my mom put in. "But maybe not the outside part."
Later, my mom turned on the Food Channel and Charlie stretched out beside her as Jacques Pépin sautéed some tan meat in a skillet. Charlie--used to a steady diet of ESPN--watched, a little consternated to see "ood" rather than football players in motion. "Chicken livers. High in cholesterol" said my mom. "Not for me--we'll stick to chicken, right, Charlie?" I replied. "Rice chick-enn," said Charlie as Jacques whirled chestnuts into a light brown goo that maybe reminded Charlie of his new favorite, hummous.
It's time, indeed, to start Charlie wiping the dishes. He already knows his way around the kitchen.