Freedom from kitchen duty is an inalienable right of Mother's Day: Somebody besides Mom has to cook.
And forget that old stereotype of burned toast and spilled juice. Cooking isn't nearly as hard as programming the VCR. Dads and children of all ages should be well up to the task.
Sarah and Zachary Williamson are big proponents of kids' cooking. The two Vermont teens have written a cookbook, "Kids Cook," to encourage it.
Kids should think of cooking "kind of like fun," says Zachary, 14, "because you're creating something." He should know. "I've been cooking since I was about 6," he said. "I cooked very simple things. As I got old enough to use the stove, I cooked more complex things, like dinners." Another advantage of cooking, he pointed out, is that the chef gets to choose the menu.
Zachary and his sister Sarah, 17, do a lot of cooking, because their parents both work. "If we're home by ourselves, we set a nice table and sit down and eat together," Zachary said. "It's kind of fun."
He and Sarah have always been good friends, he said. "We do a lot of things together." They had talked for years about writing a cookbook -- they know all about publishing, because their parents, Jack and Susan Williamson, have a small publishing firm in Charlotte, Vt. Finally, last year, they got their chance. They spent "all last summer" Zachary said, working on the book. "We had totest all the recipes. Usually we'd switch -- one would be in the kitchen cooking and one would be at the computer. We didn't type in any recipes until we'd tested them," he said. "And then, we had too many recipes, so we had to leave some out, and sometimes we had to test them again."
Deciding which ones had to go wasn't easy, Zachary said. "Probably the hardest part we had to figure out together was what recipes to leave out."
Their book, subtitled, "Fabulous Food for the Whole Family," includes safety tips, nutrition information, food trivia and a survey of kitchen equipment and techniques, besides the recipes. It even has tips on doing dishes.
Maybe there's already a tradition in your house of giving Mom breakfast in bed on her special day. With the same skill and only a little more effort, the meal can become a brunch in honor of Mom that the whole family can enjoy.
Zachary suggested two menus for a Mother's Day brunch. The '' "easier one" is puffy popovers, french toast and fruit cup; the "harder one" is puffy popovers, Zach's famous omelet and whale of a fruit salad.
Either one should be served with freshly squeezed orange juice -- "and flowers on the table," Zachary said.
His tips for younger chefs: "Popovers are really only good when they're warm, so you have to serve them right away." And don't make either of the fruit dishes too far in advance, "because they get soupy." But, he said, "It's good if you can make them the night before."
Of course, children who are not kids are not barred from preparing a family feast to honor Mom. A make-ahead main dish that can be carried over on Sunday and reheated, if necessary, would be a good choice for visiting offspring; it would be even easier if there were siblings who could each contribute something.
A nice change of pace would be cheese-nut pate and balsamic strawberries. Simple cold grilled chicken would be a good accompaniment.
If you can persuade Mom to visit you, you can work with more fragile fare. My mother isn't likely to drop in from Kansas, but if she did, she would certainly want goldenrod eggs and fresh asparagus or fresh broccoli.
Zachary and Sarah Williamson note in their book that they always serve their mom breakfast in bed on Mother's Day: "Even though mothers love everything their children do for them," they write, "we still try our very best to make this day special for her by starting it off with a real treat."
The first four recipes are from Zachary and Sarah Williamson. As they point out in the book, kids should use only the appliances and equipment they're allowed to handle -- anything else needs an older person to help out.
Makes 9 or 10 popovers.
1 cup milk
1 cup flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
Heat oven to 450 degrees.
Beat milk, flour, salt and butter together.
Add eggs and beat again. Pour batter into greased baking cups (a muffin pan or popover pan) until they are about 3/4 full.
Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Then lower heat to 350 and bake for 20 more minutes.
Makes 8 slices.
1/3 cup milk
8 slices bread
Beat the eggs and milk together.
Soak each slice of bread for about 2 seconds on each side in the egg mixture.
Heat a skillet or griddle to medium-high. Melt 2 tablespoons margarine in the skillet. Add two slices of dipped bread. Cook, on medium heat, flipping slices occasionally to keep them from sticking.
5) Cook until golden brown on each side.
Zach's famous omelet
Serves two to four.
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons margarine
THE FILLING (see note):
1/2 cup deli ham, diced