I've always believed my kids should do their own school projects, even back when they were in elementary school and had their very first "projects": Write three sentences about snow and glue cotton balls into a snowman shape at the bottom of the page. (I mean, you could always tell which children's parents had made the snowmen for them.) Over the years, I've helped a little, but not loads. And with my kids now in high school you'd think I'd be pretty much out of the "helping with class projects" picture, wouldn't you?
The other day, my son was assigned a project that was due in two days: Make a Central or South American dish for Spanish class, and it couldn't be something easy like guacamole or salsa.
I was in a hurry when he explained it. We Googled "easy Honduran recipes" in honor of his uncle, (my youngest brother was adopted from there) and pulled up a recipe for "buñelos," featuring ingredients I had on hand. Score!
Josh came home the next day with lots of homework: a math packet to complete, a science test to study for, 45 pages of a book to read, a Spanish worksheet to finish, and…buñelos to make. After dinner, I left him to mix the ingredients. After much clattering of the silverware drawer, other drawers and several dramatic sighs, I finally caved and helped.
I watched as he s-l-o-w-ly scooped flour into the measuring cup.
"How much flour do you need?"
SIX CUPS! I looked dubiously at my flour container, then mentally added flour to my grocery list.
Over the next hour, he painstakingly measured in the remaining ingredients. "We're out of salt now," he said when I came back to check on him.
Add salt to the grocery list.
"Um, mom I still need to finish the rest of my homework." He looked worried; it was now 7:45 p.m.
"Okay," I sighed. "I'll help."
The dough was sticky and jammed my beaters. When I tried to clear them, dough spattered the walls, the countertop, the dog and me. Grrr! He'd doubled the recipe to make enough for every kid. So after cleaning the mess, I formed 40 round balls of dough.
Next step: let sit for 30 minutes. 30 MINUTES! It was already 8:45 p.m. Fabulous. So they sat. I stared at them while they sat. They didn't do anything interesting.
Sitting allows the buñelos to dry out so they don't absorb too much oil.
What do they mean, "too much of the oil"? I look at the recipe again.
Pour oil, 1" thick into the bottom of a pan and heat.
Oh. My. Gosh! This is DEEP FRYING!
"Josh, can you bring me the fire extinguisher?"
He carried it into the kitchen. "Mom, you know you can't use this on an oil fire, right?"
"Of course I know that!" How come my 15-year-old knows this and I don't?
"Okay," he says calmly, and leaves the kitchen to finish his homework.
I dumped the entire bottle of oil into the pan, (add oil to the shopping list) said a prayer, and heated it.
Roll each ball flat.
I do this. The end result is this thin, circle-shaped blob. I eased it into the hot oil, suddenly realizing I could only cook one of these babies at a time. I looked at the remaining 39 balls of dough.
"Yo Josh, how's that homework coming?"
"I've got another 30 pages."
Now it's my turn to sigh dramatically.
As it cooked, I noticed something else. "Hey, this is an Elephant Ear! Why didn't the bloomin' recipe say it was an Elephant Ear, maybe we'd have picked something else!" I grumbled.
As each Elephant—er, I mean buñelo came out of the pan I placed it on paper towels to drain, sprinkling both sides with cinnamon sugar.
At 10:15 p.m. Josh entered the kitchen, his eyes were drooping. "What should I do?"
As much as I wanted to, I couldn't make him do it. He was obviously exhausted.
"You have to cook at least one," the mom-making-her-kid-do-his-own-homework-in-me said.
"Okay." He did it with a yawn.
"Go to bed, buddy. I'll finish."
A little after midnight, the buñelos were cooled and packaged for school.
I yawned, and made a note to go grocery shopping.
All I have to say is, I'd better get an "A."