Solomon wasn’t even two (and Celia hadn’t even joined our family!) back in 1998 when I co-wrote my first cookbook for busy families with my dear friend Lisa Flaxman. When I launched The Six O’Clock Scramble in 2003, he was six and she was four.
Two weeks ago, Solomon strutted across the stage in Washington DC’s DAR Constitution Hall and received his diploma from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. In two months, he will leave home to study engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. And while I hope he’ll be back often, in many ways, it feels like the end of an era. The number of evenings that all four of us will share family dinners, taste test recipes together and have lively conversations at the dinner table are few and fleeting.
Whether or not he always loved it, Solomon has been among the first four testers for every single one of the more than 1,200 recipes I have published in the last 17 years (plus a few hundred more that never made the cut). For his first few years, Solomon was often a grudging tester, as he was a selective and unenthusiastic eater. Over the years, his taste buds developed and he started to like or at least accept more foods, even finding that roasted green beans, hearty bean stews, and salmon salad in avocados were some of his favorites.
It wasn’t until he was in high school–maybe because that’s when he actually seemed to start growing more steadily–that Solomon became a more eager eater. By his senior year he was an avid climber, volleyball and Ultimate Frisbee player, even managing to fit in the occasional round of P90X with Andrew.
With his newly vast appetite, eating became one of his favorite pastimes. For me, who had spent earlier years fretting about whether he was getting enough nutrients and variety, this was a most welcome development.
In the past year, Solomon has also developed a passion for cooking. Probably inspired by his newfound love of eating, his desire to impress and socialize with girls, and his evenings spent indulging in the creations of his friend Michael Fine, who is a culinary whiz, Solomon has embraced both cooking and baking. Recently we came home from a trip to find he had made a couple dozen chocolate chip cookies, just so he could freeze and eat them at his leisure (he shared them with us, too). He saved some leftovers of a potato, sausage. and tomato hash he had made the night before for a friend for me to sample. On a backpacking trip with friends last month, the boys planned, shopped for, and cooked all their own meals.
Before he leaves for college, one of Solomon’s goals is to know how to cook some of his favorite foods and to know enough cooking basics so that he can figure out how to cook just about anything else, at least with a good recipe to follow. He has taken over cooking for the family at least once a week and when he doesn’t have to be at work early, ambles down late to the kitchen and cooks himself brunch of Huevos Rancheros, hash browns, or French toast.
I know I will be both excited for him and bereft for us when we drop Solomon off at school in August, although I will try to keep my composure at least until we shut the car doors and point the Subaru back home. I’ll miss my enthusiastic recipe tester, occasional cook, and constant dinner companion immeasurably.
But I take consolation in the fact that he knows how to make healthy choices when it comes to eating (whether or not he chooses to all the time) and, when he has access to a kitchen, and a few basic tools, how to prepare any food he wants to eat from scratch.