Oatcakes: An Assembly of Peculiarities

As I work on this series of posts about cooking with toddlers, I've been thinking about cooking photography and the history of science and natural history. Do people select the most symmetric slice of cake to photograph? The most pleasantly irregular cobbler? What is most helpful - a field guide with a photo of a typical female cardinal sitting on a branch or meticulously painted images of that same female cardinal? 

I've been reading Objectivity by Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison and it's got me thinking about how we choose to represent an activity - in this case - whether I choose to show the average toddler cooking experience, the ideal, the exceptional, the outrageously messy, the beautiful, etc.

Arthur Worthington, a physicist from the 1870s, was among the first to question the scientific standard of "stripping away the accidental to find the essential." He studied droplets of water in order to better understand fluid dynamics. At first he made drawings of water droplets splashing, then later photographed them. As he studied his first photographs, he was struck with the significant irregularities that were visible. He confessed that in looking over his drawings, he had been somewhat aware of the irregularities, and had favored images of the ideal, symmetric splash, which may not actually exist.

Daston and Galison use such wonderful phrases to describe this history of representation: anomaly, malformed, accidental specificity. My favorite is "assembly of peculiarities." So I share with you an assembly of photos from a particular baking session with my 2 year old daughter.

I love a good cooking photograph with bright, diffused natural light. You will not find them in this series. My photos reflect my cozy (dim) kitchen, my love of powders (mess), and are all taken with my phone, as best I can with oily floury hands.

Aside from all the official reasons for cooking with my child (sensory exploration, measuring, healthy habits, patience, delayed gratification, etc) its just good fun.

Today's Oatcake recipe I found on the wonderful blog, Orangette, who found it in 3191 Quarterly No. 9. Molly Wizenberg, author of Orangette, posted a make-do, in-the-moment sort of photo of her oatcakes, which I find inspiring.

Preheat the Oven to 350 degrees. Mix the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl. As you measure each ingredient, let your toddler dump it into the bowl and stir. My daughter dearly loves this part and shouts "Dump it! My dump it!"  Be ready for flour to get on the floor, of course. I remind her to keep it in the bowl, but hey, the mess is part of the fun.

Preheat the Oven to 350 degrees. Mix the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl. As you measure each ingredient, let your toddler dump it into the bowl and stir. My daughter dearly loves this part and shouts "Dump it! My dump it!"  Be ready for flour to get on the floor, of course. I remind her to keep it in the bowl, but hey, the mess is part of the fun.

Unwrapping the butter stick gives my daughter such joy. I think she feels it is a grown-up task, and it clearly indicates I am up for a mess.

Unwrapping the butter stick gives my daughter such joy. I think she feels it is a grown-up task, and it clearly indicates I am up for a mess.

Mix the butter into the oat mixture. Try using a spoon, a spatula, press it with your fingers, squeeze it with your fists, and any other technique you and your little one can think of. Greasey powdery oat-y fingers for everyone!

Add the yogurt, and perhaps a bit of milk if you need it to bring the dough together.

Once the butter is fully mixed into the oat mixture, sprinkle flour over the worksurface. The recipe calls for rolling the dough, but I could not extract the rolling pin from the depths of our corner cupboard, so we decided to press the dough with our fingers.

We used a drinking glass to make the oat circles. You could have some fun with cookie cutters, measuring cups, anything with an edge that isn't too rounded and thick, but still strong.

I help get the sticky circles off the table and onto the pan. 

She gets to place the circles on the pan. And yes - I rearranged them before I put them in the oven so they weren't overlapping. 

Rats and Journals, Tricksters and Revolution

Picture walk at the May Market