I'm standing in my kitchen, looking at a recipe for my youngest daughter Annabelles' birthday dinner. I'm making her favourite Indian curry, Chicken Tikka Masala, and strawberry ice-cream for dessert.
It's no easy task, but since that's what she asked for, I'm going to deliver this to her. She's so sweet and kind, there's no way I could've said no when she asked me to make this dinner for her special day. She's turning four, which is apparently a big deal in preschool because it means you're starting kindergarten soon.
If she wasn't my daughter, I'd probably have fallen out of my chair after hearing that this only-just-four-year-old's favourite meal is a killer spicy curry, but she is my daughter, so it's not surprising to me. I've been feeding all three of my daughters spicy curries since before they could chew. I'd grind them up in the blender and serve them to my kids so as to not waste money on baby food.
However, it might still shock you to hear that we have no culture making us want to do this. Me and my husband are both Icelandic, but no culture has been passed on through the family, and spicy curries wouldn't have been in it anyway.
I walk over to the cupboard and gather the spices needed for this curry. Then, I check the recipe again to make sure I have them all. Yes, my memory is being agreeable today, it let me remember them all. Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Cumin, Paprika, and Cayenne Pepper.
I get out the ingredients, (Which I won't describe the painfully long process of dropping the chicken on the floor, remembering the five-second rule doesn't work on chicken, going to get new chicken from the store, and FINALLY, getting out the rest of the ingredients) make the marinade for the chicken, put the chicken in the bowl, and leave it in the fridge for an hour.
As I start on the dessert to pass the time, my oldest daughter, Claire, comes into the kitchen.
She's only twelve years old, but already very pretty. Her long, blond hair is pulled back into two tight french braids, my handiwork, and she's wearing a pretty blue dress that matches her gorgeous ocean blue eyes.
"What are you making, mom?" She asks.
"Chicken Tikka Masala for Annabelle's birthday. I could use some help!"
"Sweet!" She says. "And of course I'll help you!"
She grabs an apron from the cupboard and puts it on. While we make the ice cream together, we chat.
"How was your day at school?" I ask.
"Good. We didn't do much, only completed some math sheets."
As Anabelle's birthday is September 6th, Claire has only just started school. So luckily, she's not getting too much work yet.
"That's good." I say. We cook in silence for a while then put the ice-cream in the freezer. Then, when the chicken in the fridge is done, we make the meal and we're all ready for dinner. It's great to have Claire as a helper because she can cook the rice while I make the curry.
"Thanks for helping, Claire." I tell her as I chop the cilantro to go on top. I feel like I need to pay her somehow, so I grab a bag of chocolate chips from the cupboard and hand it to her.
She laughs, but happily takes the bag and munches on some.
"When are you picking Annabelle up from preschool?" She asks, her mouth full of chocolate. I check my watch.
"Actually, I'd better go now, thanks for reminding me. Are you coming or not?"
"Sure, I'll come."
A couple minutes later we're at the preschool to pick Annabelle up. She runs up to us and I hug her.
"Happy birthday, Anna!" I say. I squeeze her tightly before I let go. I had to go to work early this morning, so I didn't get to see her after she woke up.
"Thanks, mommy." She says goodbye to all her friends then we get back in the car.
"I've made your birthday dinner!" I tell her as we get back in the car. "I even added a special magic ingredient to make it taste better!"
"Yes! A magic ingredient!" Her small teal eyes light up. I'm sure she still believes in fantasy stuff, so I continue.
"I know Anna! Just for you!"
She smiles. "But what is it mommy? What's the magic ingredient?"
"It's love, Anna," I tell her. "The magic ingredient is love."
"Is that a spice?" She asks, confused.
"No, It's the love that Claire and I put into making this. It'll make it taste better."
"Cool!" She says. And then we're pulling into our driveway.
My other daughter, Sophie, is now here and so is my husband. I set the table while everyone washes their hands then we sit down to eat.
"Guess what, daddy?" Annabelle says.
"Claire and mommy put a magic ingredient into this, love!"
"Is that a spice?"
I sigh. Nick doesn't know anything about cooking either.
"No! Mommy says it's the love they put into this."
Nick smiles. "Okay, Anna." He says. "Now eat your meal, then we'll sing Happy Birthday."
She eats and loves it. We all do, but she does especially.
Then I bring in the ice-cream. Claire stuck candles in it so she can make a wish so I light those first.
Now we all sing.
"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Anna, happy birthday to you!"
She smiles and blows out the candles, then we all dig in. The strawberries make it taste extra delicious, and I can't help but quickly take another spoonful.
Annabelle smiles at the taste, and I know she loves it.
I smile too, because I've made her happy. Well, it's her birthday, so she should be.