CHEF JAM ~ and the culinary caper

by Shea Bell
Dinner prep in the Lane`s kitchen was underway.

Dinner prep was underway in the Lane’s kitchen. “Jamma, is this how chefs peel carrots?” Molly’s earnest desire to do it right weighed heavily in her question.

Jamma glanced over at her four year old granddaughter, who was running her peeler enthusiastically back and forth on the same spot,  right down to the core, and offered some guidance.

“There. You are doing it perfectly!” she replied, and was rewarded with a brilliant smile.

Finished with the carrots, Molly grabbed the parsnips. Since they looked like white carrots she knew what to do and set about peeling them with the surety of an experienced line cook. Her little sister Greta was busy placing cut up pieces of vegetable carefully on a baking sheet.

“What’s next Chef Jam?”

For about two years Molly had been in training as her Jamma’s sous- chef. She loved her role and was always excited to learn something new. Her confidence was growing with each new job and it showed. Jamma’s heart fairly boomed out of her chest when she heard Molly call out Chef Jam. It didn’t get any better than that!

“Our next task is to cut up a whole chicken.”

With that, Molly’s lips formed a perfect circle and her eyebrows shot up.

Jamma remembered the last time Molly laid eyes on a raw chicken she was afraid to touch it. Now a year older she didn’t even cringe. She ran her hand slowly and thoughtfully down the cool, rubbery carcass as if reading braille, then triumphantly declared,

 “That’s not as creepy as it looks!”

Chef Jam’s first concern was always safety, and she realized since they were about to cut up a chicken, it was time to talk about it. She knew Molly would be eager to learn what it meant.

“Food safety means always being clean when you’re preparing food so nobody gets sick when they eat it. You must wash your hands before you start and in between each preparation and the work station must also be kept clean. This keeps the germs and bacteria away.”

It made perfect sense to Molly, who, along with her sister, and without further prompting, dashed to the bathroom to scrub up. They were back just in time to see Jamma pull out a fresh cutting board and clean knife.

So to the chicken. Jamma showed the girls how to find the joint for the easiest cut, and helped Molly place the blade so she would understand what it felt like to find the soft spot.

Next Molly arranged the chicken pieces on a baking sheet, and was ready to add some flavor. She remembered what seasoning was from a previous lesson and in a blink dipped her hand in the salt bowl and grabbed as much as her little fist could hold, then with a flourish, doused the entire dish.

Now it was time for Jamma’s eyebrows to shoot up, and there followed a lesson on how much salt is actually needed for food to taste good. Molly took it all in, without taking offence, and they set about rinsing off as much as they could. The pepper grinder was much easier to manage.

“Chef Jam, I think we need to add some herbs.”

With that Molly skipped out the kitchen door and returned with some fresh thyme and rosemary. Jamma handed her a small knife and it wasn’t long before the herbs were chopped and the chicken ready for the oven. Then turning to the girls, Jamma said,

“Perfect!  Now we have an hour to play before dinner is ready”.

Sure enough the chicken was still too salty and barely edible. With the first bite they looked at each other’s scrunched up faces and burst out laughing. Even peeling the skin off was only a slight improvement, but at least they had some delicious roasted veggies to fill up their tummies.

Molly and Greta were both pooped after such an action packed day and eager to relax into a few stories before bed.

And Chef Jam? She was pooped as well, but the evening was such a pleasure she went to bed right after the girls, completely delighted. As she laid waiting for her eyes to slam shut, an alarming thought creeped out.

What was she thinking when she called their work perfect?!!

She certainly wasn’t expecting perfection, and she didn’t want the girls to think that was the goal either. The last thing they needed was to think they weren’t good enough if their work wasn’t perfect. What they needed was encouragement, guidance, and to be inspired to always do their best. And the whole experience should be fun not stressful. Simple as that.

Jamma wanted to be a good example for the girls, so laid there in the dark thinking about what she might want to say instead. She decided to replace perfect with wonderful, and vowed to start using it the very next morning. With a big exhale, she felt the powerful influence a single word could have, especially on precious little minds. Thank goodness she was paying attention to her thoughts.

Time spent with her girls was a chance for Jamma to mingle with their bright spirits; to play, to create, to laugh, and to make memories.  Even in the slip-ups there was fun to be had, and today was a fine example. 

Later that evening when Mom and Dad came back from their date night, Jamma was already fast asleep, pleased for what she had shared and learned, dreaming of the next culinary caper.

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Thanks for checking in. I recommend finding some young people to play with and see what they can teach you! The joy is indescribable.

Here’s a recipe for granola bars that are easy for kids to make, with thanks to

I would love to hear from you. Just scroll to the bottom to leave a comment or share your own stories.

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Verna June 29, 2020 - 8:05 pm

I loved cooking with the grandkids.

Shea Bell June 30, 2020 - 9:44 am

I think your biggest gift them was to set them up in your art studio and let them at it. They spent hours creating, laughing, and spending time with their cousins. You drifted in and out just to see if they needed anything. What a legacy.

Darlene June 30, 2020 - 3:54 am

Your words are perfect, I mean wonderful!! Being Chef Jam is the best job you have ever had. I love how you interact with your grandchildren and the memories you are building. Enjoy every minute, Chef Jam!!

Shea Bell June 30, 2020 - 9:46 am

Hi Darlene, Thank you so much for liking the story. It means a lot coming from such a gifted children’s author. My time with the girls is magic. Chef Jam really is my favourite job ever!

Karen Martin June 30, 2020 - 10:49 am

I loved your culinary caper! It made me smile and filled my heart. You are a “wonderful” Jamma!!

Shea Bell June 30, 2020 - 11:20 am

Karen, my heart is going boom again! Thank you so much for reading my story and this lovely comment.

Donna July 1, 2020 - 4:31 pm

They are so lucky to have Chef Jam guiding them through these fun days. They will learn so much and remember these moments forever. I seriously dislike the word perfect.

Shea Bell July 1, 2020 - 7:55 pm

Hi Donna, thanks. I appreciate that, but I think I’m the one who’s lucky tho. So glad you enjoyed the story.


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