Grown up cooking

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My youngest sister is seven years younger than me. She's always acted older than she is, easing into political and philosophical conversations as a young teen and generally mimicking the grown-ups to minimise the age gap. She's incredibly observant and picked up habits of my parents; she'd dance like my Dad and chew the same gum as him (Airwaves, which is a menthol assault for most adults), she shares my Mum's interests and became a skilled knitter at thirteen.

One of our many favoured memories of her acting grown-up was when my Mum set up a tiny IKEA cooker next to our oven in the kitchen. She had a full set of mini pots and pans and a handful of dried pasta and plastic vegetables to work with (Dad used to tell her that she had to eat her IKEA food instead of Mum's real food). We once found her 'cooking' the pasta with her head cocked to one side, mimicing my mum using her kids’ kitchen set. As she stirred a plastic saucepan of dry spaghetti, she cocked her head with an imaginary phone between her ear and shoulder and said ‘yeah, just makin’ pasta’ as she’d heard my mum say so many times.

My youngest sister is now twenty-two and is very good at 'makin' pasta' with real food. Her spaghetti aglio e olio uses lots of finely sliced red chilli, the secret to her velvety tomato sauce is butter instead of oil as a base and (although not pasta) I can't write this without giving her aubergine parmigiana the highest praise. She's grown into the biggest culinary grown-up in her university kitchen.