WHILE PAGING through magazines, I regularly see photos of docile children and joyful parents standing in immaculate kitchens cooking up something that looks like beet puree.

In our kitchen, things are a bit grittier. When our kids venture near the stove, there usually is a lot of noise, a lot of attitude, and nine times out of 10, the dish at the end of the commotion is a dessert.

Don't get me wrong. Like many kids, our 16-year-old and 12-year-old primarily regard the kitchen as the area where they gather to eat, not to cook.

When left alone, the kids have displayed some culinary talent. Faced with certain "starvation," for example, they have been able to open a can of tuna. At the end of the school day, the teen-ager often fries strips of meat and prepares his version of his beloved cheese steak sandwich. The 12-year-old prefers to mark the end of the school day by beeping a frozen burrito in the microwave.

Occasionally the kids are interested in cooking with their parents.

The occasion seems to be preceded by remarks something like this, "Hey! Who ate all the brownies? I'll kill 'em."

Then, in the interests of domestic pacification, the would-be combatants are coaxed into becoming cooks, into helping make more brownies.

Last weekend, for example, my wife and our 12-year-old teamed up to produce a batch of brownies. Their get-together was "stormy." I did not participate. I grabbed a cold beer and ran for cover. However, even from distant corners of the house, I could hear the two cooks "working" in the kitchen.

Right from the get-go there was tension over who was running the operation. Common sense would dictate that the veteran brownie-maker, the mom, would be in charge of the proceedings. But the kid was convinced that having made brownies once before, he needed very little assistance. Referring to himself as "chef," he wanted to issue orders rather than obey them. He was anxious to assert his independence, to free himself from the chains of parental control.

Once, when I ventured into the kitchen I heard the cooks clashing. The "chef" was peppering the mom with demands. The mom, who was squeezing the brownie-making operation in among other supper preparations, reminded the impatient "chef" that the brownies couldn't go in the oven until the roast chicken was ready to come out. I heard the cooks tell each otherto "chill out," not to "be so hyper" and to "pay attention." I didn't linger.

Eventually our family of four sat down to a supper of roast chicken, rice, salad and steamed broccoli, followed by gooey, homemade brownies.

Eating the brownies put everyone in a good mood.

Which proves, I guess, that cooking with your kids can produce some friction, and a very good dessert.

Fudge Brownies

Makes 12 brownies

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup melted butter

1/2 cup cocoa

3/4 cup sifted flour

1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Beat eggs slightly. In large bowl add sugar, salt, vanilla and melted butter. Stir in cocoa, sifted flour and pecans. Pour into greased 8- or 9-inch square pan. Bake at 325 for 30-35 minutes. Cool. Cut into squares.

Pub Date: 4/23/97

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