By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
In the kitchen, anything is possible.
'I make all sorts of stuff,' said Keighton Farrenkopf, 13, of Moody. 'I just put things together and see what happens. Most of the times it's tasty. Sometimes it's not. But it's always fun.'
The lad says his best dish is chicken parmesan.
'I love making pastas,' Keighton said.
His mom, Tanya Farrenkopf, said Keighton has inherited all preparation responsibilities for Thanksgiving dinner.
And that's just fine with the young chef. He says he's 'a pro at it.'
'I made Thanksgiving two years ago,' he said. 'And the gravy was my masterpiece.'
The turkey's stuffing was flavored with lemon.
'I like using different spices and herb butter,' he said.
Keighton grinned as he talked about his culinary adventures.
'He loves being in the kitchen,' said his mother, Tanya Farrenkopf. 'He loves to be the chef and play host. That's where he gets his joy.'
'Well that, and I like to eat,' Keighton said, breaking out an even bigger smile.
Growing up sick
Keighton likes to laugh. He's hungry to talk about life and food. Nothing in his behavior hints to the illness he endures.
'Keighton was born with three chambers in his heart instead of four,' Mrs. Farrenkopf said. 'So the red blood doesn't mix properly with the blue blood.'
And that because of that, he's in and out of the hospital on a semi-regular basis.
It's also why the Farrenkopf family settled in Moody.
'We were living in Nebraska,' Mrs. Farrenkopf said.
'That's where grandma lives,' Keighton explained.
'But,' Mrs. Farrenkopf said, 'the doctor told us we needed to relocate to a coastal area or get Keighton ready for a heart transplant.'
The climate, humidity and air pressure levels of Central Texas proved to be good medicine for Keighton.
'So far he's done pretty well,' said Dad, Cameron Farrenkopf.
Heart trouble isn't Keighton's only source of pain. He also suffers from a disorder called 'protein-losing enteropathy.'
'His gut doesn't absorb the proteins he needs to be healthy,' Mrs. Farrenkopf said. 'There are medicines he takes.'
'I'll get some bad headaches,' Keighton said. 'And my cheeks get puffy.'
His mother said the swelling flares up once every six weeks or so.
'We have to administer a home IV every time that happens,' Mrs. Farrenkopf said.
The treatment includes a steady dose of steroids.
'And that stunts his growth,' Mrs. Farrenkopf said.
That's why the 13-year-old Keighton is no taller than his younger brother, 5-year-old Parker. With Rayleigh, their 10-year-old sister, towering over them, the two boys look as if they are fraternal twins who belong in the same class.
'It's not that hard being shorter than everyone,' Keighton said. 'The kids at school don't tease me. I've got good friends.'
Keighton is a seventh grader at Moody Junior High School.
'He doesn't go to sepcial ed,' Mrs. Farrenkopf said.
His illness hasn't affected the development of his brain or personality. He's got good grades and a sharp vocabulary to prove it.
'His attitude is great,' Mr. Farrenkopf said. 'We don't know why he's sick or how it happened, but he does the best he can. And he has fun when he can.'
The doctors aren't sure what the prognosis is for Keighton.
'There's just not a lot known about his disorder,' Mr. Farrenkopf said.
For that reason, Keighton qualifies as a Make-A-Wish child.
After a couple of years of waiting, the Keighton's wish came true. In mid-August, he got to meet celebrity chef Guy Fieri for some cooking fun in Buffalo, N.Y.
And to Keighton's delight, he was a guest on an episode of Fieri's Food Network TV show, 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.'
'We talked about all the good things to eat,' Keighton said. 'And some of the best restaurants to go.'
Mrs. Farrenkopf said meeting Fieri was an awesome experience for the whole family.
'The kids just loved him,' she said. 'He took them on a ride in his convertible, and Keighton got to sit in the driver's seat for a while.'
While on the Wish trip, the Farrenkopf family stayed at the Seneca Niagara Hotel and Casino.
'On the 21st floor,' Keighton said. 'We got to see Niagara Falls, go on the Maid of the Mist boatride, the Hard Rock Cafe, and the Anchor Bar - that's where the buffalo wing was born, you know. It was so much fun.'
The Seneca hotel chefs treated Keighton to a lesson on gourmet ice cream sundaes. They also geared him with the proper uniform of a chef's hat and apron.
'The sundae was a vanilla ice cream base with oatmeal raisin cookies and chocolate chunks,' Keighton said. 'And then it had anything you can imagine - chocolate, M&Ms, peanuts, cream cheese. It was everything. And there was so much ice cream that all the left overs were ours, and whenever we wanted some, room service would bring it up to us.'
The hat and apron were gifts from the hotel. And Keighton intends to wear them this Thanksgiving when he's making dinner.
He promises that he has a tasty menu planned, but he didn't elaborate on the details.
'The recipes aren't written down,' Keighton said. 'They're all in my head, and when it comes time to do the cooking, I might feel like trying something different.'
And for Christmastime, Keighton's making all kinds of jams and jellies - from apple butter to hot pepper relish. He jars them with the help of his mother, and he has his own lable of 'Keightons Kreations.'
'I'm selling them,' Keighton said. 'I want to raise $150 by Christmas.'
He wants to buy holiday gifts for the children staying at Dell Children's Medical Center in Austin.
'That's where I go when I get sick,' Keighton said.
Jars of 8 ounces are $4.75, and the 4-ounce jars cost $3.50. Orders can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
'It kind of like my own business, sort of,' Keighton said. 'I want to set a Web site up for Keighton's Kreations.'
And when the lad grows up - he just might have the beginnings of an awesome career - in the kitchen.