I have always loved to cook. My mom will tell you stories about me going through recipes as a child and making things that I could not even pronounce. She was great at letting me experiment and not trying to control the situation. There was one time that I made shrimp scampi. I made my shopping list and my mom took me to the market. When I got home and saw the raw shrimp, I threw them all out as I didn’t know that shrimp were grey when they were raw. I thought they just sold me bad shrimp. Needless to say, it didn’t come out so great. But my parents ate it all and made me feel like it was the best meal they ever had. I am doing my best to be this free with my kids as I allow them to explore in the kitchen.
Admittedly, I don’t like cooking like I used to. I would if I could just spend the day cooking without pressure or children hanging on my legs. But real life dinner needs to be made in 20 minutes while doing homework and keeping children from attacking each other. During a visit to Grandma’s, my mom came up with an idea to let each grandchild be “little chef” one night. They could pick what they wanted to serve for dinner and help make it. I have continued this and have my kids choose meals each week. They each get a night to help me make the dinner. They really love it. Once again, I need to remind you that it won’t go beautifully or smoothly. It will be less efficient, messier (way messier) and maybe won’t come out quite as you planned. But your children are learning the effort that goes in to cooking and hopefully the joy of sharing the food you make with the people you love.
Jacob is definitely “Little Chef”. When he was 5, he would get in to a chef costume and ask to make up recipes from scratch. This is always a concern. One morning he said he wanted to make breakfast and he didn’t want me to help. When I asked what he was going to make, he said it was going to be a surprise. This of course made me nervous enough to want to stop him. But then I held back. It was a Sunday morning. We were in no rush to be anywhere. What would be the worst thing that could happen? Waste some food? So with supervision (only so he was safe), I let him make breakfast. He took chopped spinach out of the freezer, mixed it up with some egg and cheese (lot’s of cheese) and put it in my frying pan. I so wanted to tell him that the pan needed to be hot before you put in the ingredients. But he had other plans. Jacob asked me to turn on the oven and put the whole pan in there. Seriously, I’ve never done this and didn’t even know if it should be done because of the handle. We put it in and he sat watching it through the oven door. About 20 minutes later, it was brown and bubbling and he announced that it was done. I took it out and it slid right off the nonstick pan on to the plate. He cut it up in triangles and served it to us like slices of pizza. It’s green egg pizza he announced. I don’t think he knew it would come out like that, but was quite pleased that it did. You guys, it was good. Actually, it was better than good. It was GREAT!!! We now make green egg pizza all the time.
Now you might be thinking, “my son/daughter would never think to put spinach in eggs”. But that’s the beauty of involving your kids in the kitchen. Obviously, Jacob has seen me throw spinach in other recipes. I didn’t know he was paying attention, but obviously he was. This has since resulted in Jacob wanting to come up with other creations. Some have been awful. Some I’ve had to stop in progress because I just couldn’t bear to see him put sugar in his eggs. It’s hard to let go of the control thing. I’ve since bought Jacob some kids cookbooks in which he loves to pick his own recipes and make with help. It’s a great joy to see his pride as he shares his food with us and I think helps him second think when he criticizes my dinners as he knows the love and effort that goes in to cooking.
It’s our job as a mom to expose our children to a wide variety of healthy fresh foods, even the ones we do not particularly like. It is not your job to be a short order cook. Remember, chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese are not real food. We have gotten very removed from what food is and where it comes from. Get your kids in the garden, in the kitchen and teach them the joy of good eating.
By bringing your kids in to the kitchen, they will connect with food and good nutrition.