Lots of people talk to me about how I include my kids in the kitchen.
What do they cook?
Do they make a mess?
When do you start to let them cook?
Do you help?
Do they all like cooking?
Do they eat what they cook?
I sometimes feel stumped by questions like this. I have been thinking about why.
My thoughts are that I think people may get the wrong idea about the reality of what happens in my kitchen.
I'm worried that it is yet another thing we judge ourselves on as parents.
Another thing we feel we should be doing and that if we aren't then our children will be detrimentally affected.
Here is a little bit about what I think about kids being in the kitchen.
I DO think it helps them have an awareness of food. I DON'T think it is the only way.
I DO include my kids in the cooking. I DON'T judge you if you don't. I love cooking. I want to share what I love with my children. I get that it is not like that for everyone. I DON'T love going to the park. Do you judge me to be a better or worse parent because of that? What I am trying to say here is that as parents we all have something to offer our children. The fact that we all have different things to offer is a good thing. The world would be a very boring place if we were all good at the same thing.
Just because I like to cook and like to share that with my children DOES NOT make me a better parent.
I DO let my kids choose what to cook. I DON'T always like it but I think that to help a child love cooking it is important to let them take control. And yes little kids will almost ALWAYS choose biscuits and cakes to start with. Is there anything wrong with that? NO.
I DO believe it is important for my children to understand where food comes from and to have an understanding of the nutritional elements of food.
My children DO make a mess in the kitchen. I DO make THEM clean it up. The cleaning up part is an important part of learning how to cook. Yep kids do spill a lot of flour & use a lot of utensils....but if we adjust our expectations and understandings of their abilities maybe we can take away some of our own stress to do with this. Flour can be swept away, the dishwasher can clean the plates. And I think the mess in between is worth it.
I DO let my kids join in if they want. I DON'T make them.
DO I expect my children to be able to label ingredients and name flavours? NO. Cooking and eating is not a competition. My desire is for my children to have a healthy love of sharing. My desire is for them to have an appreciation of how eating together is a celebration of life & love.
DO I want them to love cooking? Of course I DO. But it really doesn't matter to me if they DON'T just as it it doesn't matter to me whether or not they play footy or whether they are good at drawing. What I DO want is for my children to find what they LOVE to do and to be able to enjoy doing it.
I DO teach my kids the skills to be independent in the kitchen including using sharp knives but I DO take over for some of the more tricky steps. I encourage my kids to watch and learn. As they get older they do more and more independently in the kitchen. They started doing little steps as very young children and as they get older they do more on their own. It is important as they get older to let them go a little bit. Let them make mistakes. Let them learn from them. That is how we all learnt. My eldest 3 boys who are 9, 11 & 13 are ALL able to cook several dishes entirely independently now.
Is there anything wrong with your kids cooking the same thing over and over? NO. We all like to feel good at something. Being able to master a dish is no different. Kids like predictability. Venturing out & trying to cook other dishes will come as their confidence in the kitchen increases.
My kids sometimes DO eat what they cook. They DON'T always.
Do I think they should? NO not always. Cooking is in itself an act of love. To be involved in the process is a gift to me so I don't mind if they don't eat what they have made. Although of course I am disappointed. My kids are young. I want them to LOVE the process of cooking and I am a strong believer that the rest follows. To me- what is on the plate is a VERY small part of the joy of food.
I invest a whole lot more interest in the sum of the parts. And for me the most important part is the act of SHARING.
Food is nothing without that.
Last week my eldest son asked if he could cook dinner. It is tricky to accomodate this when your kids ask at 6pm!!
I try to teach my children about planning in the kitchen. Planning what you want to cook and being prepared with ingredients, how to manage your time etc.
So when my eldest asked at 6pm I immediately asked him what he thought he could manage to cook that would be ready by 7? I can't remember exactly the answer but it was definitely not something manageable in that time.
We had a conversation about Pasta. How fantastic it is for quick and delicious meals. ANd how great it is for using what is in the fridge. I asked him to have a look in the fridge at some ingredients and have a think. He remembered eating Puttanesca with us the week before and loving it. The he saw the bacon. He has inherited my love for le Piggeh.
He wanted to make a sauce that involved using bacon & decided to do a dish inspired by Puttanesca but using the bacon too. He is not a fan of olives so they didn't make an appearance.
This is what he made.
It was a delight to see him do it all on his own and it was truly DELICIOUS.
He proudly took the leftovers in a Thermos to school for lunch the following day & was keen for me to share it with you too.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
- 400g pasta (my lad chose Spiralli)
- 1 onion, diced finely
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 4-5 rashers of bacon, rind trimmed and chopped
- 2 cans of tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon chilli flakes
- 4-5 anchovies, diced finely (the anchovies add a lovely salty element to the dish and do not leave a fishy taste)
- 1/2 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
- 3-4 tablespoons capers
- EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
- S & P
Chop the bacon.
|Here he is chopping garlic 'Like a Boss' as he says...|
Heat a non-stick frypan to medium and add a good glug of EVOO. Add the bacon & onion and fry til the onion is translucent and the bacon is cooked.
Now add the anchovies, garlic & chilli flakes. Fry for a minute or so or until the anchovies have melted.
Add half the parsley and the capers & stir.
Simmer for half an hour or so or until you see the oil separate from the tomatoes.
Cook the pasta and add to the sauce for the last two minutes of cooking. This allows the sauce to integrate into the pasta itself and makes a much tastier dish. Add the rest of the parsley and serve.
We were playing this LOUD in our kitchen yesterday at breakfast. Dare you not to MOOOOOVE. What a great clip it is too ~