Adventures in Drool: Teach them to cook
In my house, cooking is an event. Every day a fresh breakfast and dinner are lovingly prepared by my two hands ... with the help of two small, pudgy hands courtesy of Droolface.
Our 9-month-old doesn't mix batter or pour vinegar, but he does participate. Usually he is front and center, sitting on the kitchen floor playing with measuring cups or plastic-ware.
Preparing dinner is one of my favorite things to do every day. Something about being in the kitchen and making the night's meal is just purely spiritual to me.
I want Droolface to know how to cook, but I also want him to know the importance of understanding where food comes from, how to prepare it, when it is time to experiment and to learn how to multi-task. All of these skills can be learned in the kitchen, not to mention math skills when increasing or decreasing a recipe.
I am appalled by how many men admit they don't know how to cook. How do they expect to feed themselves?
My husband can cook, but most of those skills he learned as a bachelor. They weren't ingrained in him until he really needed to feed himself.
My son will cook. And, he will cook well.
On the weekends, I try to bake with Droolface. Baking is usually easier for kids to do because it follows a recipe. In most cases, it also yields a tasty treat as a reward for their effort.
Try making simple recipes to start. This week tackle a cupcake or cake recipe. There are plenty of easy recipes out there. After the cake is cooled, enjoy a slice with your little ones.
Nutrition is key
We talk a lot about what we are eating in my house. I want to take a moment here to express how important it is for children to know where food comes from. They need to know as much as possible about what they are putting in their mouths. And, they need to know it is important to know.
I will admit I ate McDonald's and other fast food prior to being a parent without thinking much about what was in the food. Now, I always think about what is in the food because I wouldn't want to put that into my baby's belly.
I am not saying Droolface will never taste a chicken nugget, but they won't be his primary food source. And, I hope to instill in him an understanding of food, so that he chooses the grilled chicken breast instead. No pink goo for him! (If you don't know what I am referring to here, Google 'pink goo chicken nuggets.' But be warned - it is gross.)
If children understand what food should be, then they will make better decisions. All young ones are drawn to junk food - the excess salt and sugar make it taste amazing! But, it is important to teach balance.
(Steps off soap box.)
Cooking as an art
Channels like Food Network and Cooking Channel are so popular because people are always interested in food. The recipes, challenges and excitement surrounding eating can be lost, but try to keep the spark alive in your house.
Try a new recipe each week. Don't get caught in a food rut because it makes the eating experience less exciting.
Give your kids options. Children like to be involved - in everything - so why not give them options for dinner. I wouldn't make it too broad, but asking little Kenny if he would like chicken or pasta for dinner is a great way to get him involved.
It may also mean he eats his meal instead of pushing it around the plate.
And, give kids a chance to like the food. I make Droolface try everything. He has to at least taste it. Peas are not his favorite, but when they are on the menu he has to eat a few spoonfuls.
The hope is that eventually he will come around and start liking peas. We'll see - I never really loved peas, but I did eat them when they were served.
And finally, cooking with your kids is yet another way to spend time with them. Start the tradition early and before you know it, your teenager will be helping with dinner and telling you all about the latest teenage craze. Although, that doesn't mean you will have a clue what he is talking about.
For all of you Cape Region folks, you have Sprouting Chefs to look forward to this summer when farmers markets get rolling.
Passionate home-cook Katie Freer runs programs that allow kids to select locally-grown produce, then cook a meal with it! It's a great experience.
For more information, visit http://sproutingchef.com/
Good luck, and keep it real in the kingdom of drool. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.