It's important to me to instill in my children a knowledge and a love of food. I do this by inviting them into the kitchen when I'm cooking and welcoming engagement with what intrigues them.
What some may see as disruption, I see as opportunity to teach and create memories in the kitchen, all the while staying the course for my end goal — creating something delicious for our family to eat.
The kitchen involvement looks different for each child. Each has a distinct personality that dictates which part of cooking he or she enjoys.
For my daughter, 7, it's reading the recipe out loud, measuring the ingredients precisely, and stirring.
For my son, 4, it's all about the ingredients — adding them together, feeling the texture of the ingredients, and smelling and tasting the food as it is cooking.
Setting some rules
While cooking together is fun, there are rules when little assistants are involved:
* In order to cook with Mom, you have to do as I ask or you're out of the kitchen.
* No tasting without asking to prevent consumption of raw ingredients.
* Making a mess is OK.
* We cook together, we clean up together.
* Have fun.
Managing the chaos
There are ways to manage the chaos when you invite children to cook. Here are a few pointers:
* Understand the recipe you are about to cook. This involves thoroughly reading over the recipe prior to cooking.
* Have all ingredients out with designated measuring spoons and containers assigned to the ingredients.
* Read each step out loud. Have your children repeat after you.
* Expect a mess and don't get upset when one is made.
* Be hands-on. Correct incorrect form. You want your child to know how to properly hold a knife, stir, measure ingredients, etc.
* Cook the same recipe with your children repeatedly. After a few cooking sessions, you'll be surprised at what they remember.
* Have them cook what they enjoy eating.
A few favorites
My children have their favorite things to cook, including a variety of baked goods, recipes that involve the food processor, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and pasta.
Basic tomato sauce is something that my children regularly make, because pasta with tomato sauce is one of their favorite meals. Plus, it's a great introductory recipe for children because there are only four ingredients and one item to chop.
My children do not eat everything they cook or every meal placed before them. At times there are disagreements at the table that make food appreciation an uphill battle, but it's one I want to fight.
I can't make my children love to cook. However, I can cultivate an appreciation and respect for food that hopefully evolves into a longing to create in the kitchen, eat quality food and gather with loved ones.
Rebecca White of Plano blogs at apleasantlittlekitchen.com.
Basic Tomato Sauce
26-28 ounces crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 yellow onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Place all ingredients into a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove onion and thyme. Salt to taste and serve over favorite cooked pasta or gnocchi.
Makes 4-5 servings.
SOURCE: Adapted from Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce