Post # 39 Kids in the Kitchen

August 29, 2012 at 10:38 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 39 Kids in the Kitchen

Kids in the Kitchen?  What’s that all about?  Kids are funny creatures.  They want to be where their parents are.  The smaller they are, the more likely that is.  As they get older, that changes until they can’t stand to be on the same planet as their parents.  Then they come around again, and it all balances out.  I’ve told you before that I started learning to cook when I was thirteen.  But I actually was cooking long before that.  So were my sibs, Older Sister and Little Brother.  Getting kids invovled in the kitchen early helps them learn a lot of lessons which we won’t go into here, but the real question is how?  How to get kids involved and keep them engaged from the beginning of a recipe to the end?

First, it helps to make something they like.  When my mom said to pick any recipe in the cookbook and we’d make it, I picked my favorite.  So it makes sense to select something that they’re going to like.  Either let them select the recipe, or select something you know they’re going to like.  Years ago, I was a volunteer big brother and my little brother wanted to learn how to make MacNCheeze (as he called it.)  I told him okay, as long as he ate what came out of the kitchen.  We started with the box mix, then I showed him how to make it from scratch.  His mom told me later that he’s been eating from scratch ever since.

When I was a kid and learning to cook, there were no cookbooks for kids.  Heck, there were barely any articles in the kids magazines about cooking!  The closest you could come was in the boy scout or cub scout manuals.  They had articles about cooking outdoors on an open fire, but there was nothing like they have now where you focus on nutrition and start preparing at home.  My mom worked at a job outside the house and during the summers were left to our own devices a lot.  My older sister would be stuck baby sitting, but she had her own pursuits so my little brother and I were on our own a lot.  One day for lunch, he wanted scrambled eggs.  Plucky trooper that he was (and still is) he broke the eggs into a frying pan and started doing what he’d seen mom do.  I looked over after a while and said, “Fire, you need fire.  Turn the stove on.”  He loved the scrambled eggs.  I think he still loves scrambled eggs.  The next time he made scrambles, he added blue food coloring to turn the eggs green.  He was in a Dr. Suess mood and wanted green eggs and ham.  Couldn’t figure out how to make ham green so he settled for the eggs being green.

When kids are in the kitchen, the potential for disaster is high.  You have to guide them carefully throughout the whole process.  And you need to instill good habits early.  My mom and I discovered “Clean as you go” very late in life.  I think that’s the second most important cooking lesson.  The first is read the recipe three times: 1 – to get a sense of the recipe; 2 – to check ingredients; and 3 – timing and technique.  However, if you’re making something the kid(s) will like, they’ll have fun and follow the guidance.

There are a couple of things you can do that will push them along to becoming better cooks.  First, you can get them their own cookbook.  There are TONS of choices out there now.  I even have one called Green Eggs and Ham and is written like a Dr. Suess book and has recipes based on foods in his stories.  Loads of fun, and it will keep kids engaged since it’s something they’re already familiar with.  Second, help them create their on kitchen journal.  I wrote about the kitchen journal a few posts ago.  If it’s their own, they can start tracking success and failure, creating their own recipes, and start feeling the pride as they serve their own creations to their family.

There are thing you, as the teacher/mentor/guide have to have.  The first is patience.  Kids think differently and so what we would think is fairly obvious, to them is as skewed as a lightning bolt.  You’re going to have to show them something more than once.  Lots more, for some things.  The second thing you need is the knowledge that the goal is the journey not the destination.  That means that if things don’t turn out exactly right, if it tastes good and doesn’t kill anyone, it’s okay.  The cookies may not have spread as they should.  So what?  If they taste good, it’s all good.  If anyone is disappointed, they can try again in a few days.  Writing it down in the journal may help to find the error.

Kids in the Kitchen can be a blast.  It can be a joy.  It can be a blessing.  Eventually, it can be less work in the kitchen for you.

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