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Monday, December 1, 2008

Cooking with Kids: “Feast Lesson”

Once a week I take my son, who is 5 years old, to do the grocery shopping with me. It’s a lot of fun (but wasn’t always like that). I love to see how his interest and excitement about food grows and grows. This of course, doesn’t mean that he is not a picky eater. But that’s OK; I used to be one too as a child and grew out of it. So parents, don’t despair. But I digress, like I always do.

We went shopping together three days before Thanksgiving. We got all excited by the atmosphere at the store; you know… the decorations, the music, but mostly by the bounty of seasonal vegetables and fruits. Wow. I love winter vegetables! And spring, summer and fall too. For some reason, my little boy was particularly enthusiastic, maybe because of all the food I put in our cart – I did get carried away a bit, ahem hhhm, OK, a lot – and me talking about all the delicious meals we are going to have over the weekend and so he asked me to give him a “feast lesson”. Oh, this child makes my heart want to pop out of my chest sometimes. Makes me want to squeeze him.

Well, he didn’t get a “feast lesson”, but I did let him (or did I make him? I guess it depends on how you look at it) help me make one outrageously delicious cornbread stuffing.

So far I have posted about baking with kids because it’s my husband who usually does the cooking with kids. I used to think it is the proximity to fire and knives that made me choose baking over cooking with my kid. The more I thought about it I came to the conclusion that when I bake I am more relaxed, but when I cook the tyrant, control freak, bossy side of me comes out. This is why I prefer to be in the kitchen alone. I’m not a friendly cook. I need to work on that. When people pay me to cook for them I’m nicer though.

Anyway, this Thanksgiving I wasn’t stressed. We had guests coming over and everyone got a task and a dish to bring that I have delegated to them so I had time to try out the “cooking with your kids” thing.
It was nice.

This is how my son, the lucky little angel, got the short version of a “feast lesson”. I showed him how I want the celery, apples, cornbread, and leftover corn muffins chopped. Then I showed him how to whip heavy whipped cream that I used for the pumpkin pie (see tips in A cake for the weekend: Amazing strawberry shortcake post). I don't let him handle the mixer by himself, of course.

And then we set the table together for the “feast”.

Here are a few “How-to” for making cooking with your kids more fun and safe (but not a complete list):

* Set a “station” where s/he can work, clean and clear from clutter.
* Secure the cutting board to the work surface by placing a plastic mat or wet towel/paper towel so it doesn’t slip.
* My son is using a regular serrated kitchen knife since he was 3 years old, not a plastic knife, but I’ll leave that to your judgment with your own kids.
* Washing hands is the first thing to do.
* Wearing an apron is encouraged but optional, depends on the expected level of mess and spill.

For more tips, see the related posts below:
Baking with kids: Chocolate-banana cookies, recreating the magic

Baking with kids: Chocolate cookies

A cake for the weekend: Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Why should you cook with your kids?

PS - I don’t mean to preach to you or anything like that. But I would like to encourage you to spend time in the kitchen with your kids and teach them cooking and baking skills. I wrote many times before that it wasn’t always easy and fun to cook with my son when he was younger. I constantly plan to post about all the difficulties I/we had when we began two years ago. Now, two years later we are smarter so it looks better in the pictures, but believe me, many cooking sessions have ended before they began a year and two years ago.

I would like you to share here (in the comments section below): Do you cook or bake with your kids? Would you like to do it? Do you have any advice, tip or story to share? I'm no expert and would love to hear from you.


1 comment:

Joie de vivre said...

This looks like my Thanksgiving! I don't trust my 5 year old with knives yet though, I'm amazed at how well yours is doing!