Not all kids like leafy green vegetables, but by encouraging our students to help make their lunch of pasta with kale, we got them to eat it, too. Staying involved in making a meal is fun and very beneficial.
This story in The New York Times lists these five advantages to having your kids in the kitchen, and we agree with each one of them:
Children who cook become children who taste, and sometimes eat.
Involving children in the process of cooking — picking out the watermelons and tomatoes and plucking the herbs to add to a tomato and watermelon salad, for example — greatly increases the chance that they’ll actually try the finished dish. And hey, they may discover a new favorite. Or not. But cultivating a welcoming and open-minded approach to food can grow adults who approach life similarly. Arms open and mouth wide to new tastes, cultures and attitudes.
Children who cook say “I can,” not “I can’t.”
Sliding a spoonful of raw chicken or a piece of breaded fish into hot oil (as K J’s children did making ketchup chicken and an outdoor fish fry)? Daunting. Making dinner for six people at age 9 (A 9-Year-Old Makes Pasta With Tomatoes and Mushrooms)? Intimidating. A child who can do those can look at any restaurant dish and say, “I could make that.” That’s an attitude that can carry a child beyond the kitchen.
Cooking is a way to talk about health.
Experts say that the single most important thing you can do for your health is to cook at home. Inviting children into the kitchen and involving them at a very young age fosters a habit that will have lifelong benefits. Also, it gives you an opportunity to discuss with a 3-year-old how fish (like broiled fish with chermoula) can help make you smart (fatty acids), how “eating a rainbow” ensures that you get a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, and how eating plenty of fresh vegetables and drinking lots of water will “keep your poop from hurting when it comes out.”
Cooking is a way to talk about healthy ingredients.
Children who have made ice cream and caramel (like strawberry-rhubarb ice cream with a caramel swirl) know what is supposed to be in ice cream. They know they didn’t add any guar gum. If they’ve made no-knead bread, they’ll know that good bread doesn’t need sugar. When you flip over packages in the grocery store, they’ll understand that you’re looking for things you can’t pronounce, and they’ll join you. (They may, in fact, police your shopping more than you’d like.)
Cooking brings cooks of all ages closer.
For better or worse, you will get to know your children, and they you, more deeply when you cook with them. For better, you will share recipes, techniques and anecdotes that you learned at the elbows of mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers long gone. For worse, you will huff and puff and whine and lose your patience when they accidentally spill heavy cream all over the kitchen table while making mini-shortcakes with berries, but they will love you anyway, teaching you, the one who’s supposed to be the grown-up, about unconditional love and ready forgiveness.