Today's guest post comes from Mary Crimmins native Nashvillian who lives with her husband, Chris of 5 years, and her 2 dogs. Mary is a local food advocate, foodie, sustainability seeker, yogi, cocktail enthusiast and Farmers Market Manager.
As I have often said, “Kids don’t stay kids forever. At some point they grow up and become adults and they need to learn how to cook before they get there.” One of my dear friends Connie, down the street from me has 5 children. As you can imagine, cooking time is often chaotic. Nevertheless, no one is exempt from kitchen duties. She has adopted the Ratatouille movie’s nickname for her kids of “little chef” 1,2,3,4 & 5 “little chefs” to be exact. Each little chef has a job from mixing, stirring, chopping, to sautéing, and of course cleaning. Some have more kitchen interest than others, but all are learning the basics of where good food comes from and how to prepare it. Connie’s family subscribes to a CSA and also supplements ingredients from their local farmers market. She believes that her kids need to be involved in understanding how food moves from the farm to the dinner table. The way she does this is by allowing her kids to have some ownership over the meals. She swears that “it will get them eating things you never thought they would touch.”
Here are some ideas on how to create this: • Visit a farm with your kids – Kids rarely eat unfamiliar vegetables that they see in the fridge. When they get to see how it was grown and even pick some veggies at a farm, they become instantly invested and excited to cook their “own” food. • Have your child plan a meal and cook it from start to finish– Depending on the age, decide how much help they actually need. Offering cookbooks that they can look through, and helping them to determine quantities and a shopping list are helpful, but let them feel in control. I have witnessed this process first hand, and it is so empowering for a child. They immediately take pride in what they are doing (so try not to micro-manage). Kids are very capable in the kitchen, try assisting them as a sous-chef would and only assist them when they absolutely need it or ask for it. • Take them shopping – Include your kids in the shopping process. A Farmers Market is a great place to ask them what looks good for dinner, without fearing they will choose Fruit Loops. Give them $5 to pick out their favorite vegetable or fruit to add to the meal. • Role play – Open up a restaurant in your house for a night. Have your child come up with a menu, little ones can help decorate, and prepare it together. • Let them taste – Interaction in the kitchen is key. Have your children taste the dishes along the way and explain what they think you should add. Ask them if it needs more salt, perhaps a little more butter.
Not only is this an important life skill for your children to learn, it gives you the opportunity to connect and teach. As Connie says, “It’s my responsibility to make sure my boys know how to make more than scrambled eggs and grilled cheese for their wives.” And she is on a mission to make sure they can prepare Boeuf Bourguignon – one step at a time. “It might be crazy, less than perfect, and they might just make something inedible, but the process is worth it. I now have one night a week to enjoy a glass of wine while my children cook for me. I am one proud mama.”