Sunday, August 7, 2016

Cooking Lessons

Last school year the kids got really interested in watching Master Chef Junior and Man vs. Child.  It really opened their eyes to the fact that they're not too young to cook.

It opened my eyes, too.  I always say that I value independence in my children and that the sign of a good mother is one who works herself out of a job.  But I have never really enjoyed having the kids help me in the kitchen.  I'd rather just do it myself and get it over with rather than deal with the slow pace, frustration, imperfection, and mess that is cooking with kids.  

And yet, the oldest three are now 10, 8, 6, and more capable than I give them credit for.  And they're going to have to learn how to cook sometime if I expect them to grow up to be productive, independent adults!  

My perspective has shifted.  When I thought of cooking with the kids as a way to "have fun and play" with them, I hated it and it was not an enjoyable experience.  But now that I see it as "teaching and raising capable adults,"  I love it!  

And it turns out we really are having fun and "playing" together.  I don't care as much about the mess and am being more hands off and letting them do the measurements themselves even if they mess up a little.  The end goal isn't to have a delicious dish.  Rather, the goal is the teaching of an important skill and seeing the pride in their faces when they can declare, "I made this!"

In talking with friends last school year, a cool monthly subscription service for kids was discovered called Raddish.  One friend ended up ordering it for her kids so I got to see first-hand how cool it was.  Seriously.  Check it out.  It's neat.  

I internally debated back and forth for a long time, trying to decide if I wanted to spend my school budget on it or not.  But then it hit me.  I already have enough cookbooks!  Furthermore, I have a binder full of recipes that our family uses regularly, plus enough knowledge myself on how to execute them.  It would be more beneficial at this time for the kids to learn how to make the recipes they already like to eat.  And so, my plan was born.

The oldest three each have their own binder.  By the time they grow up and leave the house, it will be full of all the recipes they've learned to do.  

In the front they have this table of contents.  When they learn a new recipe, they write down the name of it and then they have three boxes where they write the dates they do it.  They need to do it at least twice with my help/supervision before they get to attempt it completely alone.  

This one belongs to Primus.  As you can see, the first three recipes are just easy, silly little things she found in a kids' "cookbook."  Then she has listed: cake mix cookies, drop biscuits, cornbread, chicken-tastic, baked chicken (seasoned with a McCormick rub), macaroni salad, cheesecake strawberries, and homemade corndogs.  This had all been done between the start of June and mid July.

One thing that is very important to me is that I don't just photocopy the recipes for them.  Before they begin, the kids must copy it out by hand in their binder.  This forces them to get acquainted with the whole recipe before starting.  (Since Tertius is still young and not a good writer yet, I just have him write the name at the top of the page, and then I do the rest for him. But we read the whole thing out loud together.)

I also encourage the kids to rewrite things in a way that makes sense to them.  I personally HATE the way standard recipes are written.  It drives me crazy to look back and forth from the instructions to the ingredient list, especially when it's all written so small and in full paragraphs.  I prefer large letters, liberal line spacing, bullet organization, and ingredients with quantities integrated in the directions.  So I always have to rewrite my recipes if I plan on making it more than once.

So far, it is going wonderfully!  The kids don't ask to make dinner every night, but when they do feel like doing it, they are so proud of themselves!  In fact, last night Secundus wandered into the kitchen and thought she saw me making "Sausage and Apples" (I was actually roasting some red potatoes.)  She got upset and said, "Hey, why didn't you tell me you were making that!  I know how to do Sausage and Apples!  I would have done it!"

Have you started teaching your kids to cook?  What age did you start learning kitchen skills?

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