Teaching kids cooking


I remember in college making friends who didn't know how to make a meal, and, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how that was possible. I realize now that the "Oh, I don't cook" statement is a pretty common one. The explanations as to why someone claims they can't cook are mostly obvious.

  • "I've never had enough time to learn or even experiment in the kitchen."
  • "The shopping/cooking/cleaning process takes too much time."
  • "I tried it once or twice and what I ended up with wasn't that tasty."
  • "I don't have the right tools or a well-stocked pantry?"
  • "I suffer from Mageirocophobia." (...more of a niche group).

The reasons go on and on.

However when I dig in with people, I typically find out that there's one large, overwhelming reason why people don't cook.

They were never taught how to cook.

It seems that most of my "non-cooking" friends were kept out of the kitchen as children. Who knows why? Maybe it was because their moms/dads were hustling to get food on the table or they were averse to the mess that cooking inevitably makes. Regardless of why, the tragedy is that now those kids are adults and never got any sort of "how to know when the broccoli is done" on-the-fly lesson while they were moving food out on the table. Putting a meal on the table every night is one thing, but doing it while teaching a six-year-old HOW to make the meal is something else entirely.

Don't get me wrong. I am waaay tempted to make the kitchen a "kid-free" zone. That is how I'm wired. It's just easier to tackle dinner myself than to teach as I go. I would be content doing my own "high-efficiency" cooking without being peppered by questions. Then I remember that someday my kids may get married. That is the moment when I know that I'll start to worry that my future son and/or daughter-in-law will be saddled with kitchen duty because my son/daughter can't cook. That, of course, will lead to resentment in my son/daughter; they'll decide to keep the grandkids far away from such a self-absorbed mother-in-law, and I'll end my years alone, sad, and standing in my kitchen with only my Cuisinart.... or some such thing. OK, maybe that is a bit dramatic. Still, after I step off the "crazy train,"I take a deep breath, bring the kids into the kitchen, and give them a "job."

Lest you think that we are some sort of Junior Culinary Academy here, the kids typically work through a short list of jobs. They love to cut fruit & veggies (yes, with a real knife...eeek), spread icing, measure and mix ingredients (especially into the blender), decorate cakes, work with dough, and even man-up to the sink and do some of the cleaning. Little by little, we're getting there.

For instance, last week I put my son in charge of making the garlic bread. He did great up until the "broil" part of the process in the oven. Even after lots of admonitions to "pay attention to the bread," he got distracted by his ____ (shoelaces? reflection? struggling economy? ... I forget!). The next thing we knew, the bread was on fire and he was in tears. Poor little guy had this look on his face as if he had let us all down. While, in fact, he had charred our garlic bread, it was a great learning experience for him...and a wonderful chance to demonstrate grace on our end.

He wrote about the experience in his little journal:


Hmmm. Was it a good decision to put the seven-year-old in charge of the oven? I think so.

For the cost of a loaf of bread, my son learned about the power of a broiler and the fine art of making perfectly toasted garlic bread. His cooking repertoire may come along slower than I had planned, but he'll get there. Until that happens, we'll keep experimenting, teaching/learning, asking/answering, laughing, tossing out what tastes yucky, and spending lots of good time side-by-side.

At least I can't be accused of raising Mageirocophobiacs.

Say, what do you create or make with your kids?