My son just made his way into the kitchen. No, not with a chef’s hat and apron ready to mix up a batch of cookies. And, not to help me with those typical kid-in-the-kitchen tasks, such as chopping vegetables, setting the table, or pouring the milk.
No, my soon-to-be-9-year-old just decided that it was time to participate in making meals.
Don’t get me wrong, he has always helped in the kitchen as most kids do – happy to help making the cookies if he can sneak a bit of dough or frosting in the process. He’s also mastered the vegetable cutting, pizza making and potato mashing. As he grew older, Dad taught him how to make basted eggs for the family – each cooked slightly different.
As we make our way through my meal choices week in and week out, he remains adventurous in eating, a wide variety of foods – and lately – a lot of it. (although there are a few meals he doesn’t like – as I’ll reference below). He indulges in my weekly menus, and I find him asking with what I believe to be true interest, what dinner will be.
But I never moved him on to the next level of culinary enjoyment. As a matter of fact, it didn’t even occur to me, that he might like to become more involved in creating our weekly menu, and be interested in creating more exciting meals for the family.
One day, while I was making Spaghetti Carbonara, listening to Grayson complain about how much he doesn’t like that dinner, he asked for a cookbook.
I pointed to huge selection on the shelf and he began his search. He grabbed Simply Organic and started to page through the book. He stopped at lamb burgers topped with caramelized shallots and said, “This looks great. Can I have it for dinner.” After learning that I didn’t have lamb in the house, he took to the refrigerator.
As he opened the fridge, he eyed a big piece of leftover salmon, pulled it out and asked, “Can I have this for dinner?”
I was relieved to see that he would have something substantial for dinner – something more than a bowl of cereal. So I obliged (although I don’t want to set the precedent of allowing the children to have what they want for dinner, rather than what I put on the table.)
But it seemed like such a great opportunity, that I couldn’t stop the momentum. He didn’t stop there. He started searching for something else that he could put on the salmon. Digging through the fridge, he grabbed butter, lemon, some herbs, then spices.
I let him create.
He turned on the oven, placed his butter and spices on top, then set a timer so that he could monitor his progress.
I could see the pride – and excitement – he had as he tended to his meal. It was a light bulb moment for me, or rather, a “Why hasn’t this occurred to me before?” moment.
Yes, it is important to have kids in the kitchen, but it is important to have them participate and be part of the process. Perhaps mine are at a point where I can trust their decisions (i.e. not choose to have boxed macaroni and cheese for dinner every night) and know that the adults will enjoy the choice as well.
Kids in the kitchen have taken on a new meaning for me. Perhaps I should call it, Kids Take an Active Roll in the Kitchen. I hope my other three will follow the same path.