My oldest and I were doing some shopping at Target the other day when she noticed a KitchenAid display on the end of one of the aisles. Sitting there, gleaming on the shelf, was a fuchsia-colored stand mixer - her favorite color no less. She looked up at me and said, “Mom, can you buy this for me and save it for when I go to college? I don’t think I will need it ‘til then.”
I suppressed a laugh because she was looking at me so earnestly. But, this was my non-cooking child, the one who shows virtually no interest in spending time in the kitchen. Not to mention the fact, that most college students do not include KitchenAid mixers in their list of needed supplies!
Lately, however, both my girls have wanted to become more involved in meal preparation. I’m not just talking about setting the table, getting drinks, etc. They want to chop, cook, bake and get their hands dirty, literally. Don’t get me wrong, this is great. And, as my oldest pointed out, “I don’t just want to be microwaving my food in college, Mom.”
But, I have found with their enthusiasm comes unabashed bravery. I am forever warning them about cutting or burning themselves. I nearly fainted when my daughter proudly showed me which knife she used to slice an orange – it might as well have been a saber!
So… what to do? How can I teach these budding chefs the tricks of the trade without a trip to the emergency room and still let them feel like they are doing it themselves?
First, I have laid some basic ground rules. No climbing on counters to reach things; use the stool or ask for help! Microwave is okay; oven and stove supervision is required. Paring knives on the bottom row of the knife block are theirs to use. We also had a discussion about how to safely use the garbage disposal.
I am trying to give them kitchen tasks based on their age and stage.
My fifth grader helped me make lasagna for dinner one afternoon before her sister’s piano lesson. She is now starting to stay home for bits of time by herself, so this was a great opportunity for her help out with dinner preparations. We went over how to turn the oven on, etc. so she could get dinner baking while we were gone. I didn’t want her lifting a heavy pan into a hot oven, so I had her put the pan in the oven, close the door and then turn on the oven. This method worked great and she was so proud of herself!
My second grader is learning fractions in school. She reads the recipes out lout and measures ingredients for me. Baking is a great way to put those math skills to work! A basic recipe such as a cereal snack mix is something she can do with very little help; all the way from measuring to stirring in the slow cooker as it bakes. This type of project gives her a sense of independence without me worrying about her getting cut or burned.
(You can use a slow cooker without the lid on to make snack mixes; for newer cookers use the low heat setting. Warning: the aroma is addictive and you may have very little left in the cooker by the time it is done!)
I am so glad my girls are starting to take an interest in learning to cook. With a few deep breaths, some extra patience (from all of us) and some safety sense, this is becoming a fund way to spend time together. Hopefully they will learn their way around the kitchen and enjoy it as much as I do.
I think I see a fuchsia mixer in the future…
Mary Cornforth Cawood is a Fruita mom who is married with two daughters. Read her Tuesdays on Fruita Moms.