Children Need to be in the Kitchen & at the Table


Today I was the parent helper in Cadence's preK class, which means Tuesday is cooking day. We made homemade granola, which would go on top of the yogurt and fruit. Most often, there are only a handful of kids helping in the process.  However, today it seemed the majority of the class took part in some of the process.  

One poured in the GF oats, while another dumped in unsweetened shredded and unsweetened flaked coconut. I offered samples of the raw sunflower seeds to which some of the girls said they didn't like it. I explained how the seeds will transform in the oven and resemble the toasty taste they are more accustomed to eating.  

We smelled the cinnamon, and they all cheered unanimously of their delight in it. Same to the homemade bourbon vanilla. What they were surprised with is if they tasted them, their tummies would not enjoy it. 

Can I step on my soap box? Okay, thanks!

When we let kids in on the process of cooking meals, the more likely they're going to eat it. Is it a surprise when a child is invited to plan the meal, go to the farmer's market, grow their own veggies in the garden, taste through the stages of the stew--they will actually want more? 

Watching these kids eat what they made with their own hands gave them a sense of accomplishment and ownership, which in return filled me by seeing them eager to partake in the feast. 


Years ago, long before we had kids, Ben and I took a wine tasting class. Prior to this, I never liked wine. I could only describe it as bitter or chalky. Shame on me, especially as I have an especially fine tuned palate discriminating what flavor profiles I am eating. 

After the class, what I discovered was something altogether remarkable. I learned about soils, temperature, grape varietals, food pairings, which transform one batch. I never knew that when you tasted apricots and peaches, it was the soil, temperature, and varietal, which made those flavors come out. I had always thought they added it to the wine. 

You see, when we see the process and work which goes into a dish, we become less closed fisted and willing to eat it. 

Food tells a story if we're willing to listen.

We can invite our children into this storytelling as well. By doing so, we are teaching ourselves and them to see how to be receivers. This world is fraught full with very ungrateful receivers, be it those who are truly ungrateful and those who honestly don't know how to receive a gift. 

When we step into other people's lives and their kitchens, we get front row seats to ask questions and then sit down to sup with them.  We sup with them, because it would be a disgrace not to receive from their hard work with cheerful hearts. We receive, because we are recognizing that this whole preparing and eating thing we do on a daily basis is dependent upon relationship. We cannot divorce ourselves from our dependence on one another. In refusing to do so, we acknowledge the giver and humbling accept the gift in the meal; because, "Wow, you made this just for me, so I could be nourished!"

Secondly, can we invite our kids into the kitchen to do the same? Encourage tasting in between and inquiring why we are adding a teaspoon of dijon mustard to the vinaigrette to emulsify it. Teaching them how to be receivers isn't quite so hard is it? Kids are naturally bent towards being good receivers. Let's not squander it by forgetting to invite them into the kitchen, engaging at the table, and making them participants. 

As Veronica would say, "Mama, can I help with dinner?" "Yes, you can," I tell her. "Because mama, when you help cook dinner you get to be a taster," she says with pride. Yes, we get to taste and see that life is good only if we are willing to step into it.