01 May 2011

Kids in the Kitchen

[image by the always amazing TADA's Revolution]

Nope, not that slightly tragic 80s band...I'm talking about your kids, or your brothers kids, or those kids across the road - are they in the kitchen?  Do they cook?  And at what age do you start them off?  And why bother?  I've been thinking about this because the eldest step-son (who just turned 13) has always shown a bit of an interest in cooking, and because I've been thinking about the best ways to get both the step-sons actively involved in the whole meal preparation shamozzle.

Why?  Well, there's the obvious thing about learning a basic life skill and about making a connection between raw produce and what you actually put in your gob, there's the nutrition side to it too.  But cooking is so much more than that - it's about planning and timing and learning to sequence things. There's multitasking and co-ordination and self-sufficiency.  And there's science - how do you thicken a sauce?  Should you cook the onion or the garlic first?  What is the best heat for cooking bacon so it doesn't crisp up? 

I have fond memories of being put in charge of the family meal at an early-ish age (well, they are fond looking back now, I can't actually remember if I loved it at the time or not).  Once a week my sister and I would be responsible for planning and cooking dinner for the four of us.  And looking back I'm so grateful for having been given that chance, because now I have such a solid base to build on - it means I can do my favourite type of cooking which is more about combining flavours than following a recipe.  It means I can take five recipes for the one thing, pick out the bits I think will work best, and just wing it.

And even though getting the kids to take over the kitchen sounds a bit like bliss (a night off from meal planning!), I've come to realise it actual takes a great deal of patience (and a love of chicken, kids love to cook chicken, don't they?).  You have to restrain yourself from cracking the egg, cleaning the mess, correcting the measurements.  Which I'm actually not very good at...but I'm trying to get better!  Step one was to put Sam (step-son number one) in charge of lunch one day during the recent school holidays - he chose to make chicken schnitzel with potato wedges, which was seriously tasty!  Hurrah for chef Sam!  

You can find the recipe we used here (we left the spice off the spicy wedges) - it came from the Australian Women's Weekly Kids in the Kitchen cookbook which I would most definitely recommend if you're looking to get your young-uns in to the kitchen.  Just ignore the fact that in their menu suggestions dad gets lamb cutlets whilst mum gets beetroot dip, and there is no 'dinner for mum's brother's partner, Barry', or 'lunch for step-mum' for that matter...

I meant to take a photo of the finished product, artfully arranged on a serving plate but, well, I was hungry and it was delicious...ooops...


  1. Em, love this blog, the other reason I think it's important for kids to get in to the kitchen at an early age is it helps them think about what they put in their mouth and what goes into the food they eat and the more we do that the healthier we will be. But yes, it does take some level of control not to step in and takeover.

  2. I do try to get my kids in the kitchen but then I have to try so hard not to get all control-freak and correct everything they do! My eldest is 10 and has recently learned to make a cup of tea and he likes to press the buttons on the food processor. Hopefully one day we can work together to make something but he has a tendency to wander off after a few minutes. My younger two (5 and 2) like to watch me cook and know what most ingredients are.

  3. Ms C - control freak? tick! wandering off? oh, big tick! It is trickier than one would think, the whole kids in the kitchen thing!


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