The family that eats together stays together. We have all heard of that before. But I would like to say “The family that cooks together stays together.” Wondering how to achieve this, when eating together itself is an impossible feat? Well, there are a lot of ways to incorporate cooking into your daily life by making it a family activity.
My family loves to cook – every one of them, including my 10 year old son and 14 year old daughter. They have been cooking since they were 7 or 8 years old. My husband and I love cooking together during weekends and that’s probably how our kids got interested in cooking too. We started involving them as our little helpers, peeling potatoes for aloo parathas, shredding carrots for easy wraps, preparing salad plates with cucumber and tomatoes, etc. We started planning meals that could involve them in helping us, and slowly, the interest set in. Even our favourite family shows are cooking shows. The last season of Master Chef Australia and Junior Master Chef were watched till the grand finale with nail-biting excitement.
Then came the part of allowing them to cook with fire…though I was very scared and skeptical about allowing them anywhere near the gas stove. I started by giving them a big talk on fire safety, gas leak, do’s and don’ts and other precautions. Then I let them work alongside me with watchful eyes supervising them closely. I soon gained confidence that they can handle the stove efficiently, though they are still not allowed to cook anything in my absence. Safety is of utmost importance and we cannot take a chance with that. You have to make sure they strictly adhere to the rules of safety.
Now, what if I tell you, that together, my kids can whip-up a 5 course meal all by themselves; and mind you, it won’t be a simple dal, rice and subzi. It’s got to be German, Italian or Mexican themed, with a salad, 3 main courses and a desert. My daughter can bake a mean chocolate cake, wonderful melt-in-your-mouth donuts and beautiful cupcakes with the passion of a keen baker. From researching for a recipe, watching cooking videos to get the nuances right, my kids do all the planning before embarking on the day’s cooking project. When it comes to cooking, even their ‘Tom and Jerry’ sibling rivalry disappears, and they are like two musketeers who are partners in crime and whose only mission is making that dinner ready, without giving out the secret…
Get your kids involved in cooking only after you have created an interest in them for the same.
– Creating interest is pretty easy…even a picky eater can be persuaded. Pick something they absolutely love, it may be cookies, cakes or chaat items. Then casually engage them in some random conversation while you go about your preparations. (DO NOT at any point let them know what your real aim is….because, then there goes your plan…down the drain).Slowly, turn your conversation to the dish at hand and tap their curiosity. By the time you are done, they’d be hooked. Believe me… interest in cooking cannot be forced.
– Involve them in your regular cooking process as and when they show an interest
– Make cooking a family activity at least once a week.
– Compliment, compliment and compliment….can’t say enough of this. They go a long way in instilling confidence in them and help them take pride in their accomplishments.
– Once they seem confident enough to handle simple tasks, allow them to take on small challenges like making tea and toast for you…It gives them so much happiness when they know they are helping you. So give them that satisfaction
– Let them slowly move on to bigger things as per their interest.
– Last but not the least…If for some reason they don’t take to cooking, DO NOT force or nag. Come back to it later when they seem inclined.
– WARNING: Be prepared for big and small messes, in and around the kitchen. And yes, this is the biggest discouraging factor for moms in allowing their kids to cook. Being an OCD mom myself, I had big trouble adjusting to the mess factor. (Lucky for me, my kids were so persuasive that I had to give in more often than I would have liked). Believe me, I absolutely sympathize with you on that one, but also believe me when I say that the end results are just too good to not make that sacrifice. And this is by and large, the only way to help children learn to appreciate food.