I love to cook, have for years. I’d choose cooking over eating at a restaurant almost all of the time, and would cook (and shop, and grow vegetables) every day if there was nothing else getting in the way (i.e. work, laundry, the need to catch up on past episodes of Friday Night Lights!). But I live in the real world and that means there are nights I am too busy to cook. Gary gets it; sometimes we order in, sometimes we just scrounge among the leftovers. Sara on the other hand, is too young to grasp this concept. So she comes bounding in every afternoon telling me she wants to cook with me. Insisting on it, actually.
This is great if it is one of the nights I am indeed cooking for her. We’ve tried really hard to instill a love of cooking in her, and it is definitely working. She loves her play kitchen and enjoys cooking classes when we take her, but most of all, she likes to help us cook. Every Sunday we make eggs, and she is the designated whisker. She destems mushrooms, breaks asparagus, and tears lettuce and kale. She brushes olive oil or marinades on anything and loves to work the food processor (with adult supervision, of course). She even has her own mini, functional blender. When we used to ask who she was in the kitchen, her response was “sous chef,” but recently she promoted herself to chef. All in all we’ve created a monster – a cooking monster.
I have no complaints at all about this …. except for those nights when all I am planning to do is reheat something from the night before, or throw some chicken fingers in the oven. Saying to a nearly three year old there is nothing to “cook” just doesn’t cut it. Not only do I worry (too much I’m sure) that this will squelch her budding interest in all things culinary, but I also feel doubly guilty that I am giving her nuggets or leftovers and not something fresh (I know, we all do it and there is NOTHING wrong with it, but I still feel guilty).
Sometimes, even though I won’t be cooking for her, I will be cooking for Gary and I so there will be some tasks she can help with for that meal, but sometimes there is just nothing child friendly for her to do. And her having a meltdown because THERE IS NOTHING TO COOK seems well, seems ridiculous.
Last night I brought her home a cooking with kids cookbook, and of course, she started flipping right through wanting to cook. This process is especially interesting when the chef can barely identify all the letters of the alphabet let alone read the names, descriptions or instructions. It took her all of five minutes to point to the popsicle recipe. Luckily I had the ingredients on hand, and it was only a fifteen minute, no cooking involved endeavor. But what happens when she looks the next time and points to tortellini or chinese chicken salad?
So I am trying to come up with some evergreen recipes/projects/tasks. Things that I can whip out at the drop of a hat, knowing I have the proper ingredients AND the time to make them before her “real,” reheated/chicken nugget/frozen pizza dinner is ready to eat.
Please, anyone with suggestions, send them along. Now that we’ve created this cooking monster, we’ve got to continue to “feed the beast!”