We cook a lot. We meal plan for the week, grocery shop once a week, and every evening we sit down and have dinner together. Katja has always been involved to some extent, even if it was just watching from her high chair and getting to taste interesting bits of food. Lately, though, she’s gotten old enough that she can actually help in the kitchen, which is very exciting.
We have cookbooks aimed specifically for children. Her favorite at the moment is Gastrokid. It has colorful, appetizing pictures and she can help with most of the recipes. Right now, on Sunday nights she helps me cook and on Mondays she helps Xander cook, so she gets to pick recipes for those two nights.
Last night we made sausage with white beans and sage. We got sausage from the farmer’s market, since we knew they were good and Katja likes them. The sausage got cooked over medium heat until it was done. We added a little olive oil, then the garlic went in for a minute, then the beans and sage got stirred until they were warmed up. The sausage had cooled off by this point, so everything was ready. We added cooked greens for the adult plates, but Katja skipped those. She doesn’t like them at all. She tries them every time we have them and so far has not been a fan. As long as she tries them, we aren’t going to force the discussion.
Tonight she and Xander will be making green beans, cherry tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese. This will be served with egg noodles, which were cooked this morning. She’ll be able to help cut the cherry tomatoes in half (she’s pretty careful with a knife, though we watch closely) and help cook the vegetables. She’s much more willing to try new foods if she has had a hand in making them.
It doesn’t always work, of course. The hard and fast rules in the kitchen are that she has to follow directions and that she can’t just touch things without checking with an adult first. If she can’t follow the rules, she can’t help. She’s getting a lot better about following those two rules because she really enjoys helping in the kitchen; it’s fun, it’s interesting, and whoever didn’t cook that night always thanks the cook(s) for the food, which helps her understand that she did something important.
I like having her involved in kitchen work. I learned to cook fairly early on and it has always been something I enjoy. She’s learning to follow recipes but she’s also learning to play. We’ll ask which herbs or spices she wants to put in, for instance, and she’ll smell the choices and pick something. Sometimes it works. Once in a while it doesn’t. That’s okay; it’s a learning experience. I will eventually get a picture of her in the kitchen, but I’m usually busy trying to make sure she’s doing what she’s supposed to rather than adding a little bit of something interesting to see what happens!