How to Get Kids Interested in Cooking: Play It Cool, Cats
As the person who oversees food content at this magazine, I sometimes feel like a big ol’ failure when it comes to my kids. I have twin boys just shy of 8 years old, and while they are excellent, adventurous eaters, they are just not into cooking the way other food-minded folks’ kids are. They don’t stir the risotto, wash and spin the lettuce, man the mixer, or skin the chicken—all of which I’ve witnessed kids much younger than them doing, happily. The most my boys will do is crack eggs, the rock-star job of the kitchen, they say. Though I’ll always offer to let them help, I don’t force them. I don’t want to scare off these cats… That’s the way my good friend Tracy describes some people, as cats (aka disinterested beings). See, if you’re like me, and you force yourself onto every cat you meet (come here kitty-witty-schmuggins; I must make you love me), the cat will recoil in horror, eternally turned off by your hunger and desperation. If you just play it cool, though, and let the cat come to you, you have a purring, snuggly friend for life.
So I’m trying to play it cool while stepping up the enticement just a bit. A reader recently shared that when she receives her issue of Cooking Light in the mail, she lets each of her kids choose a couple of recipes for the family to try. I can’t believe I’d never thought of that!! So I gave my boys a copy of the October issue and some sticky notes and told them to mark whatever they were interested in and then narrow down to two recipes each. I couldn’t believe it—they marked about 15 recipes each and had a hard time making final selections. But eventually they did, and here’s what they chose. For Daniel, it came down to Chicken and Dumplings and Candy Corn and M&M’s Chewy Crispy Bars; Connor was all into Beef Daube Provençal and the white beans pictured on page 20, with the tip about getting more flavor into canned beans. With much fanfare, I would announce on the day of someone’s recipe, “Tonight we’ll feast on Connor’s beef daube,” and the boys took great pride in making such good choices. And you know what? There’s a wee bit more interest in the process. Daniel asked to dunk the chicken under the liquid when I was making the stock for Chicken and Dumplings, and Connor asked to plate his own serving of daube. Good kitties.