I grew up loving food, with a mom who made everything from scratch. I remember going to friend’s houses and salivating over their store-bought mac and cheese because I had never had any. I believe I was an adult before such a thing ever touched my lips. Fall meant the scent of homemade bread baking and beef vegetable soup teasing me when I was out at the woodpile helping my dad stack wood. Apple sauce, apple pies (crusts from scratch made using lard, thankyouverymuch), big pots of chili, and waking up on Thanksgiving morning to the scent of celery and onions cooking down in the big cast iron skillet for my mom’s stuffing/dressing/filling. Summertime was the garden, snipping beans, weeding, husking corn, and the constant heat from mom’s pressure cooker as she canned all of the things. Our house was cozy and we had no air conditioning, so it got pretty toasty!
Because all of this was so accessible to me, because I stood and watched my mom do so much of this, the kitchen was never a scary place. As an adult, this means I love cooking and even baking to a degree. I like trying new things because I understand what I am doing. While some of these skills were learned by watching, others I learned by simply trying. My mom didn’t mind our watching her, but she didn’t often have us help her. I remember getting shooed out of the kitchen more than once for trying to season the ground beef we were browning for spaghetti sauce. As a mom now, I get it!
Something I’ve been intentional about with our girls is allowing them to be with me in the kitchen, a chair pulled up whenever they want to, and giving them a task. This means measuring the spices and dumping them in, or showing them what a teaspoon looks like if I just dump it in the palm of my hand. They will often make the roux for me when I’m making a sauce, bread the chicken tenders, stir in the ingredients I’ve chopped, etc… Baking is something I don’t love as much, so pretty much the only way I bake is if I’m doing it for the kids to learn. I have even begun purchasing inexpensive boxed mixes at a local discount store so that they can have something to bake whenever they want to. For example, this weekend, the girls each chose something from the pantry they could bake. From 11 years old to 4 years old, they each did their own thing. Our littlest cracks a great egg! I’m training them to take over the baking so I don’t have to.
Our oldest has made dinner for the family already-hamburg BBQ, homemade mac and cheese, and dessert. She regularly makes smoothies and is the one who keeps our freezer stocked with chocolate chip pancakes for busy school mornings. She is responsible for cleaning up the kitchen when she is done, and if she doesn’t she can’t use it next time she asks.
It’s taken a lot of letting go for me-realizing that flour will be all over, the stove will be a mess, or things might not always turn out the way we want them too. I feel like all of parenting is a lesson in letting things go, so it’s good training for me, too!
Does letting your kids help you the kitchen strike fear into your heart? If it doesn’t, what are your favorite things to make with your kiddos? Do you have fantastic food memories you want to pass on to your own littles? What are some tips you have for other parents who want to try this? Funniest failures?