Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cooking With Carmen

My 9 year old, Carmen, has recently started asking to learn how to cook. That's what I was waiting for. We decided to start with some recipes in Mollie Katzen's "Honest Pretzels" cookbook and so far, we have baked banana bread twice and "not-from-a-box" macaroni and cheese for dinner last week.

She was especially excited to actually make dinner. She loves my macaroni and cheese recipe (made with Velveeta) but this recipe calls for sharp cheddar. I hate Velveeta and was glad to use another kind of cheese and we added some white cheddar as well for extra flavor. We also used mini penne mixed with mini wheels, instead of (boring) elbow macaroni noodles. My kids have never eaten macaroni "from a box", and the male family members aren't really mac & cheese fans but they ate it and I made sure they thanked Carmen for making dinner. Carmen and I thought it was yummy. She was so proud and I was equally proud of her.

The banana bread recipe uses yogurt (this cookbook is mostly vegetarian and health-conscious) and just 1/2 cup of butter. It was very good the first time we made it and, tonight, we added walnuts for variety. We'll find out tomorrow morning if we like it with nuts.

What I love about working with Carmen in the kitchen is that she has no fear of trying to do something. She'll just go ahead and do it or ask if she can try something once. Like when I was chopping the walnuts, she asked if she could try cutting one. I handed her the knife and she made just one cut, but that was enough for her to see if she could do it. She has no hang-ups (yet, like her mother) and is eager to learn. I love it.

It takes longer to do everything but it is so worth it. Instead of her just helping, I make it truly a teaching time. I make sure she is doing most of the work. I try to explain everything we are doing and why we are doing it. She asks a million questions. Well, she does that all day long anyway, why should cooking be any different? Sometimes, she stops talking long enough to actually hear my answer. We need to work on her listening skills!

This is all foreign territory for me. My mother taught me absolutely nothing about cooking so I learned what I know by experience (or out of hunger), lots and lots of reading and, mostly, from my husband. I still rely on him for quite a bit. Mostly for things I know really matter to him, like when his steak is done. So I understand how important it is for kids to become confident in the kitchen early on. I want them to be able to learn and teach themselves new things, to be able to take care of themselves well and to have fun. I have so many hang ups in the kitchen that I lack confidence. But I find that when I'm teaching Carmen, I don't feel that way. It's either a good act or perhaps, at 47, I do know my way around the kitchen (don't laugh, Todd!)


Cate said...

How exciting for you Kate! And even better when she starts making regular meals hehe.

I make banana bread with walnuts all the time now - L is the only one who really eats bananas, which always means that there are one or two in the bunch going black before he's gotten to them. Banana & choc chip muffins are nice too.

jugglingpaynes said...

The banana bread recipe in Honest Pretzels is Marina's favorite too. :o) I'm so glad Carmen is enjoying herself! I'm actually surprised when parents don't teach their kids this skill. Of course, I'm guilty of not teaching them earlier to do the wash. I guess I feel my food is safer with them than my clothes! ;o)

They could all make scrambled eggs by the time they were seven. My son has made pancakes (from scratch)since he was ten. They also taught themselves to make crepes and the Pancake Puff from Honest Pretzels. They recommend it but say it's hard to keep the puff in it. They are still experimenting with it. :o)

Have a nice Memorial Day Weekend!
Peace and Laughter,