My Son, the Little Chef

I love to bake. I don’t do it as often as I used to, but when I get the opportunity to bake something, I seize it. On a side note, I hardly ever eat what I bake, just because I am on a diet plan that I am hoping will help me lose my thunder thighs. So I bake, and I give.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Tayse

My son has always been interested in helping me in the kitchen. I have an island where I do all my prep work for cooking/baking, and I set up my KitchenAid mixer there as well (the best birthday present EVER). Ever since my son has been able to walk, he stands on a chair on the other side of the island and watches me bake with millions of questions and always ready to help. I started him out slowly, first just letting him add premeasured ingredients into the bowl, then moving up to turning the machine on and off (this resulted in some catastrophes where he would accidentally turn the mixer to the highest setting and the contents within the bowl would be splattering all over the place and all hell would break lose), and now he is able to actually measure things out for me and add to the bowl as well. And I am now reminded (again) that he is no longer a baby or toddler… he is a little person. He can converse, he hates to see me sad and tries to make me feel better if he knows I am, he comforts his sister when she gets an ouchy, and he sneaks into the freezer for ice cream when I am putting his sister down for a nap.

Anyways, back to cooking. He just turned 4 and I let him use a knife for the first time. It’s a small knife, not too sharp, but just sharp enough to cut a mushroom (the softest safest food I had in my fridge). I was making a mushroom subji (Indian spicy dish) and he was up on his chair saying “Mumma can I help? Can I help? Can I helppppp”. So I finally caved. I handed him the knife and a cutting board and the washed mushrooms and explained how to do it, held his hand the first few times, taught him the basic technique and told him his fingers always need to be far away from the blade. As I watched him cut these mushrooms up I became all teary eyed. He was so good, and so intensely focused on his job. Since that day, he has helped me cut cucumbers, cantaloupe, onions (because I wanted to prove to the insistent little boy that onions will indeed make you cry), and potatoes. He is becoming more consistent on the size of what he is chopping and has ‘his’ knife put aside now. Recently he asked me if he could be by the stove and cook with me, but I obviously didn’t let him. “Not until your 8th birthday”, I replied.

Photo courtesy of craigy_p

Through all of this, I have learned that teaching cooking skills to my son is a MUST if I want him to have a healthy diet when he’s older. The recent commercial for Hellmans Mayonnaise and their “Real Food” movement has left me thinking that he is learning these essential skills so early on in life, and rather than him knowing how to play soccer, or karate, cooking is the best thing I can teach him. He will hopefully retain these skills for the rest of his life. The thing I love the most about this is, I never encouraged him to cook or bake. It was something that he was just drawn to from the get go. I don’t proclaim myself a great cook or baker, I just know basics, but one day when I am old and have a head full of grey hair, maybe my son will create an edible masterpiece for my 70th birthday. And I will be just as proud of him then as I am when he cuts up his mushrooms…