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I picked up Ina Garten’s new cookbook a few days ago and I feel like it’s Christmas. I love sitting down and looking at each of the glossy pages and marking what I’m excited about making. I know I must sound a bit antiquated, but I love cooking and the moments it brings.
For me, cooking slows things down. With a busy household, working, going to school, and running around to our various activities and commitments, sitting around the dinner table is our time to connect, unplug and relax. The yummy smells wafting through the house can bring even the busiest, grouchiest person to the table and there’s nothing like a good meal, even if it’s simple, to literally and figuratively refuel your family.
Sitting down to dinner was mandatory when my kids were growing up. So was doing the dishes. It still is most nights. The time we carved out to sit and talk, to play silly games at the table and just be together are still some of my favorite memories. I look at our kitchen table and get nostalgic. There we’ve shared our days, our hopes, our frustrations and discussed what was going on in the world. It kept dialogue open—while some conversations were longer and more in-depth than others, it was an expectation on everyone’s part that we would hang and talk. After, we’d crank the music and do the dishes. It brought us close. We always knew we had a place to share, to vent, to be heard.
I always enjoyed it when we cooked together. Guiding and watching the kids pull together something for the family and friends was and still is rewarding. The look on their faces when they felt accomplished or eager for us to try something was priceless. When our youngest was 6 she created her famous “poundcake saprize.” I let her loose in our kitchen and she mixed and stirred and cracked eggs and poured it into a pan and baked her concoction which was to be served as dessert to her aunt and uncle and much, much older cousins. Her bravado was infectious. She had no doubt it would be fantastic. We, on the other hand, were skeptical, but game.
While the “saprize” was that it had about a pound of sugar in it that gave us all an immediate buzz, it was actually pretty good! Everyone was quite gracious about her creation and she felt enormous pride that developed into the mindset of “hey, I can do this.”
“My mom told me that if I could read and follow directions I could cook.”
For some the task of cooking is daunting. I’m not sure why it’s something that has come relatively easy for me. Perhaps it’s because my mom told me that if I could read and follow directions I could cook. And perhaps it’s because I started when I was young with very simple kid recipes I could make on my own. I have vivid memories of making pizza on English muffins with cheese, ketchup and oregano. I do know cooking does take time, a bit of patience and a little grace. After all, not everything always turns out and the kitchen can easily become a disaster. These things are especially true if you are including your kids in the process. But, to me, it’s so worth any mess they create.
My two oldest are in their 20’s and out of the house now. I wouldn’t necessarily say cooking is their “thing” as they are busy with school, their careers and all things that come with being in your 20’s, but they certainly know their way around the kitchen and can feed themselves and occasionally others. It gives me peace of mind that they can care for themselves like that. Food plays such a huge role in our overall health and well-being.
I encourage you to start some kitchen traditions of your own, especially when your kids are young. Making food they enjoy, establishing a device-free dinner rule, talking about their favorite things to do, or playing a silly game after dinner creates a fun dynamic. Setting the expectation now while they are eager to engage and talk will help tremendously when they are teenagers and less inclined to want to share their lives. By then it will just seem natural. I’m confident you’ll be glad you did. There’s nothing quite like really knowing your child.
Be kind to yourselves and others.
Until next time,