Saturday, August 22, 2009

Teach a kid to cook and feed him for a lifetime.

"Look Mom, I can cook"Image by ScrapStampSew via Flickr

I cook with my children every day. There are lots of reasons I think it is important but the main one is: Cook for a kid and feed him for one meal. Teach a kid to cook and feed him for a lifetime. You see what I did there? 8^) Yes, the kids also go to the grocery store with me and help me look up recipes and experiment with new spices. They really enjoy it. Really. You can ask them.

If you've read any of this blog you know that we are not healthy. We have been searching for answers for our health problems for many years with no luck. We recently swore off all packaged foods and starting cooking everything from scratch. You wouldn't think that would be controversial, but it sure was. My family is actually angry at me and currently not speaking to me. You may think my family is a bunch of kooks, but they are just normal people. I'm sure you're thinking that I must have been demanding or condemning or nagging about it. I actually went out of my way to make sure our new way of life would not inconvenience them by preparing our food and bringing it with us. I offered it to any who wanted to try it but didn't force it on anyone. Nothing worked.

Now, something you must realize is that our health has greatly improved since implementing this new way of life. We have lost over 30 pounds each in 6 months and my daughter and I no longer have asthma. It is glaringly obvious to anyone who sees us that our health has improved. So why does it bother my family so much? I don't think they want us to stay unhealthy. I'm pretty sure they love us, so I am stumped.

My family is not alone in thinking this way. Every time the subject comes up people look at us with horror. I have actually had someone say to my kid, "Poor thing, you don't get to eat ice cream?" First of all, what kind of moron thinks no one ever ate ice cream until it showed up in the freezer section of the grocery store?! AND, do people really think propylene glycol is a necessary ingredient in real ice cream, therefore we can't possibly make it? We have ice cream in the freezer all the time. OK, so sometimes we get lazy and go two or three days before making another batch.

For some reason, it is assumed that we don't eat tasty or fun food because we don't buy it already made. Or, they think I don't just deprive my kids but starve them as well. We eat macaroni and cheese (my son makes a killer bechamel sauce) , ice cream, waffles, hamburgers, french fries, burritos and tacos (my daughter is merciless with the chipotle but it is oh-so-good), pizza, pasta, bacon, etc. as much as we want. I don't restrict the amount of food that we eat at all. I guess I do deprive them though because they don't get to eat velveeta, fruit roll-ups, twizzlers, nabs, Cheetos or bubble gum. Of course, those items are marvels of modern science and not actually food so we don't miss them.

All in all, it has helped our health tremendously. We actually enjoy each other's company and learn something new every day. Cooking is so complicated when you think about it since it involves proper food handling and safety, selection of ingredients, differences of cooking methods, proper utensil selection, timing, selecting the right seasonings, and storage options for leftovers. It seems to me that cooking logically requires an apprenticeship rather than simple lessons. I feel like I am giving them the gift of a lifetime by teaching them to feed themselves well. Really, it is just a touch above child abuse to send your kids out their own unarmed with the most basic skills. What skill could be more fundamental than cooking?

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  1. You're doing your kids a huge service! I was just thinking the other day about all the knowledge that our grandparents just ~have~, because they grew up with it, is lost to many of us today because we didn't grow up with vegetable gardens, chickens, canning, fermenting, etc., etc.--and more and more, real cooking! Modern convenience has been taking these things out of our lives.

    My son (he's 16) likes to cook. I don't think it gets encouraged that much at his dad and stepmom's (he spends the school year there and comes here for vacations), but I have him help out with things here. I need to step it up a notch, though--I think I'm still giving him tasks I'd give a 12-year-old (except for when he smoked ribs last summer--he was in charge of that whole project himself).

    I'm hoping to get a garden going this year--or, rather, I'm hoping that the garden that I plan to get going actually produces food. :) I think he'll enjoy being a part of bringing food from dirt to dinner plate.

  2. Ooh, wouldn't it be great to let him request certain things to grow or maybe grow some unusual herb for him to experiment with? I was thinking of growing mint and trying to make corn-free peppermint extract. Teabags are corny, too, so I thought of growing mint for peppermint tea. I will never be able to afford all the heirloom seeds for the variety that I want to grow. I want to grow flowers in my garden to help attract bees, too. (I am getting a beehive)

    My son just learned the wonders of ketchup through his discovery of apple cider vinegar. We came up with a quick ketchup recipe that is pretty tasty the other night. It uses canned tomato paste (which I hate - BPA), but only because I can't find any decent tomatoes until farmers market.

  3. Haha. Every time I prepare dinner I find myself thinking, "I should grow this."

    There has to be an online group where people trade heirloom seeds with each other--that might make increasing your variety more affordable. I haven't even started looking at seeds yet. I have to get on top of that soon. I'm going to be trying the square foot garden method. I built three 4x4 frames in the fall. The next step is getting the soil mixture components, mixing them together, and putting it in the frames. It sounds like work. :) (Actually, the ~next~ step is to finish reading the Square Foot Gardening book so I know what I'm doing haha.)

    I have to put ketchup on the list of things to make when my son gets here this summer. He likes it on everything, and I've thrown out the bottled stuff, so I think he'll be very gung-ho about getting some made. :)

  4. I have that book from the library right now. I love the Eliot Coleman book down at the bottom of the page, too. If the rain we are getting this winter is any indication, I will have to have raised beds to grow anything besides rice or cranberries. :(

  5. I know it! I was just out with the dogs thinking I should start wearing shorts when I take them out so my pantlegs stop getting soaked.

  6. What a happy story! I really like the acknowledgement that you are giving your kids an extremely valuable "apprenticeship". Other people just don't know any better sometimes.

  7. My first roommate in college was clueless about grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, and paying bills and I always thought it was criminal sending her out in the world so unprepared. While she lived at home her mom did everything for her thinking she was pampering her, but I saw how she struggled (and how much I had to teach her). I am also active in corn allergy groups online and it is heartbreaking when someone finds out they are allergic and all they know how to cook is ramen noodles. I think feeding oneself is really the most basic skill requirement for life, isn't it?

  8. How educational for your children! They are lucky because they will always remember these experiences, like I remember cooking with my grandma. Now I always have her food as reference for healthy eating, and your kids will have the taste of good food printed on their brains too!

    It won't serve as a consolation but I'm not on speaking terms with my family either. I keep being told I don't cook, eat, or behave like normal people, I have food manias, I should buy my food at normal stores (outdoor-raised chickens might have pathogens), and I need to focus on avoiding gluten and forget about organic, farm food, local food, etc. Ah! You'll like this one: gluten free bread made with corn, xanthan gum, etc etc is so healthy and delicious! ;)

  9. I worry that home-cooking is to become a dying art. The gluten-free products on the market now are chock full of horrible additives - even worse than the average additive-laden foods. It seems like everyone wants a quick fix and resent us because we refuse to go down that path. I have always been for freedom of choice in all matters so I don't understand the compulsion to force others to conform. While I believe everyone should be armed with the knowledge to make an informed decision, I would never try to force my food choices on anyone else. All I ever wanted was the same consideration from my friends and family.