I remember the first time I stood at the stove, on a step stool. My mom held my hand as she helped me stir scrambled eggs in a little old cast iron skillet. Scrambled eggs were the first thing I learned to make at about 3 years old. From learning this simple breakfast item, I learned that you have to preheat your skillet, or things will seriously stick. I learned to always use butter, or some type of fat, to further prevent sticking, and I learned how to control the heat. I also learned safety – how to cook my eggs without severely burning myself. From there I learned through my childhood how to cook basics like a simple homemade cake, biscuits, bread, cookies, brownies, fried foods, grilled meats and vegetables, rice, roasts meats and much more. I also learned canning and freezing. I did have a home economics class some time back in the day. But I remembered thinking I knew more than the teacher. I even remember roaches being in the classroom, and one even crawling on the teacher, on more than one occasion. Of course, nothing was eaten that was cooked in that room.
Although I learned a lot as a kid from my mom and grandmother, I still felt I knew almost nothing when I suddenly had my own little kitchen at 19. I had lots of failures and flops in the kitchen early on. Most of what I know today was by learning through trial and error in the kitchen. I wanted to try and teach my son differently than I learned. I want him to learn more healthy ways of cooking, along with all the basics I learned. I also want to help foster his creativity in the kitchen, by letting him choose what we make for dinner on some nights, and help choose how to season or make the dish.
I started him off in the kitchen cracking eggs. It’s too much fun for a little toddler, and the cuteness is worth the mess. At three, I started him with the scrambled egg, the same way Mom started me. I taught my son how to scramble eggs carefully, and in the exact same old cast iron skillet that I learned in, and that my mom and grandmother learned in. I also let him stir pots now that he’s almost 4, add ingredients to mixing bowls, and help make salads. He’s very excited to help in the kitchen and be involved.
Now I know my son is fortunate to have me, and I know not all kids have the same opportunities to learn from their parents. For less fortunate kids, it’s being proposed that the home economics class in school be re-introduced and revamped into a type of basic cooking class. It’s thought that teaching simple cooking skills, like how to follow a recipe, how to cook from scratch cheaply and cook in a healthy way will give kids lifelong skills that will greatly improve their quality of life. With the rise of chronic diseases that stem from obesity, I don’t think this is a bad idea. One of the main reasons we gain weight is because we either eat out too much or eat too much processed, pre-prepared foods. Even meals at nicer restaurants, especially chains have tons of hidden fat and calories.
How do you teach your kids to cook? Do you teach them in your kitchen or send them to a cooking class? What age did you start them? Do you think it’s a good idea to add a cooking class into our kid’s public school curriculum? Or do you think our tax dollars could be used in a better way to help fight chronic disease caused by obesity?