A 4-year-old in the kitchen
Ever since M was around 3 years old, he has been a very picky eater. Funny thing is, before that point, I used to brag about how many foods he would eat with relish. Starting with avocado, M would plow through servings of broccoli, kale, and spinach with the kind of energy most kids only direct towards cake icing. It all changed around age 3, for no reason that I can peg. So when he saw all the colorful veggies that I brought home from the farm the other day, I was pretty excited when he declared that he would be cooking dinner that night.
The conversation went something like this:
M: Trish (he no longer calls me mom, for some reason), I’m going to make dinner tonight.
Me: Well, OK. I have a recipe in mind. Want to help me cook it?
M: No! I am going to cook. You can help me! And I want to use exactly the vegetables I want to use!
Me: Well…OK. Why don’t we pick out some of the veggies from the fridge that you want and put them on the counter.
Here is how he looks while he gets that chef-energy going:
Some might be fearful of that kind of energy in the kitchen. He does kind of make Emeril look tame. Oh – he also cooks with no clothes on.
But once he sees all the veggies layed out and starts thinking of his project, he composes himself. After all, he is a serious artist.
Knowing how I like to blog about his cooking, M came up with a few rules this time. First, he refused to title his concoction. I suspect that maybe he realized that giving it a title influences his creativity. He also told me that I was not allowed to disclose the ingredients. All I could get him to agree to was allowing me to include a picture of the ingredients. You’ll have to figure out what everything is on your own. I will say that every ingredient in the dish, except for the oil and salt, came from our local farm (Bialas Farms) or my own herb garden.
Since I did want to have some small degree of influence over the meal, and because I wanted it to be edible, I explained to M the concept of the Sous Chef. Even though the final decisions were left to M, I was hoping that as Sous Chef, he would see me as a helpful confidant and valued assistant. So we worked together.
M is pretty good at chopping veggies. And he uses sharp knives. I remember reading something a while back, in some sort of Montessori book, that you shouldn’t give children play-tools that don’t really work. It only frustrates them, and doesn’t really teach them anything. When we first began cooking together, I made the mistake of giving M butter knives to cut veggies with. The result, just as the book said, was frustration. It requires too much force and strength to cut vegetables with a butter knife. As soon as I gave M a sharp knife, and some lessons on keeping your fingers out of the way, he took a lot of joy in cooking with me. At the same time I learned that lesson, I suddenly remembered this video I saw in an anthropology course in college. It was a video on the Inuit people, and it showed an Inuit parent allowing their 2-3 year-old child to use an incredibly sharp knife used for cutting whale fat. At first all the students in our class were horrified by the sight. But then we learned that kids are more capable than our culture sometimes tell us they are. I have a feeling that some day M will cut himself while we are cooking. I’m not looking forward to it, for sure. But I’m not letting myself become obsessed with worry either. I’m hoping that the joy he gets from really cooking will outweigh any of the pain he may get from cuts and burns.
Here is the finished product:
The amazing thing about this experience is that Arp and I totally enjoyed the meal. Even totally ignoring the fact that my son cooked it, it was delicious! And almost all of it came from less than 30 miles from my house, minimizing the use of fossil fuels. Life is good.