Ya’ll know by now that I’m a foodie, and oh how I love feeding my kids good food. Happily, they like to eat! And they have also grown to enjoy the growing, shopping, and farming that results in our simple but splendid table.
For me, raising my kids to be at ease in the kitchen doesn’t come from the current cultural fears about childhood obesity, or because it’s a lifeskill they’ll need, or because I want a break. Nope! You know where it comes from? Joy. For me, this is about sharing the joy of growing and preparing and enjoying good, wonderful, excellent food.
Of course, the first spark of interest in connecting with food comes from kids just watching how their food is made. Mine are always eager to help with cracking eggs, peeling veggies or mixing batter. But even if I’m the one chopping and measuring, they are always welcome to watch. It’s amazing how much they can pick up on just by watching and listening to me talk about what the different ingredients are.
As homeschoolers, my kids are seeing the assembly of three meal per day. The food is often simple, but the kids (being hungry) are right there in the thick of the preparations, full of questions and curiosities.
This leads to explorations of where different foods come from, and how they are grown. We often talk about the histories of different ingredients, when and where in the world they were developed, and how they are used in different cuisines. So there’s the geography, history, and social studies lesson for the day! #winning
To really connect with and enjoy what we eat, we develop the practice of taking pleasure in every step of our food story. Of course I love to eat the food of another cook sometimes. It’s really inspiring to see what others are doing, what flavors they have perfected, what techniques they use. But the vast majority of our relationship with our food is very personal! We are right up there in it, smelling, feeling, listening and seeing. Food preparation is incredibly visceral and sensory experience!
I love that my kids are finding joy in the beauty of food. A wedge of lemon and a sprinkle of chopped herbs make of a lovely plate, and somehow the meal is more meaningful with these final, thoughtful touches. A rainbow of vegetables in a salad is exciting, and why not take a minute to just enjoy the beauty! Perfectly arranged slices of fruit in a tart take it from good to masterpiece.
Would you agree that in this modern culture, were are conditioned to think that taking pleasure in every part of our food preparation is somehow silly or impractical? Isn’t it easy to think that none of the little things matter and that at the end of they day all we should care about is if we are getting nutrients into our bodies?
Well, I do take joy in excellent nutrition (a favorite research topic of mine), but food is so much more than fuel! From the garden planning, to the soil tilling, the seed planting, the gathering of eggs, the milking of goats, and the raising our our meat. So much of our life’s daily work culminates in that moment when we gather at the table and tuck into a meal that is so very tied to who we are.
In the cottage, we have an “eat in” kitchen, with the table right next to our kitchen island. Even though the space is so informal, we eat from beautiful china dishes, light a few candles, use antique silverware, and really give ourselves permission to revel in the full experience of eating good food. And why not?
Raising a family in the farm-to-table lifestyle is a huge commitment, and it isn’t for everyone, I understand that. Still, how much delight there can be in researching recipes, hunting down ingredients, and cooking up that meal “just how we like it”. Even a simple trip to the grocery store with a few interesting meals in mind is so much more exciting that just cruising the freezer isle. We only get to live once and I ain’t gonna spend it waiting for a microwave to beep!
There’s one more reason I love to have my kids in the kitchen, and it may be the most worthy reason of them all. Time spent in the kitchen with my kids is truly quality time.
We talk, we laugh, we taste test. We’re together, all up in each other’s business, joking and snitching and just being a family. THIS is more important than if the food is organic or non-gmo, if we grew it ourselves or got it from a supermarket. Food and friendship somehow go together like peas and carrots. Like thyme and chicken. Like bread and butter.
There will be kids in the cottage kitchen for many years to come, likely with their little hands full of dough and a sloppy pile of eggshells nearby. Yeah, it’s messy, cooking with kids. I don’t care. It’s worth it a hundredfold to pass on to them the joy that seems to be found into every layer of our food story.
Or was that just layers of lasagna? Either way the point is: joy.