I have three sons. My mother always warned me that I am training The Husbands of the Future, but I don’t want to saddle them (or myself) with that much responsibility, so I will settle for training them to fend for themselves for when they live alone and no longer have access to the services provided at Hôtel Maman.
On top of being a mother, I am also a teacher. Year after year, we teachers are astounded to see that the vast majority of 11-year-olds who arrive in secondary school in September are positively incapable of doing anything by themselves, yet as parents we tend to supervise every minute detail of their actions that it is no wonder they can’t lift a finger without either instructions or validation by an adult. This has got to stop.
Cleaning up spilt milk is a pain, I agree, but if a kid never feels the weight shift inside a bottle of milk as he pours himself a glass of the good stuff, he will never acquire the skill needed to pour liquid without making a mess. If you never let a child peel a carrot because you’re worried he might cut himself, he will also never acquire the skill to peel carrots safely and quickly. (My middle son once cut himself peeling potatoes and vowed never to peel potatoes again. I told him that if he stuck to that resolution, he would be forever reduced to a life without home-made chips. He has come round since.)
While I do not recommend making your five-year-old iron your silk blouses, there are many things in the kitchen that are safe enough for a pre-teen and a teenager to handle if they respect the basic safety rules, the first of which in my house being “Don’t fight with your brother while chopping onions”. “Don’t fight with your brother while there’s a pot of water on the boil” is a close second.
My two older sons will be 14 and 12 this year. It’s time they learn to follow a recipe by themselves. So far, they have mainly helped by peeling this or mixing that, but starting now, they will be learning to cook a meal from A to Z.
I have my family cook book, of course, but although I know it inside out, the recipes are not in any logical order and are written in English, German and French. So, I have decided to make a new folder for them; one that will grow with every new dish they learn to cook. I will get them to write out the recipe as I explain it to them and then we’ll type it up neatly on the computer, keeping the same format for all.
In the beginning, I will do the shopping and make sure they have all the ingredients ready to go before starting: peeled, chopped and all. Like on a TV cooking show: “Here’s one I made earlier...”
Step 2 (and beyond) will progressively see the prep reduced to nothing.
Step 3: I will involve them more and more in the planning/buying stage. I don’t want them to have to make too many decisions at first. Once using the frying pan is no big deal anymore, I’ll ask them what they feel like cooking.
(For those who are wondering: no, there won’t be any pop quizzes.)
The idea is that I can call them from work, tell them to cook dinner and come home to a house fragrant with rosemary and thyme, and simply hang up my coat, wash my hands, and sit down to a lovely meal as someone puts a glass of red wine into my hand.
Ah, ah, ah, ah…! (Excuse me while I wipe away a tear of mirth.)
Anyone else want to join in?