This post is about cooking with kids, I promise, but first, I had to share the backstory. One of you out there, a Glover Gardens follower, told me privately that the blog and I have been an inspiration to him, an impact on his life and how he sees himself. He used the word enlightenment. Wow. Curiosity, lifelong learning and a commitment to sharing what I learn are a big part of why I blog, and its so great to hear that I’ve touched a chord with someone. I feel so validated! It goes full circle, too, because his feedback has inspired my post today.
This particular person told me he has started cooking again with his 7 year old son on weekends, partly because of his Glover Gardens experience, and it reminds me of cooking with—and for—my own family, which is another driver for this blog: getting our family recipes in a shareable format, for the ages.
Cookies are Kid-Friendly
Cooking and eating are communal activities, and shared memories form very easily when food is involved. I’ve never been very good with small children and never babysat, but one thing I’ve done with kids to entertain them if they happened to be on my watch is cook. Cookies are the easiest thing to make with kids, and a perfect choice because they like them and there are edible results fairly quickly.
Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with tons of other goodies (based on ingredients on hand) have always been my go-to. At a family reunion a few years ago, a cousin who’s about ten years younger reminded me that we made cookies together back when our families both lived at the beach in Gilchrist, Texas. I had forgotten that my Cookies with Kids approach started that long ago, and it made me smile. Since then, I’ve been reunited with several other younger folks and they’ve also mentioned the cookie-making. I guess I wasn’t so bad with kids, after all. 😊
These cookies eventually made it into the blog and are now called Glover Gardens Comfort Cookies.
There’s a Chef in My Soup!
Over the years, I made tons of cookies with my son, but we also ventured a little further, helped along by Emeril Lagasse’s cookbooks for kids, one of which is There’s a Chef in My Soup!
There’s a Chef in My Soup! is a wonderful cookbook that Santa brought to my son back in 2004 when he was 7. I love Emeril, and these recipes “for the kid in everyone” are actually quite good, simplified but not dumbed-down versions of kid-friendly cuisine. The instructions are straightforward and easy to follow, with helpful suggestions that go beyond just assembling the ingredients; for instance, in this dish, a reminder that cleaning is an important part of cooking. Yay, Emeril!!!
Mr. Kitten’s Cooking Party
Thomas was excited by the idea of “cooking like a grownup” and assembled a little party of stuffed animals in a watch party on the bar above the stove, setting them up to do some cooking of their own. I had forgotten about this aspect of our cooking adventure until I dredged up the pictures for this post. The one on the left is Mr. Kitten, who had a distinct personality and was the leader of the pack, perhaps an early alter ego for Thomas.
The Best Basic Red Sauce is a Hit
One of the dishes Thomas and I made together from the cookbook was the Best Basic Red Sauce, which we used on spaghetti. He was super-jazzed to be “cooking like a grownup”.
The red sauce was good! You can find it on Emeril’s web site here.
I didn’t know I’d have a cooking blog at the time, darn it, so I didn’t get a picture of the finished product. But it was delicious, and is now a great memory for both Thomas and me. He also references the “Baby Bam Burgers” when we talk about cooking from There’s a Chef in My Soup! I’d like to dredge up those recipes and make them again, together. The cookbook stayed home with me when Thomas went to college in 2016.
The Digital Camera was a Blessing
Another gift that Christmas of 2004 was my first digital camera, given to me by my used-to-be-parents-in-law-now-friends. It was a Kodak EasyShare, and had a little printer with it.
To them I say: thank you, thank you, thank you! It is such a blessing to have these photos of that January 2005 Mom & Kid cooking experience, and all of the 60K+ photos in my digital photo library. I was always a shutterbug, but the digital experience opened up so many more opportunities for me:
- Opportunities to take a lot of bad pictures so I could end up with a few more good ones, with the only extra cost being the time it takes to delete the stinkers.
- Opportunities that arose because I now carried the camera with me everywhere and snapped all kinds of pictures I wouldn’t have previously gotten.
- Opportunities to crop a so-so photo and turn it into a good one.
- Opportunities like the one I’m taking advantage of today: looking back through the online photo album, retrieving a timely story and memory and revisiting the love.
So again, thank you!!!
The Days Are Long, but the Years are Short
I treasure the memories of cooking with Thomas when he was small. I hadn’t heard the truism about parenting small children, “the days are long but the years are short,” until recently, but it’s definitely true. So much is packed into every day when you have little ones, and then, seemingly in a flash, or more apropos, a heartbeat, you’ve done your job, they test their wings and fly, and your nest is empty.
I’d say that I miss those early days, except that these days are great, too; watching my son soar in this current phase of his life is tremendously fulfilling, as you’ll have noticed if you have read any of my posts about his music (click here). He left his toys, stuffed animals and Emeril’s cookbooks for kids behind when left home, but he still has the same sense of theater that prompted the stuffed animal cooking party, and continues to find delight in whimsy.
Ironically, the childhood cooking lessons didn’t “take,” as Thomas pretty much eats out all the time these days. This fits his Musical Millennial / college senior life right now, and I’m ok with that. He has a broad palate and will probably come around to cooking later. Perhaps I’ll prompt this with a visit to him in grad school, wherever he lands, with There’s a Chef in My Soup! in my suitcase. Shhhhh, don’t tell. 😉
And to my follower out there who inspired this blog, have fun cooking with your son, and don’t forget to take pictures! There’s a spot on these pages if you’d like to share the experience. (That goes for the rest of you, too.)