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Growing Up Gourmet: The Kitchen Classroom

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Kitchen Classroom

When the editors of contacted me about writing an article for their fabulous site, I was happy to accept. Perhaps you've heard of Tastybaby's exquisite line of natural, delicious and organic baby food like "Peas on Earth" and "Hip 2 B Pear". Did you also know their website is bursting with tasty and touching articles, too?

At any rate, I thought the most fitting story to share with health-conscious moms who want the very best for their children, would be about turning the family kitchen into a global classroom:

I’ve taught children in lots of fabulous places: three year olds on the ski slopes of Park City, Utah, high schoolers from a working-class suburb of Florence, Italy, hormonal adolescents in a public school classroom. But I founded Kitchen Kid, a Los Angeles-area culinary school for kids, because I think the best place to teach kids is in the heart of every family’s home: the kitchen.

So I’ve composed the top 10 reasons why you should stop cooking for your kids, and start cooking with them.

10. They call it culinary arts for a reason. Cooking is a tasty and tangible way for kids to express their creativity. Children experience success, independence, and increased self esteem when they put dinner on the table, all by themselves! And quite simply, cooking is a fun adventure for all the senses!

9. Kids love the prep work you hate. Washing potatoes? (Fun with water!) Trimming asparagus? (Snap off that 3rd grade aggression!) Chopping herbs? (Meticulous results with craft scissors!)

8. The kitchen is a classroom, and school becomes delicious! Kids hone skills like… Geography – find the Mediterranean Sea when you make hummus; map out the Silk Road when you stir fry. Language – steak frites anyone? Farfalle with prosciutto? Math – cups are in thirds and tablespoons in halves way before fractions are introduced at school. And science. Consider the chemistry of egg whites and whipping cream post electric mixer. Not to mention reading comprehension, sequencing, and one of my favorites, following directions.

7. Healthy snacks and yummy meals have thankfully begun to replace vending machines and drive-thrus. With the help of your tiny chef, roasting chicken and making snack bags won’t seem like such formidable tasks.

6. Kids are empowered to make their own wholesome choices when engaged in honest dialogue about nutrition. Teach them to eat a rainbow of colorful foods each day. They’ll be glad to know sweet potatoes fuel their brains, bananas boost their energy, milk makes them grow strong, and strawberries fight a cold.

5. An appreciation of where food comes from fosters an interest in local, sustainable, and organic ingredients. Long after they forget the nursery rhymes of barnyard animals, kids clamor to track the journey from farm to fork.

4. Your child’s palate will expand well beyond the limited fare of nuggets and buttered pasta. Children are much more likely to eat – and enjoy – foods which they had a hand in creating. In countless Kitchen Kid culinary classes, I’ve seen picky eaters chow down happily on foods they previously feared. Vegetables, fish, and funny textures included.

3. Dinnertime becomes family time once again. Kids and parents who cook together dine together. Norman Rockwell rests in peace.

2. You might just score a really delicious breakfast in bed this Mother’s Day.

1. Watching five year olds mix, mash, and measure is pretty entertaining! As one toque-touting tot-chef explained to me during cooking class, “I love to be shoe-chef!”

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