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Friday, 10 May 2013

Kids in the kitchen (Τα παιδιά μαγειρεύουν)

I didn't expect to have to stop preparing meals for my kids at this early stage. I still cook the more elaborate slow-food meals for the whole household, but I don't have to prepare kids' sandwiches, lunches or snacks. They are doing this on their own. That's freed up some time for me, and I really appreciate that; it's also a sign that they are growing up very fast and in a few years, I won't be seeing them every day. But I can see that they even enjoy the preparation and cooking process. I think they see the therapeutic value in cooking; it also stops them from getting too bored, which did happen during the recent Easter holidays. It's just too bad that there are very few events organised for kids during school holidays when their parents are at work.

On a recent trip to the supermarket, while we were buying calamari, my son saw the fish fingers and asked if we could buy some to try. I told him that I didn't mind buying them as long as he cooked them himself.

They know that they won't find any ready food in the house, unless it's leftovers, which they don't always want to eat. Fair enough, I say: "as long as you know where the food is kept and you can create your own meals out of what we have in the house, you can eat anything you want." But 'anything' doesn't include crisps, chocolates and soft drinks, which are always consumed as a rule in company, shared among the family or with friends. (Having said that, I found a bottle of soda the other day on the balcony of the children's bedroom, along with a few chocolate wrappers under the sofa - I wonder how they got there, and how long they had been there.) Other than that, I let them eat anything as long as they can prepare it on their own.
Plating is an essential part of my kids' cooking. My son asked me if it was a good idea to place the fish fingers on the bread. I told him it was really quite OK, as I had seen it done before; it reminded me of a McDonalds fish burger.

They sometimes make toasted sandwiches, but they get bored of those too. I can see a more adventurous culinary flair building up. Unwittingly, I have taught them to cook without recipes: "Be resourceful; open cupboards and refrigerators; if you can't find exactly what you want, use a substitute that you did find; try to imagine where I'd look if I wanted to find an ingredient in the house." ("And if you really can't find what you want, then call me.")

I love the way my daughter prepares her favorite meal: she always prefers fresh ingredients.

It's difficult to work out where independence starts; I tend to think of it as a matter of food, money and personal safety. I like to think that we are tackling the first one at the moment. It's still a worry to allow children as young as 11 and 12 to use knives and heating apparatus in the kitchen, but when they are on their own, it can't be helped. As a parent, you will always worry about what your kids are up to when you aren't at home; but one day, they won't be at home anyway, and you won't be able to check up on them. Just as long as you warn them about the dangers, they need to be independent as soon as the time is right for them.

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