Right now, I’m in the process of reading Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain. In it, he has a chapter where he postulates that every kid should be taught basic cooking skills and he’s not talking KD or hotdogs. Rather, there is a list of kitchen skills he feels everyone should be able to do, most of which you should be able to accomplish by the time you are 18 and headed out of the nest: chop an onion and generally possess basic knife skills including how to sharpen a knife; grill a steak properly; cook a roast to perfect temperature without a thermometer; roast a chicken perfectly; survey, buy, and prepare in season vegetables (having successfully distinguished raw from ripe from rotten); make the perfect omelette; filet a fish; cook a lobster or a pot of mussels; make a pot of rice.
I couldn’t do any of these things by the time I was 18. I spent a lot of time in my parents’ kitchen, doing homework, or hanging out with my dad while he ate dinner. But I didn’t do more than bake cookies or banana bread until I was 18 and then was only to make variations on pasta primavera when my mother wasn’t home. My mother didn’t believe in shopping for a particular meal. She only had two or three cookbooks that were 20 years old before I was 20. You had to cook what was in the house and there was an overlying threat of “finishing it all” because even if it was a failure or tasted amazing you’d “wasted” food by cooking something different. But my mother didn’t enjoy cooking, she despised grocery shopping, and food was functional.
As a mama, my goal is to guarantee that my girls can do all of the skills Bourdain lists and hopefully more, enthusiastically. I’m fairly certain they will enjoy cooking for more than a means of survival. Already, one or both of R and L will with regularity ask if they can help me in the kitchen – and not just when I’m making chocolate cake. They peel garlic, shred herbs, dip thin slices of aubergine into cornstarch/flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs. They mix masa into tortilla dough and ground meat into hamburger patties. They can, without any prompting pull out all of the ingredients for a basic cake. From the age of two, R would flip through my cookbooks, and list off ingredients she could see in a photo. I would tell her what we had, and she would then tell me what we could make from it. L’s approach is to tell me we need to go grocery shopping to buy the items she needs to make whatever food she happens to be craving. Grocery shopping is a family field trip and can only be improved by the opening of the farmers markets in the spring. R has been known to fake being sick on Friday mornings only to magically recover in time to go buy lunch at the local farmers market. She’s in kindergarten so I let it slide. Mark suggests that given my love of food, I’d let it slide anyway.
When I mentioned the list to my girls, they asked me to read it to them and wanted to know what they could start practicing. So I figure we are already half-way there. Frankly, I can’t wait until they are old enough to pass on some of the more menial prep cook tasks to! For now, they are spending hours pouring over the cooking class schedule from Loblaws and Whole Foods. Personally, I’m thinking I need to just conduct these classes out of my own kitchen for some extra cash. What do you think? Mini goddess cooking classes, my place, this summer?