There’s this video about Mother Exchange in India that absolutely drives me bonkers.
In case you don’t want to watch it, the video introduces us to two moms across India whose sons have left home to attend college in the other city. These moms do not know each other, yet they miss their sons and worry about their well-being. Enter Mother Exchange. Thanks to this program, these empty-nester mothers can connect to strangers, learn to cook their food, and deliver home-cooked meals to the strangers’ children. Yes, there’s something beautiful about connecting with moms across the country. But you know how else these sons could get food cooked like their mom makes? By learning how to cook.
I’ve never been one to cut sandwiches into character shapes or create elaborate food scenes to lure my kids to eat (other than pancakes, which sometimes just need to be made into loose interpretations of stick figures or letters of the alphabet). But I’ve set a goal that my boys should know how to cook by the time they get to college. They may choose to subsist on delivery pizza and Subway, but should the need or inclination arise to eat something “like Mom used to make” (or more likely like Grandma; I’m no master chef), I ain’t dropping everything to cook up a batch of whatever strikes their fancy and send it their way! (Unless they invent a food replicator by then, in which case, they won’t exactly need me to cook it, would they?)
So I charge the boys with helping me cook once a week. We’ve bought them food-related items for birthdays (gadgets, cookbooks, etc.) to instill an interest. And sometimes, when the mood is right (or particularly when it’s not), I play games with them.
Guess the Ingredients
One game we often play at home is “Guess the Ingredients.” As we eat, the boys try to guess all the ingredients of whatever we’re eating. At first, I did this with soup, wherein I would cook down a bunch of healthy vegetables into a soup and then blend them together (and season to taste). The game would continue throughout the meal, as they guessed all the ingredients. I would, of course, allow them to “cheat” by helping me cook. And they soon learned to start by guessing olive oil, garlic, and onions right away.
The game works just as well with other dishes, and eventually I figure it’ll help in their ability to cook.
When my kids were much younger and less apt to eat salad, I enlisted one kid’s help in assembling them. For some reason, we’d always have a large assortment of cheeses around, plus a couple of fruits (apple, grape, whatever).
On a cutting board, I would lay out a row of lettuce pieces. Atop each one, I’d pair a different cheese and piece of fruit. The kid would taste each sample, and judge which was best (and should make up the final salad for that evening). I might even extend the number of samples with drops of salad dressing.
Often, by the time dinner rolled around, he wouldn’t want salad with his meal. But since he’d already eaten his portion, I didn’t really mind.
These days, I’ve got one kid who has to be served salad last, or else nobody else will get any.
The rules are pretty self-explanatory, so I’m hesitant to even say anything more than
1) wash the grapes ahead of time
2) don’t play if your lawn has recently been chemically treated
3) if you’re not comfortable with the five-second rule, keep a bowl of water with a splash of vinegar nearby
I guess testing ahead of time that your kid is old enough to catch grapes without choking would also be advisable. Have them toss them up in the air themselves and catch it instead.
Oh yeah, and be sure to keep any dropped grapes away from your dog.
But hey, I just spent a little bit of time outside with my kid, feeding him fruit and enjoying the silliness of it. And then, of course, my other kid wanted to try, too.
Yup, we just made eating fruit more fun than a box of chocolates. So there.
Okay, the image at the top shows cookies that were cut freehand (my son didn’t want to use a cookie cutter, so he shaped cookie dough into letters, shapes, the pi and infinity symbols) and more. They’re not Pinterest-worthy, but who cares? Either way, the cookies were gone by the end of the day. I imagine this skill could be applied to healthier foods, too. But frankly, I love baking cookies with my kids.
Any other fun food games you can suggest? Because I’m always happy to have more at hand.