Sunday, February 14, 2016

Dessert with a side of fun

By Danielle Rehfeld
Photo by Danielle Rehfeld
Maya Moriles, 6, takes a bite from an Oreo cookie before working on the recipe.

One of my favorite things to do is to get into the kitchen and cook with some amazing kids.

It’s exciting and often surprising to see what they discover about food and what you can learn about them from a short interlude in the kitchen.

When I’m one-on-one with four-year-old Carly, she often grabs a stool and pulls it right up to the counter or sink.  Moving from one task to the next, she lets me know as soon as she’s done and requests another job.

Since knife handling isn’t appropriate for her age, I often give her tomatoes and vegetables to wash. What I noticed about Carly is that her organization skills and ability to determine how to be more efficient kick in quick. She’s also a great communicator. For example, I asked her to wash all different kinds of tomatoes. She washed all the large heirloom tomatoes, dried them and lined them by color and size on a sheet tray.

When she got to the cherry tomatoes, she began by washing each tomato and placing the washed ones in a bowl. After rinsing just two, she realized she was wasting time and without hesitation grabbed a nearby strainer, placed the pint of tomatoes in the strainer and washed them all at once. Clever, efficient and organized.

Working with families over the years, you realize kids either like being in the kitchen and cooking or really have no interest at all.  

When they do pitch in for mealtime, chances are they feel more committed to eating what they helped prepare and have a sense of pride in their contribution.

Last weekend, I got to cook with kids in one of my very favorite families, the Moriles. Five awesome kids from Israel come to visit their American family every summer. Each year, we make a special treat together. In past seasons, cooking with all of them at once could sometimes be chaotic. Everyone wanted a job and was eager to get going, but it felt impossible to give each child my undivided attention. Somehow it didn’t feel as meaningful and fun as I’d hoped. 

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