I've always liked to think that Angelina Jolie and I have a few things in common. It wasn’t until I picked up the December issue of Vogue, however, that this was confirmed. In a juicy article about her exotic existence, the busy mom opens up about life with her six kids (and hunky better half, Brad Pitt).
Turns out, AJ and I are both mediocre cooks. In fact, while discussing her domestic (in)abilities, she admitted that her son Pax (who turns 7 this month) is more skilled in the kitchen than she is:
I’m not the best cook. Pax is a better cook than me … Pax likes to cook. But I try to when I can. Any house that we’re in, we all chip in. But the kids are very sweet … so enthusiastic anytime I cook.
Oh Ange, I try, too!
If only my kids were “very sweet” and “enthusiastic” any time I did (which is every night because I won’t let my 6-year-old take over dinner duty). When I offer up a masterpiece, like the homemade butternut squash soup that I labored over recently, more often than not I’m met with negative reactions.
“Gross!” "Too orange!” Or from my 4-year-old: “I think this soup tastes like chicken food. I don’t like it!”
I can only wonder when she tasted chicken food.
Mealtime ennui is a true source of restlessness for me as a mom. Angelina seems pretty proud that she’s “getting better at bacon,” but I’ve got bigger dreams.
Although I suspect that, like Pax, my own 6-year-old might have a natural culinary gift, I’m still haunted by that scene in The Glass Castle where young Jeannette Walls ends up in the hospital for six weeks from burns sustained while cooking hot dogs. Granted, Walls was only 3 when she was playing chef, but I still worry about safety.
On the other hand, I know that my kids are more likely to want to eat a meal that they’ve helped prepare.
So, I asked around and here are some great tips I gathered about co-existing in the kitchen, safely, with kids:
- Let them have a say in decisions. My friend swears that ever since she started involving her first grader in the meal planning (within reason), he's gone from finicky to ravenous.
- Let them use the sifter. Who doesn't love working the sifter! Even if I don't need my flour fine, I think I'll bust it out more often.
- Let them dip green beans into cold water to retain vibrant color. This is a perfectly safe activity that helps kids feel like they've contributed to the meal.
- Have them make vinaigrette. It's like a science experiment, and as long as kids are given the proper quantities of oil and vinegar, they can whisk to their heart's content.
- Have them crack the eggs. This might sound controversial -- and messy -- but my 6-year-old gets so proud when she does this deed that I don't mind a few casualties.
- Let them measure out things like sugar, flour, rice. It's good for the math skills, too!
- Allow them to work the controls of blender or food processor. Under supervision, of course. My wall is currently splattered with oatmeal cookie dough because I looked away.
Once I started thinking with an open mind about what my kids could do to help, I silenced that side of me that often argues the kitchen is too full of dangers. Still, I'm going to keep the kibosh on letting them near things like can openers, cheese graters, and anything on the stove.
How do your kids help in the kitchen?
Image via woodleywonderworks/Flickr