My Son, My Sous Chef


I love to cook. But kitchen time is MY time. I send the kids off to another room to play (or use their electronic devices, if I really want them to stay away), and I enjoy the quiet of just me and my recipes – and sometimes jam out and dance to 80s and 90s tunes while whipping up dinner.

Recently, though, my son expressed interest in participating. He wants to learn to cook. Two things about that:

  • When he was about 4 years old, he told me that when he learned to do laundry (done!) and cook, he’d move out. Of course, I’m not going to turn a 10 year old out onto the street just because he can wash clothes or make a sandwich, but thinking that he wanted to learn makes me a little sad. My baby boy is growing up.
  • Beside the fact that I consider this “my” time (oh, the life of an only parent, when cooking a family meal is considered “my” time!), I’m a really organized and clean person, especially in the kitchen. I’m meticulous about prepping and immediately after using an ingredient, it’s returned to its place. My son is the opposite of organized and clean. It’s also a little scary to let your kid interact with the stove and oven. What if he burns himself?
This is the opposite of non-messy cooking.
This is how a 10-year old boy preps dinner. It’s basically the opposite of the non-messy cooking method that I prefer.

I put off Ethan’s request for a few days (it’s MY time!), but he was persistent. Maybe he was inspired by the young chefs seen on TV or maybe he just really wanted to learn? I decided to let him into my club – as long as he followed my rules.

I turned on the oven to preheat and when I looked back at Ethan standing near the kitchen island, he had an eager look on his face – and a dish towel slung over his left shoulder, just like me.

We started with lasagna, one of his favorite meals. I showed him how to cut an onion, peel and mince garlic, and brown the meat. He mixed spinach into the ricotta and learned to boil noodles. He expertly assembled the lasagna and put it into the oven. Then I had him set the table and wash the dishes.

In the following weeks, he acted as my sous chef for cashew chicken, onion burgers, split pea soup, and chicken enchiladas.

Ethan and "Sir-Mix-A-Lot" (yep, I named my mixer) make chocolate buttercream frosting.
Ethan and “Sir-Mix-A-Lot” (yep, I named my mixer) make chocolate buttercream frosting.

It’s been a delight and a challenge, having Ethan in the kitchen with me. He’s a 10 year old boy, so staying organized and keeping things cleaned up is not natural for him. I’ve had to loosen up my desire to have a neat and tidy work space in the kitchen. I’ve had to overlook messy countertops and a sticky kitchen floor.

But it’s been worth it. Ethan makes a mean grilled cheese all on his own. He’s scrambled eggs for his sister’s breakfast. He’s learned to chop, dice, and julienne vegetables. He’s figuring out how to tweak recipes to favor his palate and how to double (or half) recipes. (Ha! I sneaked MATH into his kitchen adventures! #momwin)

He also has a new-found respect for the dinner-making process. And it’s been nice spending time with him doing an activity I love.

I still enjoy making dinner alone and the quiet peacefulness that I rarely get to experience in my own home, but I also let Ethan help when he wants. I’m considering this “life skills,” and darn if he isn’t going to grow up into  an awesome  man who can cook.

How do you incorporate your kids into dinner prep?



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