New Beginnings and Old Memories

Good evening, friends and neighbors!

As promised, I dropped something new last Wednesday- the launch of The Black Hat Baker!

How it works is simple: if you have always wanted to learn to bake, and never had the time or availability, I will show up at your house- with ingredients, tools, and recipes in hand- teach you how to bake something, and then clean up and leave.
No enrolling in a cooking school.
No busting your butt to get to classes, or having classes you look forward to cancelled for lack of interest.

Imagine being in the audience of a cooking show, but not only being right up front and getting to taste everything, but being brought into the kitchen, getting your hands dirty, and having the chef stand next to you and show you how to do EVERYTHING. From separating eggs, to making merengue, to the best technique for rolling out dough.

That’s what I intend to bring to peoples homes- the culinary education they need and wished they had, in their own kitchen and at a pace and manner so they can learn.
So, if you know someone in the Portland metro area and want to get them something fun to do for an evening, check out the website!
All the preparation for launching the Black Hat Baker got me to thinking about the ways I first learned to cook and bake. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a family that cooked a lot when they were young, but I was. I’ve written a lot previously about how important it is for children to learn about nutrition and how to cook and feed themselves well… but where can that start, and who should start it?

Well, the parents of course! You!

When I was very young, I would spend a lot of time with my mother and sister in the kitchen. Since I wouldn’t leave them alone, they put me to work- and in making me work, I started to learn. My mother would sit me up on top of the counter to fold hamantaschen cookies for Purim. My sister would have me crack eggs when she made cookies, and (of course) I got dish duty and table setting chores.

Here’s some ideas for how to bring your child into the kitchen, and start them on a life-long love of (and appreciation for!) food and cooking!

Cooking With Little Kids (Ages 3- 8)

When you have a young child, the first thing to do is introduce them to the kitchen! They know that it’s  where the food comes from, but show them everything! Teach them the names of things, and what they should and shouldn’t touch without you around.
Activities in the kitchen for a small child obviously shouldn’t involve fire and sharp things, but there’s still plenty of stuff you can do!

  • Washing/tasting produce
    Teach your kids about what good fresh veggies taste like! Wash the vegetables with them, and have them taste their favorites. Ask them why veggies need to be washed, and what they want done with them.
  • Measuring
    Pick a simple recipe, and have your child measure things for you! Show them the difference between liquid and dry measures, and how much each one holds. Grade school-age children may even be able to do some simple mathematics with this!
  • Go to a farm
    If you live near a pick-your-own farm, take them out there! Show them where their favorite fruits and veggies come from, and have them pick some for later. If kids feel involved with the finding and making of different foods- even if they’re vegetables- they will be more likely to eat and enjoy them!
  • “No-Cook” Recipes
    Pick out some snack recipes with your kids that they can do themselves, like “Ants on a Log.”  Letting kids get involved teaches them to appreciate where food comes from, and helps them associate food not only with fun, but with spending time with you.

Older Kids (Ages 8-13)

As kids get older, they can handle more! Have them do more complicated chores around the kitchen that involve getting food on the table. When I was 10, my parents taught me simple knife skills- paring, slicing, etc.- to help with putting together sauces and dips. You might also start showing them how to use appliances safely (besides the microwave!)- the toaster, the blender, the food processor and mixer.

  • Mixing and Portioning
    Put your child in charge of mixing up doughs and batters, and then portioning them- putting dollops of dough on cookie sheets, or scooping batter into cupcake tins.
  • Reading off recipes
    HERE’S a good one- have your child read off recipes as you make them! This will get them used to procedural thinking, following instructions, and will aid their reading comprehension in a way that’ll highlight its real-world applications.

Early Teens

Here the REAL teaching begins. Bring your kid to the stove, oven and grill, and start REALLY having them cook! By the time I was 14, I knew how to chop vegetables, make pasta and rice, and stir-fry.
Now the fun part is just making recipes together. Take the time to teach your child new techniques. Show them how to bake a cake and roast a chicken. On the range, show them how to fry up an omelette or make pancakes! Your child isn’t a kid anymore- they’re a young adult, and now is when you start teaching them the skills they’ll need to BE adults.

What you teach them young stays with them forever- good cooking, good food habits, and most importantly, good memories.

Stay Classy,

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