Friday, 12 November 2010
Most of you won't be able to relate to the fact that, for the last five years of my life, I've had a full-time cook. Let me qualify that by saying that I lived abroad in a third world country (a term, which is apparently politically incorrect these days) and that is the way it was done there. Then, I'll make you hate me a little more by saying how much I really enjoyed it.
This scenario all takes place in my children's formative years. When the majority of Americans (and possibly Europeans) are training their kids how to be valuable citizens and family contributors by having them do regular chores and including them in family meal preparation. Now, after five years overseas, living the surreal life, I'm back to reality! And my kids (all teenagers now) are learning that their clothes don't pick themselves up and food doesn't magically appear on their plates.
I did cook on holidays, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas when I really wanted to feel American or wanted to avoid turkey with soy sauce or some other mutation thereof. But it was a nice break overall. I love to cook, but I hate HAVING to cook. I suppose I get cooker's block where I just can't figure out what to make that day or I just haven't properly planned ahead because life overwhelms me at times.
So my grand solution to this dilemma is a "learning by doing" (Montessori principal) sort of schedule for cooking. This involves everyone in my household taking a turn at cooking the evening meal. I purchased a little weekly calendar write-on/wipe-off board from Target and we all have a somewhat regular day each week to be the head chef of the family.
Thus far, my plan is working! The kids have been amazingly creative in the process. We've had breakfast for dinner, vegetarian dishes (as my oldest is becoming more health conscious), pastas and fish, but relatively few true flops! At times I serve as Kitchen Aide or am available for advice when asked. I've tried to encourage balance meals with fresh ingredients and, for the most part, this has been a raving success.
Unlike me (who grew up with a home economics major stay-at-home mom, and who refused to have anything to do with cooking as a child, consequently having a steep learning curve after leaving home), my kids now have a practical skill which will hopefully give them basic (if not superior) survival skills and make them more marketable in the inevitable meat market that is dating.
One huge pitfall of this grand-plan is lack of preparation on my kids' part (i.e. waiting until the last minute to figure out what to make). I have asked them several times to look through the myriad of cookbooks that grace our shelves, decide on the weekend what they will make, and submit their grocery list via our newfangled shared grocery list, Grocery IQ. The probability (and reality) of that happening on a regular basis, without multiple reminders (or nagging, if you will) is pretty close to nil.
On the upside, I feel completely liberated when its my day to cook! I look forward to it and am happy to cook for guests because I rarely run out of ideas anymore! I also love helping my kids on their cooking days from time to time and I think it's a great family bonding experience.
How does everyone else incorporate cooking into family life? How did your parents do it? What has worked well and what hasn't? Please tell all!