Josh is my oldest, (he’s 19yo), he is studying for a Bachelor of Arts: History/Politics externally which means he is lives at home. We love that he has chosen to stay at home to continue his education; it has meant that we can still discuss things with him as he processes very humanistic ideas that are presented to him at university. But this post is about him learning to cook….
Over the years Josh has been learning to cook. He approaches cooking as a necessity – he doesn’t enjoy it but it has to be done. I think this is a good attitude to have – there are many things that we have to do in life that won’t be the love of our life!
Several years ago I instituted a system where one child would be ‘cooks helper’ for a week, giving them one week of cooking or helping me to cook the evening meal per month. We wrote up a list of meals they could cook and a list of meals they wanted to learn how to cook. When I wrote up our menu for the week I would consider who was on cook’s helper and which meals from their list would fit best with our family that week. This system has worked very well. Josh could BBQ steak or breakfast, poach eggs, do a few dishes with mince, a roast, and chocolate self saucing pudding.
This week I decided that Joshua’s cooking skills needed to be improved – that I needed to make a concerted effort, and let nothing interrupt the opportunity. Unfortunately I had slipped into the habit of asking him to cook the meals he had mastered on the nights I was busy and never really spent much time teaching him other techniques/recipes on other nights. His skills had plateaued. I also felt that with the meals he could cook he was still relying on me – he didn’t really own them. This all needed to change.
Josh was on ‘cooks helper’ this week. He looked at his study schedule and felt that he could cook every night this week (usually the kids do about 50%). I decided instead of giving him random family favourites I would use one recipe book – that book would become his. I chose a “Home cooked Favourites” off my shelf. So far he has cooked
• Potato and Chicken Bake
• Jacket Potato and Spicy Beans
• Baked Chilli Chicken, Rice and Salad
• Chilli Bolognaise
Still to go
• Spiced Egg Pilau
• Potato salad and Etons Mess (dessert), Pete will BBQ steak this night, and I’ll do another salad
• Pumpkin Soup
Because Josh is older, and he has helped in the kitchen over the years, I took a very hands off approach this week. I wanted to put the responsibility onto him. I chose the recipes and he had to read the recipe and get back to me if he didn’t understand. One of the things that I regret doing with Josh in teaching him to cook is I’ve given him the simple recipes that are in my head – this is why he hasn’t ‘owned’ any of it. Nothing is written down for him, he has just done what I’ve told him to do. Having a recipe book has made a big difference. I have recorded any tweaks that do need to happen (we can’t always find ingredients or have to make adjustments to the family’s taste buds) but he can then follow the recipe, knowing what he is doing.
Over the years as the kids were more my helper than the cook they learnt the individual acts of cooking: chop, grate, brown, sauté, fry, grill, whip, cream, fold, stir etc. Having these skills has meant they can then move into creating a whole meal using a recipe. They know the parts – then they do the whole.
Another aspect of the training has been to take a recipe and to do it several times so they became really familiar with it.
• Initially they would watch me
• then help me
• then do it with me supervising
• then do it by themselves – first with me on standby
• then with me out of the house.
Going through this progressing has been a gentle way of them gaining confidence in their cooking. Next time Josh is on cook’s helper he will cook the same 7 dishes to give him familiarity and confidence.
Over the years, I think we made too many excuses for Josh, gave the tasks to Jess. It is always easier for me to get Jess to do something in the kitchen than to train Josh. Easy for me, not fair on Josh!! So this week we’ve taken the bull by the horns so to speak and said – no – this week you are going to cook. He has surprised me, he has done well. He knows more than I thought. I think he has even surprised himself! What was really needed was for me to step out of the kitchen and let him cook!