It is my belief that some of the most important lessons we teach our children is how to grow and prepare food.
It is my experience that teaching these can absolutely sap the therapeutic joy out of gardening and cooking.
Some parents make excellent teachers. Patient, kind…slowly giving the child space to explore and make messes. I recall my sister’s face when my son and nephew came in from her budding June garden, proudly bearing armfuls of premature carrots. I could see the pain in her eyes, but heard “Thank you,” come out of her mouth. She calmly pointed out the carrots’ miniature status. Explained that although they will taste good now, imagine how good they will taste then they’re bigger?! The boys learned to leave future carrots in place without feeling badly for their current enthusiasm.
But some parents cringe out loud at little feet stepping on tender seedlings. A unleveled teaspoon of ingredient going into the mix drives their shoulders into the ears. Hands hover and twitch over the child’s, ready to take over. Their teaching style is much less Montessori and much more Hell’s Kitchen.
Guess which one I am?
Recently my kiddo has shown an increasing interest in cooking. An area where I admittedly possess a good deal of knowledge and practice with above-average results.
So if I don’t get my teaching shit together, I’m going to lose a HUGE and incredible opportunity. To pass the culinary torch. To create a well-rounded human being who moves into a realm beyond the frozen pizza.
More and more we enter the kitchen together. The last thing I want to do is drive this kid out.
This morning was an arduous adventure in patience, fueled by hunger-induced irrationality. We started at 9:15. He took on two recipes.
Today’s lesson about “adjusting on the run” came from my mishap overcooking potatoes intended to become crunchy, oven-fried hash browns. Instead they became a mashed potato crust for an egg bake.
Today’s lesson also included a not-so-gentle reminder of my 3-hour kitchen limit before I start throwing knives. We sat down to breakfast at 12:30. Just in time.
I think back to teachers I had, not just in academic settings but in kitchens and gardens. They spat orders and swore blue streaks. They threw plates or fell into a brooding silence. They demanded rows weeded “so clean you can eat out off of them”. Most of my exposure to growing and cooking came from irrational and imperfect teachers. But I was not driven out, in fact, I’m in deeper than ever.
If the message can reach in and grab a hold of you, it quiets the glaring flaws of the teacher.
My kid seems to know this. He knows when to take me seriously and when to ignore my outbursts. He remains consistently chirpy, unswayed by my impatience. “You’re not going to be Trent Herbst right away, Mom,” he comforts when I apologize, “You’re learning too.” Bless my padawan. Who, so far, is proving to be a damn good cook.
I owe it to my son to work on my kitchen patience. To learn how to teach. I owe it to my firm belief in passing food knowledge on to future generations. It gets better with every cooking adventure. I become less of a parent and more of a teacher.
But next time, I’m gettin’ some snacks into my belly. Because waiting for the actual meal to eat turns me into one crabby cake.