Teach Your Children Well

This is a post for parents. And for those who are childlike at heart. Because it is in approaching food with a childlike joy and wonder that your cooking will be transformed. And your eating.

Of course, any parent will tell you that children don’t always approach food with a childlike joy. When my son, Flynn, was young. I used to make him baby risottos. They were so good and he loved them so much that we thought of starting a baby food company. But then something happened. He switched. He was suspicious of everything I made. “Dad, there’s a dot in my food!” he would squeal in terror, and the simplest dishes would be derailed by a speck of pepper or a stray trace of parsley.

I was crestfallen.

A chef. And my first-born son would eat nothing but chicken nuggets.

The question, of course, was how to ever get him eating interesting food again. The answer was simple, if not exactly quick. Introduce him to the joy of growing, shopping, cooking and eating. And get him involved. Are your kids involved? Are YOU involved??

I expanded the garden, and gave Flynn his own tomato and corn plants. I got chickens, and put him in charge of egg collection (he now has an egg business selling them in the neighborhood — need any really GOOD eggs? Call Flynn…) My sister got him his own cookbook for his birthday — what a gift! Sometimes I find him sitting on the couch on a Saturday afternoon reading his cookbook. Sometimes he and I watch the cooking shows on PBS on Saturday afternoon. Sometimes we make what we’ve seen.

And I began to request his help in the kitchen. I would let him chop things — supervised, of course — with my really cool, sharp chef’s knife. (Chef’s knives are enticingly exciting to kids, especially boys.) I let him stir sauces. I let him toss the pizza dough in the air. And anytime he wanted a bite of something, I gave it to him.

While he’s still not eating EVERYTHING, there are few things he won’t try. And he’s had the experience enough times of enjoying something wonderful he didn’t want to try, that he believes me when I say, “No, seriously… you’re gonna LOVE this!” Plus, he learned to love the experience of sourcing our food. We go on food adventures. To Little Tokyo to get imagawayaki hot off the grill. To the cheese shop in Beverly Hills. To East L.A. to get handmade tortillas.

Flynn wants to go to France to try the stinky cheeses there. I heard him telling a friend in his taekwondo class the other day about the shabu shabu we were having for dinner that evening. “No,” he explained, his hands gesticulating animatedly, “you cook it right on the table!”

Have you made food an adventure for your children? First, of course, you must make it an adventure for yourself. I guess that’s really what this blog is all about. We’re all kids at heart. Life should always be approached with bright-eyed wonder, as an adventure. And in life, food is one of the greatest adventures of all.

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. paul
    Sep 25, 2010 @ 15:32:37

    Case in point is a now adult, only child of mine–Jamaica–who has turned out to be a magnificent kitchen artist.


  2. Lisa Gaskin
    Sep 25, 2010 @ 17:59:34

    good one Sean


  3. Kimberly Lake Waldorn
    Sep 25, 2010 @ 21:09:02

    Your kids are beautiful!


  4. Suzanna
    Sep 25, 2010 @ 22:45:54

    I had to do a double-take, as just last night before bed I was getting my “Colgin kids fix” in (it’s been at least a month), and was looking at those very shots of Willa! Glad for the publishing. (got my Imogen fix on FB!)
    And we’re not even gonna mention those extra special double-yoked Colgin farm-fresh eggs! Ha!


  5. g
    Sep 26, 2010 @ 00:15:28

    Our son Max spent the first six years of his life eating only white bread – not even chicken nuggets!

    The transformation was slow, but now he’s a very adventurous eater, and a cook. Not sure what was going on inside his head, but we left him alone and here we are.

    Of course, we love Flynn’s eggs!


  6. Andrea Thompson
    Sep 26, 2010 @ 00:16:58

    Yeah, really good one, dude!


  7. Leo Griffin
    Oct 01, 2010 @ 19:57:14

    That’s a great video of Flynn making bread! Sebastian and Isabel love making bread with me, but I’m afraid most of the time we cheat and use a bread machine.


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