Cooking with Children: Teaching Skills and Vulgarity

Big gold eyes stared at me from the darkness.  Unblinking, full of misery—the stare of determination. His breath was held, as he waited for my response. I gave none. Finally, he folded. Give me the cheese, he said with his eyes.

Teaching Children Cooking
In case you wondered what I look like, here is my self portrait—forty-one eyes.

“It’s been a long day,” I said, “You’ve got dog food you know.” The house is very quiet now, so quiet I can hear the summer insects singing through the walls. Everything has its balance. Twelve hours ago it was all noise.

Scout Meeting Number Two

Today I handed over my newly cleaned house on a silver platter to our Spiral Scouts circle. As their fearless leader, I ushered seven kids under seven into the dining room to continue work on our cooking badge. I got lucky. The first badge my circle is working on is something I enjoy teaching children.

As per the badge requirements, the children are learning the seven-year-and-younger version of self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency began today with making a side salad, largely because I could incorporate a bunch of physical skills into it.

The Procedure

My dining room table would have looked very elegant set up with various shining metal bowls of water for washing the lettuce leaves, if it were not for that ugly red bowl. Scouts’ dues don’t exactly pay for beauty—they barely pay for lettuce.

Teaching children cooking
That blasted red bowl…

After washing the leaves, the scouts had to break them into appropriate sized pieces and put them in their own bowl. I should have gotten pictures of the salads. There were many almost intact lettuce leaves. I heard one parent saying “Are you going to fit that in your mouth?” The kids either learned to break salad greens, or learned how to have vulgar eating habits. Either way.

Teaching children cooking
Banana-Split Carrots and Tomatoes

The children then traveled to the west side of the dining room table, where I had put seven carrots in a pretty little banana-split dish. Who makes banana-splits in a fancy dish? Clearly, it was made for holding carrots. Reverse psychology—now I really want to make a banana split in that thing. Anyway, the kids then had to peel their carrots, and grate them over their salads. This, thank goodness, resulted in no skinned-knuckles. I heard more than one parent say “Now we don’t want any thumbs in our salads.” I love these people.

Teaching children cooking
The Aftermath

Then they added a few cherry tomatoes, and moved onward to the east end of the table, where I hovered over the bottle of expensive olive oil. It was time to make my standard vinaigrette, which was almost guaranteed to repulse any child, but did require a great deal of measuring and pouring for practice’s sake. The children poured their olive oil and balsamic vinegar, measured out their sugar, salt, and garlic, and then got to shake the mixture up in a mason jar—the fun part. Miraculously, three out of the seven children (including the refined taste buds of my son) actually liked the vinaigrette. The other children were given your standard American ranch dressing to mask the garlic/balsamic vinegar.

Teaching children to cook
And then the return of quiet, to balance it all out.

Then, all restraints gave way. The children ran circles around the house like screaming banshees, just blurs of the same colored polo shirt uniform. Another scout meeting under my belt, complete with a side salad.

I gave the cheese to Big Dog. Those sad gold eyes—he’s too good.