Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What Would You Do???

So what would you do if this was your lunch . . . and if it was prepared by your 7-year-old who was very excited about his "mystery lunch"??? So much so, in fact, that he asked for a chef's hat for his next birthday.

Oh, what a struggle to figure out the right thing to do! I certainly want to encourage his creativity in the kitchen, but at the same time, I think it's important for him to think through what he's making and what types of ingredients go well together. I want to steer him towards recipes, but at the same time, where would the top chefs of the world be if they were told they could only cook from recipes???

I'm pretty much fine with the experimenting . . . it's just the having to eat it part that I struggle with. Do I tell him it's delicious? Or do I tell the truth - that bread crumbs, chopped peanuts, garlic, ketchup and Italian dressing do not add up to a combination that's not quite my cup of tea?

Today, I straddled those two extremes; I used the word "interesting" a lot and praised his creativity in the kitchen. But I was completely relieved when he suggested we same some for Jim - and quickly offered mine as the dish to be saved.

Little Sprout took a different approach. She said that it was unbelievably good . . . so good in fact, that she couldn't even eat it. Big Sprout, on the other hand, thought it was the most delicious thing ever.

So I really want to know . . . what would you do? Do you give your kids free reign in the kitchen? Suggest they work from recipes? Give them a set, complementary group of ingredients to work from? I need some ideas! Right now I'm leaning towards letting him do one completely independent experiment for every dish he cooks from a recipe . . . but I'm still not sure how to handle the taste tests.

Meal preparation and food photography by Big Sprout. I'm going to skip the recipe and Sprout Ratings on this one!


  1. My daughter's only two, so she's not quite there yet. But I do remember making a "pizza" for my mom out of a piece of white bread, some ketchup, and a handful of cheddar cheese, and she ate it. Or at least she pretended to eat it convincingly enough that I totally thought she did! Maybe you just need to learn how to pretend to eat it. Although I do like Little Sprout's approach too!

  2. Jess, this is a tough one. When Dax takes the initiative and gets a meal going on his own, we stay out of it and let his creativity flow. For the tasting portion, we try it and honestly the dog has gotten a few treats when heads were turned.

    More often we cook together and I get out the ingredients. We are not yet ready for recipes over here.

    Maybe you could ask him what he would like make and then look up the recipe online together. Instead of printing it, he could write his own recipe card as a guide when he's ready to get started.

  3. All good Chef's started out using recipes! Once you master using recipes you know what flavors taste right together:)

    Let him pick out what cookbooks he wants to cook from at the library and tell him you'll help him veganize the recipes he wants to try. That's what we do. And we've found lots of vegetarian cookbooks at Winter Park Library! Anika will go through and put a post it on all the recipes she wants to try, then she makes the shopping list. When we're ready, I have her get out all the things that go in her recipe but the general rule is that when she's making anything I need to be in the kitchen with her helping to make sure she understands the recipe directions. She's allowed to chop, use the blender/stove/oven under my supervision.

  4. Wow, what great ideas. Thank you both! Kristy, I love the idea of him writing his own recipe cards. Sounds like a great homeschool project!

    Gretchen, I had that same thought about starting with recipes. We talked a little tonight about learning how to cook and what ingredients go together . . . then getting to be more creative.

    BTW, Daddy Sprout did not sugar coat his two cents. LOL! I forgot to suggest the "feed it to the dog" trick.

  5. Jennifer, my husband laughed hysterically when I told him about my daughter's response. :D

  6. As far as the feedback, I always told my husband and son...don't say you like it if you don't, because you will get it again! So they learned to find something nice to say about my "creations" that didn't quite please their palates, and followed with, but let's try something different next time :-) And..if Big Sprout really liked, he might want to enjoy it again...and should!

  7. I like that Carol . . . honesty, but in a nice way. :)