Passing on the torch… or not…

I love to cook. Our household has its share of dietary challenges, which means a fair amount of time and effort is required for meal planning and prep. I’ve been a vegetarian for 26 years and recently eliminated dairy. Oldest prefers an “everything plain” diet and actively describes certain foods (grapes for example) as his “arch nemesis”. Youngest is anti-fake meat (he makes gagging sounds if tofu is presented on his plate), and he is weirdly specific about the things he likes.

Example: All sandwiches must contain pickles, lettuce, and ketchup. And caramelized onions if they are on hand. Not regular onions. Caramelized. Because one year we had a big batch of onions from the farm share and I decided to spend the 45 minutes of cooking time required to caramelize them. They were crazy delicious. Now if someone puts onions on a sandwich he will ask, “Are they caramelized?” like he’s some sort of snobby food critic.

It’s okay to occasionally lie to your children.

Thankfully hubs is happy to eat whatever he doesn’t have to cook, and will prepare meat for himself and the kiddos once in a while so that I don’t have to. In my perfect world, all four of us would be on a veg-based diet, but that is simply not reality. So we compromise. Or try to anyway.

Declaration: I will prepare the same rotation of kid-friendly meals if they agree to try something new once a week without saying, “EW. What’s that?” upon arrival at the dinner table.

It works.

Most nights.

Lately, things have gotten a bit complicated in the van household. Oldest is working toward his cooking merit badge for boy scouts. As part of the pre-requisites, he is required to plan, shop for, and cook ten meals. Three days worth of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus one dessert. As of Wednesday afternoon, he still has four meals left. He leaves for camp on Sunday.

I have been nagging reminding him for weeks.

Maybe I come on too strong in the kitchen. I like things a certain way and have been known to default into, “here, let me do that” instead of being patient with the boys. I can’t say I blame them for wanting to stay away. But cooking allows for a certain amount of creativity, and like writing, when I’m in the zone, I’m in the zone.

Do not disturb. Mommy’s washing kale leaves.

Seriously though, when he decided to work on the cooking badge, I was excited to pass along some of my tricks and ideas. Instead, the pile of cookbooks I offered sat lonely in a pile, and he hid in his room for hours, “researching cooking methods” instead of asking me for help. “Let’s go shopping!” I offered. Shrug. “Want to try making X?” Shrug. “Don’t go waiting until the last minute to get this done!” Skulk off to room for more “research”.

In retrospect, perhaps I should have had a more open-door policy in the kitchen when the boys were younger. They used to enjoy helping me, but my, “Not like that, like this” attitude is exhausting, I’m sure. I want to change, and am trying to. Last night youngest wanted to cut veggies and I let him, without hovering or criticizing. Of course when dinnertime came and I asked if he wanted to try what we made he responded with, “I just like to cut vegetables. Not eat them.”

This morning oldest made blueberry chocolate chip pancakes for his merit badge. And while his flipping skills need a bit of work and I was left to scrub the chocolate covered griddle, the food turned out tasty and it felt good to work side by side. Of course we’re still arguing about what’s left to be done and how he shouldn’t have procrastinated, but, well, at least he comes by that trait honestly.

I want my boys to have basic cooking skills, not just so they can earn the Eagle required merit badge, but so they can survive on their own and perhaps even learn to enjoy experimenting with food. To understand why I feel the way I do about cooking (FOOD=LOVE). And maybe someday impress their friend or partner with a giant plate of caramelized onions.

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5 thoughts on “Passing on the torch… or not…

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  1. My oldest took a culinary class during her sophomore year in high school. She was eager to help in the kitchen and show me some pointers. That enthusiasm has faded a bit, but every once in a while she’ll be willing to help. Same with my youngest, but it’s even more rare when she helps out in the kitchen. However, she was more than willing and happy to help make pancakes the morning after a sleep-over at her friend’s house. I have proof! Friend’s mom sent me a pic of her at the stove. According to friend’s mom, pancakes were good! I’ll need to put youngest to work next time I have them for the weekend. 😉

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