Last night was like one of those old MasterCard commercials at my house. Just-add-water pizza mix: 98 cents. Lean ground beef: $4.85. Sauce, olive oil and part-skim mozzarella: already on hand. Chef-in-crime: my 5-year-old son. Pizza dinner for my family: priceless.
My son is interested in cooking, even if he’s not always so interested in eating. (He’s picky and he’s very active, which means food is often a low priority in his mind.) As he’s gotten older, his attention span for being my partner-in-crime in the kitchen has gotten longer. Where before he might have been an interested observer for 5 or 10 minutes, yesterday he was with me from start to finish, dumping the dough and water in a mixing bowl, getting his hands dirty from rolling the dough in olive oil, spreading the dough over the pizza pan and from making sure the cheese was evenly spread out over the crust. We were even a team in cleaning up the kitchen afterwards! I was enchanted by his interest, skill and determination, and he was awed to see the dough increase in size and to see our end result come out of the oven looking like something a stranger would normally bring to the door in a box.
It was a great experience, and I hope the first of many more to come. I wrote recently about fostering good eating habits in my son, and maybe having him be my cooking co-conspirator will help with that. Many experts believe that children who help their parents cook are more likely to eat well (especially if quality ingredients are being used and healthy recipes are being made). I can generally count on him sampling the ingredients and eating the end product, which gives him exposure to a variety of ingredients and meals that he can eat for the rest of his life. And not only am I exposing my son to good food, but I am also fostering in him the skill of cooking, which will give him more control over the cost and quality of his future eating experiences.
I also enjoyed the experience for what I got out of it. I had been looking forward to coming home and cooking with my son all day yesterday. A long, mentally taxing day at work and driving home for about an hour in a heavy rainstorm didn’t dampen my spirits, and neither did actually not sitting down to eat dinner until about 8:00. I was grinning from ear to ear, right along with my son, when we showed the fruits of our labor to my husband. It was a wonderful bonding experience that I will never forget.
Although there are many times in my house when I’m the only person eating certain foods, it’s nice to know that we have enough in common, as far a food tastes go, to have these enjoyable experiences. While we were going about our business of making the pizza, I asked my son about school–I remembered that there is a play kitchen there, and that the kids play in this kitchen station as part of their regular activities. I asked what he cooks in the play kitchen, and he said he likes to grill burgers. Someday, when he’s old enough, I’ll have to share my turkey burger recipe with him!