When my son, Sam, was born, I had grand plans to make him a healthy eater. He would obviously love green things and rarely even ask for candy. Through consistent exposure, I'd train his palate to crave only the good-for-you stuff. As a health-focused food writer and editor, this was my instinct and, in retrospect, it was dead wrong (at least for my kid).
Fast forward four years and Sam's favorite foods are—in a very particular order—"powdered donuts on the boat with daddy, green Skittles, and salty broccoli trees." Oh well, at least two of the things are green. While he isn't exactly mini Michael Pollan, he is passionate about food and cooking, which I now realize is equally important for his development when it comes to taste and far beyond.
When Sam was two I started involving him in the cooking process in small ways (stirring batter, counting scoops, beating eggs, sprinkling cheese, pressing the button on the toaster oven, etc.). When he had a tantrum, making mini muffins with whatever fruit was in the fridge ended the freak out. He loved counting in the kitchen environment. He loved getting messy and experiencing the textures and smells. As Sam has gotten older and his attention pan has gone from 3 seconds to, you know, 72 seconds, he takes on more of the prep—from tearing basil leaves for this incredible 1-2-3 Tomato Sauce [INSERT LINK] to grating carrots for our favorite Bunny Bread [INSERT LINK]to rolling dough for these perfectly freezable Chicken Pot Hand Pies [INSER LINK].
No matter how much or how little he's involved, when the food is set on the table he "made" it. He's proud and willing to try new things, even if that means barely touching his tongue to it and declaring "it's not my favorite." If, in the course of cooking pasta, we look at the globe and find Italy, he'll want to know more about it. If we use honey, he wants to know where it came from, which leads to chatter about bees and the environment and being kind to the Earth. He's curious and engaged, which is rare in the YouTube Kids era (damn you, Ryan's Toy Review).
Yes, sometimes the process is messy. Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes the results don't get two thumbs up from Lil' Sous Sam. But nearly every time Sam and I cook together (and same goes for my two-year-old Rosie, who is just starting to get more involved), it ends with a smile and a slice of knowledge or a skill that he didn't have before. We couldn't be more excited to share our kitchen adventures with you—and hope you'll share yours with us.