Archive for January 19th, 2010

Raising a Foodie

My fifteen year old son has a gift.  Well, maybe not a gift but a talent.  Okay, still not sure that is the name for it either but he can do this really cool thing that I would like to take credit for but can’t.

Every afternoon, the second he walks in the house he takes one deep sniff of the air and comments on what’s for dinner.  When he first developed this talent, he could identify the easy things – sautéed garlic and onions or the sting that chipotle peppers left in the air.  But his talent has increased over the years.  Lately, it has become a game we play together.  I start cooking an hour or two before he gets home and then wait for his response as he arrives home from school.

“Are you roasting red peppers,” he will ask before he has even disposed of his backpack.  “Are we having sausage and pepper penne?”

Last week, I thought I might stump him by making something we haven’t had in a while, Jamie Oliver’s Andy the Gasman’s Stew.  There are so many pungent flavors in this one and it cooks for so long that I thought I might have finally found the one that would trip him up.  But there was no hesitation.

“Do I smell oranges and rosemary?”  He immediately asked.  When he picked those two out of the air I knew he had won our little game.

I have raised a foodie and for that I can take only partial credit.  The truth is I would still be making spaghetti with jarred sauce or the chili off of the back of the tomato cans if   we hadn’t moved to England and discovered The Naked Chef.  Though Americans have adopted several British shows recently, the BBC’s programming leaves much to be desired.  Because of this dearth of interesting television, I was forced to watch The Naked Chef as I sat knitting in the evening.  Instead of the punishment I expected this to be, I soon found myself sitting my knitting aside and watching Jamie Oliver make cooking look easy.

Slowly, I worked up the nerve to attempt some of the easier recipes, side dishes mostly.  After finding that I could cook these with little effort I decided to try the more complicated dishes.  I bought the cookbooks and started making the curries and stews and even the roasts.  And I discovered that it was as easy as Jamie had made it out to be – so easy that my kids could do it.

Over the years I have taught my children to cook with the aid of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks but more importantly with the biggest lesson I learned from The Naked Chef – cooking doesn’t have to be hard.  If you love good food and appreciate good ingredients, there is a joy to be found, not just in sitting down to a good dinner, but in preparing it as well.

This afternoon as I was baking oatmeal cookies, my three year old son came into the kitchen and asked what I was doing.  “Baking cookies,” I answered.  In the tradition that has been established in our house, he walked over to the island, grabbed a stool and scooted it over to the mixer.  He was prepared to be involved in the baking.  Right now, he can identify the flour, sugar and butter.  He knows how to turn on the mixer and drop the dough on a cookie sheet.  But the my favorite thing he learns in my kitchen is a love for cooking and for healthy, homemade food.

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