As I have previously written, I grew up surrounded by food. My family’s traditions and grandmothers recipes were lovingly compiled by my cousins Val and Ronnie. They preserved her legacy and made it available for the entire family. Easter was another of the big holidays in our family. My grandmother also liked to cook other types of foods like her signature Beef Wellington. She would make the dough from scratch and it would take days to complete. It was well worth the effort.
Now that the family is spread out around the country we hardly ever see each other in one place. My Grandmother passed away in 1995 and I think that was the last time we were all together. I suspect that when the Easter pies are made in the various homes of my relatives the feeling of home and love fills the kitchen. Even though we can’t all be together Grandma Clara’s recipes keep us together.
When I was a kid we spent our summers in Orange County, New York. We had a crazy little house that somehow accommodated the brood. Some of the happiest times I can remember were in that house. About 3 years ago my wife and I purchased a farmhouse in Sullivan County. We live both in NYC and up at the house. One of the reasons we bought the house was to create a place that was big enough to host large gatherings of both friends and family. My mother comes for a few weeks in the summer and gets to spend quality time with my daughter and wife. Lazy Summer days filled with nothing but time. Family, fun and food.
A great way to form a better relationship with your children is by including them in activities you love to do. My friend Kirin and his dad have shared season tickets to the Jets for most of his life. Even though they live in different states when the Jets play they meet up for the ritual of the tailgate and of course the game. Kirin told me that had his dad had not started doing this decades ago they might not have seen each other as much. It really helped them bond. Even through his teenage years, when times test even the closest relationships having that tradition kept them together. The point is to involve your children at a young age to create traditions in your family that will transcend age. When your child grows up they will be grateful that you shared with them your love of things important.
We are pretty hands on when it comes to our daughter and believe that teaching through experience and using imagination are essential to her growth. As a result, when we cook we like to let join in. For now we let her do simpler things such as help with the baking, making fruit salad and salsa. She made a great salsa this weekend and for the first time we let her use a real knife. Under adult supervision cooking with children can be fun, easy and a great way to cement relationships.
As she gets older we will let her handle more complex tasks but the fact that we do it as a family is what is important. Our love of cooking is being passed on and I have no doubt that my daughter will become an excellent cook.
So start out small and start out young. Let the kids Ice cup cakes, knead dough, chop vegetables, add things to the pot etc. Explain to them what you are doing andy why. Kids are so smart they really get things and if you are genuine in your guidance they will take away so much more than a good meal.
My daughter is 6 and already has a good start. My wife and I include her. Instead of telling her she can’t help we find ways to bring her into the preparation. As she gets older we will trust her to do more and more until eventually she will do it on her own.
One of my greatest learning experiences related to cooking was through the Boy Scouts. Since we were responsible for planning menus and cooking our own food I learned how to respect the dangers of cooking. Being independent in the kitchen is a great skill you can pass on. Next time you are going to cook include your children. It will be a dividend that pays off for the rest of your life.
An easy recipe for kids to help make.
Fresh Corn and Black Bean Salad
Fresh corn on the cob (boiled or roasted)
1-2 cans black beans rinsed
1/2 red, yellow and green peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped.
1 Scallion, sliced on the rings, chopped on the greens
Dash of goo, green olive oil
fresh garlic, minced or pressed
Freshly-squeezed lemon or lime juice.
Freshly ground pepper
Preparation (serves 4-8)
Slice fresh corn kernels off the cob. Toss all the ingredients together, flavor to taste and serve.
Variation. If you like the heat you can substitute minced jalapeño peppers for scallions or hot sauce for a kick. You can also add cilantro.
Photographer Bill Brady http://bit.ly/9wFYxm
Recipe Provided by Terry Frishman, creative marketing workshops LLC for a book I photographed called I love corn by Lisa Skye.