Cooking with littles

Toddler hand pouring orange juice

I’ve been trying to involve Imp 1 more when I do housework. Much to my dismay, most of the housework still gets done by me and while I find it very regrettable and unnecessary that we are modelling these kinds of gender roles to our kids, the alternative is living in utter chaos (as opposed to regular chaos) and I just can’t do it.

What I also can’t do is cook an entire meal with the kids around. Imp 2 is easy, he can be fed and changed and entertained and then sit on my back in a carrier and watch (the three-month-old version of watch). Imp 1, however, will choose the exact moment I decide to cook to wreak havoc. I know it’s not intentionally. I know I’m exaggerating. But I also know that the minute I chop a carrot [Aaaaargh, I had written such a nice long post and then I clicked somewhere wrong and deleted it all!], Imp 1 will be standing on the dining table, trying to swing from the chandelier. This has actually happened, I am not stealing ideas from a Sia song. And this wasn’t even as bad. At least she was in my line of sight at.
Alternatively, I will start cooking a meal, be interrupted to read a story and come back to the charred remains of a cabbage.

So I’ve started to involve her more into the whole food preparation business. She loves shopping, as I assume most toddlers do. She goes crazy for the little shopping carts, she doesn’t realise that five bags of soup peas are wholly unnecessary, and she has no idea she has to pay for the items in the end. What’s not to love? She loves it so much that she will insist on going to the supermarket instead of to the playground next to it. She also enjoys unpacking our weekly vegetable delivery and pointing out the fruits and veggies she knows. For some reason strawberries and pineapples are the same to her. No idea why, but rolling with it.
And more recently, in an effort to live more sustainably and consciously and in touch with nature and the seasons and, who am I kidding, keep her entertained, I’ve been trying to involve some foraged food into our meals. So I’m trying to get her to help pick some nettles and dandelion and whatnot. The main problem being that she’s even worse than me at telling poisonous from edible plants. Working on that…

When it comes to preparing the food, she’s in charge of stirring, mixing dry ingredients, adding liquids (she will add any liquid she can see, so I need to be careful what’s in reach. But if you asked her, she would prefer adding a milk-water mixture, the exact ratio of which is only known to her), cracking eggs, preparing vegetables, and cutting soft ingredients.

Now here’s where I need some help: She has a crinkle cutter and a vegetable peeler. But there are only so many things you can cut with a little crinkle cutter. For example: avocado, papaya, mozzarella, soft cheeses in general, sausage, mushrooms, peeled apple and pear, melon, egg, tofu. I need some recipes that involve as many of these or other suitable ingredients as possible. Send them over, please.

My other question: I know there’s the Opinel knife and I’ve only read good things about it. But I’ve also read that it is very sharp. Now I know that she can only learn how to use a sharp knife if I trust her with a sharp knife. But there have been quite a few instances in which she joyfully tried diving off of her learning tower, knife in hand, to feed a passing cat with some diced bell pepper or to follow a dropped pea. Does anyone have experience which age is good to introduce a sharp knife? If I do, will any one of us be safe ever again?

When the food is ready, Imp 1 likes adding a few finishing touches. If you let her, she will add fistfuls of salt, she will hold a pepper mill over the dish for an extended amount of time, believing that this will actually achieve something, she loves ladling out soup and spooning food onto people’s plates, whether they want it or not, and she loves force-feeding us food. What she doesn’t love: sitting still and eating food herself. Working on that, too.

So you see, cooking with a toddler is actually a pretty fun activity. It’s often incredibly messy and not always super tasty and it will most definitely contain egg shells, but it keeps her occupied and (or so I hope) it teaches her some valuable life skills, as well as giving her confidence in her abilities. The only things I really wouldn’t trust her with are the stove/oven and meal planning. Ever since imp 1 cooked “eggs and moss” in sand pit with my sister, she will ask for eggs and moss a few times a day. I’m partial to the occasional egg or two, but have yet to find a moss I am tempted to eat.

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