Written by Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley of My Little Poppies.
I used to hate cooking.
I made sure my family had access to healthy foods and tried my best to prepare balanced meals... but I didn’t enjoy it.
I wanted to, but I didn’t.
Over the years, I’ve tried to force it and I’ve tried to fake it, but it just never clicked. There was always something else I’d rather be doing.
My quest to love cooking reached an all-time high when we first stumbled into homeschooling, because it was then that I discovered the homesteaders.
You know the ones. Somehow, these amazing women are able to educate a passel of children and bake fresh bread and hang laundry on the line and care for chickens and prepare from-scratch meals that make your belly rumble… not to mention the quilts, jams, candles, and soaps.
And their children get to watch and learn from it all.
There is a huge part of me that wants to be able to do that, to live out my girlhood Laura Ingalls dreams.
But the reality is, I can’t figure out the balance piece of it.
So maybe, if we’re being honest here, I just want an amazing homesteader to adopt me.
(Because you can’t be a homesteader if you don’t enjoy cooking.)
This realization caused me to, once again, hang up my wannabe-homesteader apron and stick with what I know. Instead of acting like the Ingalls family, we read about the Ingalls family.
And then something amazing happened.
In November, my 6-year-old daughter, who had been attending public kindergarten, wrote a homeschool manifesto asking to come home. In her manifesto, she outlined everything she wanted to learn in homeschool this year.
At the top of her list was learn to make dinner.
My sweet girl, whose favorite activity is to use our play kitchen, wanted to learn to cook and bake and set the table for real.
And while I don’t love to cook, I do know that cooking is a fantastic learning opportunity.
And so, together, we planned our first meal.
As we did these things, we talked. We enjoyed leisurely, uninterrupted conversations about anything and everything.
The recipes we tried were new to both of us. We learned alongside each other, supporting one another, laughing when we fumbled, celebrating every victory.
It was wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that we started doing more of it, together.
It wasn’t long before my boys joined in the fun.
And, truly, it was fun.
What started out as a once a week thing grew into more.
My children eventually started meal planning together. Each week, they sit down with our favorite cookbooks and they each select a recipe.
As their mother, this means two very important things:
- For three nights each week, I have at least one willing helper
- My children are excited about dinner because they picked it
Some nights, I only have one helper. More often, I have multiple helpers.
Yes, it takes longer than if I did it myself, and yes, it is incredibly messy at times, but it is so worth it!
My children have enjoyed cooking so much that they, on their own accord, came up with an idea to have a weekly restaurant. At first, the restaurant was entirely imaginary. They would recreate recent meals we had made in our play kitchen.
Next, they tried making lunch for me. Later still, they surprised Daddy with themed restaurants. One night it was an Italian eatery, another night it was our favorite sushi restaurant. (Yes, they made California rolls!)
Most recently, they came up with the idea of creating a themed restaurant once a week and inviting their grandparents.
We picked Mondays as our “Restaurant Day” because it’s the perfect way to ease into the week. (Plus, we double the recipe so we get lunch and dinner out of the day!)
The results have been impressive. For each restaurant, my children have:
- Created a theme
- Worked together
- Planned the meal
- Created a unique menu and restaurant sign
- Designed decor
- Set tables
- Prepared the food
- Cooked the food
- Baked a dessert
The kids have already tried making homemade pasta, various soups and salads, and they even created their very own delicatessen.
Upcoming plans include a cafe, pizza parlor, dessert bar, fondue lunch, brunch, and taqueria. But, shhh, don’t tell the grandparents!
And, do you know what? One restaurant night had a child-led candle making activity while another featured our very own maple syrup. Maybe there is hope for these Ingalls fans after all!
I used to view cooking as something akin to laundry, something that you just kind of have to do, an unavoidable task.
I saw cooking as work, work that I had to try to squeeze in between all of the other things. Work that I had to do alone. Something that I had to do in addition to homeschooling.
Thanks to my 6-year-old and her remarkable manifesto, I see cooking differently now. It is no longer a solitary task, tacked on after a long day. Rather, it is an enjoyable event that offers countless learning opportunities. It allows me to connect with my children and make memories in the process.
I used to hate cooking… until my daughter helped me realize that I just hated cooking alone.
Children are our wisest teachers.
Tell me: What have your children taught you lately? Do you hate to cook alone, too? Share here.