Curiosity in the Kitchen
When I was a kid, I recall my parents reminding me often that kitchen was off limits to children. The warning came with a threat that if I don’t watch out, I’ll end up getting burnt by the hot stove (mapaso ), scalded by hot vegetable oil (matalsikan ng mantika) or boiling water from the tea kettle (mabanlian ng tubig sa takore). Those constant reminders did not stop me from getting curious. My siblings and I still ended up going to the kitchen but mindful enough not to touch the stove or the oven. We continued to open the refrigerator (it’s cold anyway!) and gobbled up whatever we found edible. Eventually, as older kids, we were exposed to cooking food ourselves; from boiling eggs and saba in a palayok to frying tuyo (dried fish).
Things have changed since then. Our kids are still off limits because of the limited space we have at the kitchen. But this doesn’t mean they cannot be involved in preparing our food. Last week, for instance, one of our kids harvested some carrots and lettuce from our small vegetable garden while my older daughter baked blueberry muffins. Tyler Florence and Emeril Lagasse came out with recipe books for kids that my kids use whenever they cook. They have helpful reminders for kids how to be safe while preparing, baking, or cooking food in the kitchen.
Supervision is still a key since five-year-olds, for instance, are still beginning to master their fine motor skills so mashing dough and putting toppings encourages them to be involved in food preparation but with fun.
Similarly, encouraging kids to grow vegetables teaches them to be patient, persistent and mindful of where food come. Gradually, as they get older and acquire more skills, they can be taught to be in charge of other matters in the kitchen. For example, when my older kid was four, she started with washing vegetables, mixing and sifting flour, and bringing out ingredients from the counter.Then as she grew older, she learned to be more independent in preparing food that involved more complex skills, such as using the mixer for beating eggs and heating food using the microwave, properly and carefully using a knife to cut vegetables, and eventually preparing a simple dinner.
Sure, there were still some accidents along the way (e.g. she scalded herself when frying fish once) but apart from reminding her to more careful and mindful, we cheered her on and encouraged her to take those experiences as moments that can make her a better cook!