Kids in the Kitchen

There are kitchen tasks for kids of every age, and it is fun to work together; the group effort is rewarded by good things to eat.

| August/September 1995

  • Broaden your child’s interests by familiarizing them to herbs.

The following recipes are ones that the girls and I like to prepare together and enjoy eating.

Gardening and cooking are a way of life for me. When my children came along, these activities became their way of life as well. From infancy, my kids accompanied me on photo shoots and visits to famous gardens, napping in their car seats. At home, naptime often found me at the computer typing in recipes or dashing out to spend a few moments in the garden planting or weeding.

As the children began to crawl and then toddle, they joined me in the garden. We picked flowers, they learned to say the herb and flower names, and we smelled and tasted them. The children learned how to rub herb leaves to release their scents, not to step on the plants, and to ask first before eating ­anything. At three, Lucie (now eight) would hop out of her swing, grab a sprig of a nearby bronze fennel, and nibble on it like a little rabbit.

The girls love to help in the kitchen. I have found that the more involved I let them become, the more interested in food they are and the more willing to try new things. There are kitchen tasks for kids of every age, and it is fun to work together; the group effort is rewarded by good things to eat. Younger children like Cady, who is four, can pour, stir, and mix, as well as find the right ingredients and utensils and tear herb leaves or salad greens into small pieces. Older kids can read the recipes, follow directions, measure, and prepare ingredients.

We have lots of tea parties for festive celebrations, when someone drops by, or just to brighten the day. Children (and adults as well) like the little bites and nibbles of the accompanying foods, from savories to sweets, all of which lend themselves to the use of herbs. I love the ceremony. Part of the pleasure of preparing food for someone is taking the time to make it special. Warming the pot, choosing the tea, setting the table, cutting some herbs and flowers, using the fancy teacups, sharing a treat—these are all simple things that can add a great deal of enjoyment to everyday life.

For one St. Patrick’s Day, I was asked to provide a “green” snack that a kindergarten class could help prepare. I settled on scones with herbs, and to make it more festive, I decided to have a real tea party and serve tea. Not sure which herb to use in the scones, I cut a variety and presented them to the class. The general olfactory consensus of this group of five-year-olds: sage is yucky/ stinky; lavender smells like bubble bath (and somebody’s grandmother); rosemary is too green and like a pine tree; lemon balm is okay—sort of like a sweet lemon; while fruit-scented sage, which smells like tutti-frutti, is the overwhelming winner.

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