Editor’s Note: Good Morning and welcome to our first installment of Family Eats – a journey in getting kids back into the kitchen – with lovely local mama Sarah Stromquist and her family.
Sarah lets us peek inside the food-friendly evolution of her family and the family-friendly evolution of her kitchen, offering insight, tips, recipes and fun ideas on how to make meal time a family event – from beginning to end.
I always had an idealistic view that I would put in front my family wondrous meals I lovingly created that we would all enjoy, contently sit eating, laughing and generally enjoying the moments.
As I had learned through many failed attempts, it simply was not so.
I must confess that I had gotten into a rut where I cooked foods that I knew they would enjoy or, if nothing else, they’d eat with minimal complainants, avoiding conflict and undo stress on us all.
The kitchen became a source of contention for me, cooking dinner, trying to get it on the table while referring the squabbling children, feeling the guilt and resentment that follows as I’d yell from the kitchen for them to get along, gritting my teeth wanting it to be done. All this so I could get cleaned up and out the door to Girl Guides or whatever was on that night’s agenda.
It seemed there had been a gradual, indefinable shift in all of our household meals.
The time was chaotic and the menu too seemed to have lost its luster and taken on a particularly, unappealing, borderline unpalatable, blandness.
This was never so clear to me as on the morning I realized, while I was eating another breakfast of scrambled eggs, that I was so sick of them I truly couldn’t finish them.
At first my stomach knotted as memories of morning sickness flashed through me, but as I reassured myself that that wasn’t possible. I came to a grim conclusion that the consensus palate in our house had become limited, flavorless and down right boring.
What happened to the flare and joy I had in the kitchen? The pride and excitement of preparing and presenting a meal that everyone enjoyed? The sheer bliss of finding a new gem of a recipe I couldn’t wait to share with family and friends.
It was slowly beaten out of me.
I simply grew tired of the opposition and complaining and of all the wasted food.
I had tried all the tactics for getting the kids to eat different, varied and in essence, more flavorful foods. But it always ended the same after a week or so, me frustrated and the kids hungry and belligerent.
Looking back I can now see how meal time had evolved into a joyless task.
I thought about it a lot that faithful “egg” day, and I decided it was time for action, time for a shift in perspective and ground changing tactics.
I took it upon myself, as a challenge, to change.
It was a new forum, with the ability for me to implement many of my parenting philosophies in an arena that had seemed to escape me.
What did I do??
I brought the kids into the kitchen.
For the sake of my sanity, I refocused what I thought were priorities and channeled that energy into some well-organized quality time with my family.
Bringing my kids into the kitchen has since morphed into an amazing family orientated daily affair that we all genuinely look forward to.
Now while cooking, I have the ability to give my children my complete head space and spend guilt-free time together. It has been a monumental change; I can even say fun, being able to share quality time while teaching them fundamental cooking and life skills.
Bringing my kids into the kitchen honestly didn’t happen over night. It took some time to work out the kinks but it really wasn’t as hard as I had initially thought. I admit, as with any change, there was a learning curve and some resistance.
But I was surprised that it was mainly me. (Okay… not too surprised but it is always a life lesson when you admit something to yourself.)
I learned I had bad habits that needed amending and that I had to let go of that elusive perception of perfection. I have taken solace in the old adage “it is the process not the product,” and it has never rang so true for me as in my kitchen.
I found that the kids were so excited and responsive that it actually gave me enthusiasm to do more and I felt rejuvenated, even empowered.
I let the kiddos decide on a couple meals each week and this allows them the ability to express their desires and they feel included in the decision making process.
We also expanded the repertoire and they feel it isn’t quite as intimidating since they still have the ability to pick their favorites, but now I get to have some of my favorites back.
It is a win for us all.
When you take on such a transition, you need to remember to start small. Ease into the process and don’t expect to pull off a 5 course meal. A simple salad is a great idea.
Most people let their kiddos cut up veggies, but if you let them make a whole salad it can be quite an experience.
Tools are key. Kids need things that are (relatively) safe and easy to use. The knife below is a great tool from pampered chef. I also have pumpkin carving knives that work the same.
In the Summer my girls gather everything from the garden. In Winter they rifle through the fridge.
I allow them to pick whatever they want from the kitchen to create a salad and the combinations have been so creative making some truly great salads. I find that they eat way more and are excited for the next day’s creations.
I find that it is inspiring for them as well as myself and I am excited to see what they’ll create.
A beautiful salad can be completely made by a 2 year old and enjoyed by us all.
Can you believe it?
I finally do…and the kitchen is once again a source of fun and joy.
I look forward to sharing with you the learning journey our family is taking to make delicious meals that we all enjoy, spending quality time together, creating memories and teaching skills to last a lifetime.