Let The Littles In The Kitchen


My mom was an amazing Southern cook. Chicken fried steak, King Ranch casserole, lasagna, coconut cream pie. . . My mouth is watering just thinking about it. But when I got married, I knew nothing about cooking. I must have been too busy or disinterested before I left home.

So, I learned the hard way. I cooked chicken breasts at 450 degrees for an hour–and never thought to check on them until they were a tenth of the size and more like a jerky treat than dinner for my hungry new hubby. For Christmas one year, I ambitiously offered to make my mom’s famous homemade hot fudge sauce for gifts for hungry hubby’s office buddies. Only after we passed out 20+ jars of the stuff did we realize that it turned into a tar-like substance when we poured it on ice cream. Needless to say, I’ve learned to cook by trial and error. Bless my sweet husband’s heart for putting up with me.

Fast forward 15 years into marriage, and I found myself the mother of five little girls. Jesus, you really trust ME to teach them how to be big girls? Wives? Mommies? A daunting task for sure.

I quickly realized that my littles (unlike me) loved to be in the kitchen.

From a young age, they wanted to bake cookies, make frosting from scratch, stir the soup, anything. At first, I was nervous. Honestly, I hate a mess. So naturally, I was nervous that they would. . . make a mess. That’s embarrassing to admit. But it’s true. Eventually, it was just better if I left the kitchen altogether and let them do it—make the mess, feel the satisfaction of doing it themselves, learn from their mistakes—and clean up the kitchen.

One summer I had this crazy idea that I would pair them up to plan and cook meals together.

(I took the youngest—and honestly, most ambitious, fearless little cook–as my partner.) We got a kids cookbook and a fun cupcake cookbook (before the days of Pinterest boards), and they went to town making calzones, poppy seed chicken, French onion soup (fail), cupcakes with fortune cookies made of fondant on top and other recipes I had never dreamed of tackling! It was awesome!

Now they are all teenagers, and honestly, having them cook dinner in the summer is assurance they will wake up before 4:00 in the afternoon. I’m kidding–they’re usually up by 1:00. This week they made seared salmon (I’m afraid to cook fish at home), sushi stacks, chili, ham and cheese sliders, and it was amazing.

I ask for their meal plan and ingredients list by Friday so I can do the shopping on the weekend, and then assign them a night based on their work and activities schedule. Some of the girls enjoy it more than others. Some are more confident than others. But they are way ahead of where I was at their age. Bon appetite!