Before I got married, I didn’t know how to cook anything except eggs, canned goods and rice. My mom, who was an excellent cook, wanted to teach me but my dad believed in letting us be kids and relax… which meant we got to laze around at home weekends and the whole summer long.
When I got married, I realized I didn’t know crap in the kitchen. All I could make was rice, egg and canned goods. I was used to having helpers and the food just magically appeared in the dinner table every night. (Yes.. that’s how dependent I was.)
I remember one of the first meals I made for my husband was meatballs. I thought.. it’s just ground pork, cut up some veggies, mix it up into a ball and voila.. you’ve got a meatball! How could I get it wrong?
Well… it turned out i cut my carrots so badly (in other words the dice was too big) so it was really more a carrot ball than a meatball. Let’s just say my husband was trying to be nice so he ate it but it was obvious he didn’t enjoy it.
Since I’m a little pig-headed, instead of becoming disheartened, I resolved to learn how to cook as best I can. And I did… very slowly. I made a lot of flops along the way.. which my hubby kindly ate even though they probably tasted horrible. The important thing was I learned. I’m still no top chef but I am a passable cook.
Needless to say, I realized that allowing me to be a child as long as possible was fun but it really wasn’t doing me any favors.
So I purposefully stop my kids playing their games and Ipads once in a while in order to undertake baking projects together by making their favorite cookies. We try different recipes and they love the end results. Until now they feel home-made cookies are better than Chips Ahoy or Oreos. The past few years they usually request to bake together if they feel like munching on cookies so we always stock ingredients at home.
This past summer, they requested cooking classes since they enjoy baking so much. Their schedule was packed as it is. There was no way to eke in a fixed schedule for that and I wanted them to have a week with a decompressed schedule before school starts so they have time to relax. They whined about it a lot. Since I felt cooking was an important lifeskill (as I can attest based on personal experience), I resolved to just teach them myself by taking off work a few hours early.
I wasn’t confident. In fact I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. So I decided to just opt for recipes I’ve tried and felt are simple. Chicken a la King… simple pasta… banana cupcakes…that sort of thing. My good friend M also took a day off to teach the kids “steamed rice”, a local Cebuano go-to dish that looks like fookien rice, on a day that I just couldn’t get off work. Since it was just a group of 2 to 4 kids max… we were able to oversee them slicing the meat, vegetables and other ingredients we needed. They mashed the bananas themselves. They measured. They even had the chance to stir and cook the ingredients themselves. At first they were scared of the heat but after a while they got used to it and started appreciating the smells that cooking made. By the time we were making our last dish, they were already recommending ingredients to add since we didn’t follow a strict recipe. I also discovered a way to make cooking even more fun for them. I made sure they tasted the dish every step of the way… first just the beef and garlic… then taste again with the tomato sauce… then with the salt…. taste taste taste every step of the way. They appreciated how the dish evolved with every ingredient as opposed to just adding the ingredients and tasting the final product.
Teaching them was an eye-opener…not just for them.. but for me. I really had a lot of fun with them. I saw their fear of cutting themselves when they sliced or their fear of the burning themselves when they hear sizzle and see the steam generated as they stirred the pans. I saw how they slowly gained confidence as they realized they won’t hurt themselves if they’re careful. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed cooking as much as I had cooking with them.
The best part is I was able to witness and appreciate how eager my children are to learn new skills which I wouldn’t have seen if I had sent them to cooking class. I watched them and I realized they’re growing up so fast and spending time with them like this is something priceless.
Now that school has started, they ask me if I can still hold “cooking class” with them during a slow weekend. I said sure but only after they’ve settled into school.
Little do they know I’m probably looking forward to it more than they are.