Soup’s On: How Cooking Shows Teach

Why I Will Let My Kids Watch Cooking Shows

Cooking shows are robbed of their central sensory features – the ability to smell and taste the food being prepared. To compensate, they have to create a full-spectrum visual and audio show that captures and keeps the audience’s interest. How do they do it? By treating the viewers like toddlers.

When our kids are very young, we’re taught to envelop them in a cloud of words – to narrate their actions, what they might be thinking, and to explain the steps of our own thought processes as we maneuver them through the day. It often sounds something like, “And now we’re getting in the car, and I’m going to buckle you in, and then we’re going to the post office…”

A variety of published studies have touted the benefits of talking to our kids, but there does seem to be a cutoff – an age where a child’s questions begin to steer the conversation, rather than our pattering observations. This is totally normal, and kids’ inquisitiveness certainly leads us to a variety of conversations we might have never otherwise had. (“Well, I don’t know if giraffes ever feel angry; what do you think?)

And at some point – much to many parents’ relief – the ceaseless questioning begins to taper off, as kids find their own tools for discovering the world. However, when I teach kids in the kitchen, I find myself reverting to the patter-narrative patterns that I would use for much younger kids. Why? Because like driving cars and tying shoes for the younger set, the methods of kitchen work are often a mystery to older kids, even kids with parents who love to cook. Read the rest of this entry »

Soup’s On: A Story From Cooking Class

On Food, And How to Make It

A Story From Cooking Class…

“It’s not fair!” seven-year-old Ethan cries from the back seat as I reveal the big surprise on this week’s menu.  “Robbie (age nine) always gets a treat because he likes soda and I don’t and that’s always the treat.”

Shopping with Robbie and Ethan is always a bit of a great adventure, and they are terrific sports.  They’re learning their way around the market, tasting new fruits and vegetables with part of every snack (starfruit! pomelo! cauliflower!), and also figuring out what I can be persuaded to buy – and what I can’t.

“Pleeease can we have these? You said we were going to make soda and I don’t want any but I could have this instead!” Ethan’s attempts at negotiation are both understandable and in that particular pitch of whine that could rival a mosquito.  I raise an eyebrow and give my standard line – cool, calm, mildly incredulous.

“That doesn’t look like food.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Soup’s On: Books Cooking Up Interest in the Kitchen

Books For Growing Foodies

As a cooking teacher, many people assume I got my start as a wee tiny child, probably peeling potatoes at my mother’s knee, or learning my grandmother’s matzah ball secrets. The truth couldn’t be farther from these sweet tales! It’s true that I did help out in the kitchen periodically, but I don’t remember taking much joy in the tasks I was given, and I didn’t start cooking on my own until late into high school.

No, readers, before I was a cook, I was an eater.

And before I was an eater, I was a reader (well, a listener-of-books-read-to-me.)

The first memories I have of being excited about food (well, excited in a larger way than the simple excitement of being hungry and eating) all sprang from the pages of children’s books. These weren’t necessarily children’s books about food – some of them had a single illustration or passing description that I latched onto and savored.  Read the rest of this entry »

Soup’s On: Trust in the Kitchen

Kitchen Knife Lessons

When kids are trusted – really trusted – with true responsibility, they rise to the occasion. They will always know if you’re holding back, or if you’re counting on them to mess up. But the moments I’ve connected most deeply with kids in the kitchen are the moments in which I was just a tiny bit nervous – and trusted them anyway.

I love the sight of a young kid with a knife in their hands.

I love the transformation that happens when they’re handed a real blade. Even the kids who spend their days turning branches into swords and spoons into catapults and every single blessed thing into a gun (down to their own fingers!) – even these kids pause when they take the knife.

I watch the enormity of the moment settle over them – true responsibility, in its most concrete form. I watch their shoulders relax, and their focus narrow. Some parents wonder why I save the safety talk until the knife is actually in their hands – and this is why. Once you are holding the knife, wielding that power, the safety lessons make much more sense.

Read the rest of this entry »

Soup’s On: Lunch Box Ideas

Lunch Box Ideas

It’s back to school time, and that means the family meal schedule – whatever it’s been since the end of June – is about to take a left-turn swerve into school lunches, after school snacks, and many, many exasperated conversations about where lunch boxes get left and why we don’t get to have what every single other child on planet Earth gets to have for lunch.

Here are some guidelines that I use with the families I work with when it comes to school lunches… Read the rest of this entry »

Soup’s On: Picky Eaters, Part 3

Picky Eaters, Part 3

Welcome back to the kitchen. In June, we enjoyed a lengthy discussion about picky eaters, and the roots of restrictive eating. July saw us tackle the task of getting young picky eaters to broaden their horizons. This month, we’re going to talk about older youth and young adults, and how NOT to turn dinnertime into a battlefield of exasperation.

But first, a review of things we know about older youth and food:

  1. By the time people reach the age of 9 or 10, they’ve begun to develop the “catalog” of experiences and tastes that we talked about in the earlier articles. They may be able to identify preferences for sweet foods over salty ones, or have a list of favorite foods.
  2. Their taste buds are still changing, as they will continue to do into adulthood. They may not taste things as strongly as they did when they were younger. It can help kids to know this, especially if they’re being asked to try something they remember disliking as a youngster.
  3. They are old enough to prepare simple meals for themselves, or even the family. That’s helpful, as we’ll see later on.

Read the rest of this entry »

Soup’s On: Picky Eaters, Part 2

Soup’s On: Picky Eaters, Part 1

Picky Eaters, Part 1: The Root

Where does picky eating come from? Dealing with picky eaters can be a challenge for the omnivorous or adventurous cook. Let’s explore some of the reasons some folks keep a limited diet – and how we can address those needs and help them expand their tastes!

If you’ve ever used one of these words to describe yourself, your child, or someone you know, you probably know the frustration of trying to feed someone who doesn’t seem to like a wide variety of foods.

Perhaps it’s your screaming toddler, who’s latched onto a diet of grape juice and animal crackers; your nine year old who would eat peanut butter sandwiches for every single meal if she could, or even your spouse, who methodically reads the online menu and identifies what he’s going to order before you hit the restaurant.

Let’s talk about some of the reasons that people get labeled “picky eaters.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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