It seems as though many in my generation grew up not cooking at all. Although I wasn’t one of them, it’s also fair to say that it wasn’t necessarily my passion, either. I have come to love it over time, and I enjoy the feeling that comes with serving my family a meal with the stories of local farmers behind it. I also look forward to having my kids at my elbows asking for a taste, or standing on a chair next to me excited about mixing pancake batter or spinning just-washed greens. If eating sustainably is a goal in your family, encouraging your kids to cook will help carry on that tradition long after they leave the nest. It will also teach them how wonderful home-cooked meals using fresh ingredients taste, and how simple they are to prepare. While my own children are not quite old enough to wield knives un-assisted, the Countryside Farmers’ Market at Howe Meadow has a great program for kids that are slightly older to catch the eat-local bug. Our Jr. Chefs program, now in its second year, allows youth between the ages of 7-12 to shop at the market with a local chef and then to create a simple dish or three using the local bounty. On July 18th seven lucky kids got to do just that with Dante Boccuzzi - creating a cabbage, bacon, new potato dish; fresh gnocchi with summer squash and compound butter, pork “steaks”; and pickles! On August 1st more kids will get to shop with Tami Mitchell, a personal chef in Akron with the business “Dine-In-Diva.” These classes are a lot of fun, and really capture the spirit of letting yourself be inspired by what is fresh and in season. Right now with peaches and summer squash, tomatoes and new potatoes, blackberries and green beans it isn’t hard to find inspiration. If you are interested in learning more, call me at 330.657.2538.
Short of sending your kids to the class, take them with you to the market each week, and even to different markets on occasion to see how even in our own region the local micro-climate and focus of the participating farms can affect what is available- you never know what treasure they may find. I have heard several shoppers comment at our markets that they give each of their kids a few dollars to pick out something on their own- certainly a great way to get the kids excited about the market! If the market has a cooking demo, be sure to stop by and watch with your kids to see if it is something you could recreate at home. The samples should indicate whether the kids are open to actually eating it, too.
While I can’t guarantee there won’t be any arguments about who gets to crack the egg, cooking with kids keeps them engaged and productive, and allows you to pass along your passion for good food over time. When cooking with young children (like mine) meals will take a little longer to come to the table, but in time- who knows?- maybe dinner prep time will mean you sipping a drink with an umbrella and your feet up while your kids cook something for you!