Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why cooking is important


Well as you are aware, we’re on holidays around here so we are doing things we just don’t get time to do in term time.
Both my son and daughter are well into baking, and are at the point where I can leave them to it in the kitchen. They can make Anzacs, muffins and lemon cake pretty much without my help.

Daughter whipping up a pancake batter


I thought that they needed to expand their repertoire to include “real” dinner food, so I asked them what they liked to eat best for dinner. Meatballs, they said, so last night they were in the kitchen with me while we made my Meatball recipe, adapted from a recipe from Nigella Lawson. I’ve blogged about it here.
So last night they learned to use the food processor, make breadcrumbs and peel carrots. I gave them knives for the first time (eek!) and gave them a lesson in chopping vegetables. Then they formed the meatballs, put the rice cooker on and prepared some broccoli from the garden. When I sent daughter to the garden for some parsley she came back with the right stuff. Not a bad effort. And they want to do it again tonight.
I don’t remember being interested in learning as a kid, unlike my own children. The main thing I developed as a kid, though, thanks to my mother (and my nonna) was an appreciation of “real” food, that is, food cooked freshly with real ingredients. So, by the time I left home, although I wasn’t a great cook I quickly realised that if I wanted to continue to eat well I’d have to learn quick smart, which is what I did. I bought a copy of the Australian Women’s Weekly Basic Cookbook, and a remaindered copy of Delia Smith’s Complete Illustrated Cookery Course, and slowly worked my way through them. I rang mum a lot for her recipes. And since then, I’ve cooked every day slowly becoming better and better and until I can say today I’m a darn good cook.
It all seems such an obvious and simple thing to do, but from what I read and witness amongst the children I teach, it seems that life skills like cooking can’t be taken for granted these days. The key to my learning to cook was being cooked for as a child, so I knew what real food was, and seeing someone cook every day so I regarded this as normal. I wonder about children in families where cooking is regarded as another chore best outsourced, and where fast food is regarded as an acceptable alternative to real food.
I’d even go further about the importance of appreciation of real food and cooking. When I think about it, my interest in growing and nurturing things, and the pared back life stems from my interest in feeding my family well. Once you are interested in real food, you become interested in real ingredients which leads to growing your own, and everything associated with that. In fact, I’d argue that if we want people to start caring for the environment, we should start by getting people to care about what they feed themselves first. From that, everything else flows.
What do you think? Got a cooking back story to share? I’d love to read about it! (and you have a chance to win a copy of Backyard Farmer).
BTW, knitting injury still not healed (aloe vera notwithstanding), but New South Wales won the State of Origami! Yay!

1 comment:

Eilleen said...

Thank you so much Paola for letting me know of this post! You know one thing I'm still not good at is identifying plants myself (since I was never really allowed in the kitchen as a child). Its great that your daughter is able to identify parsley!!

My kid's tastes are really simple at the moment when it comes to veges and herbs - just garlic, carrots, potato, tomatoes, corn, spinach, and brocolli. And that's pretty much it! Your post reminds me that we should try and branch out to a bit more than that.

Thanks again!