We have about 18 years to teach our kids all sorts of academics, from reading to advanced math. It’s an overwhelming load, and occasionally homeschooling parents forget the importance of practical subjects like nutrition and cooking. This is a bad thing, because food and food preparation choices can affect our lives in many ways. In fact, there are some who say that a significant percentage of our society’s skyrocketing physical and mental illnesses are due to the foods we do and don’t eat.
Some suggest that a large part of the problem is that our society does not understand what real food is. I am certain that another aspect is that many are, for whatever reason, not choosing and preparing their food carefully. Sadly, many people do not even know how to prepare healthy, delicious food confidently and without excessive effort, day after day. And, without knowing that this is both desirable and possible, advertising and inertia easily win out, resulting in unhealthy, expensive food choices.
There is another way, one that used to be part of every high school curriculum, and that is to teach teens to cook. Yes, we can give our kids the skills to prepare foods that will nourish them and their future families.
Real Food Kids Cooking Course
Real Food Kids, a simple but thorough cooking course from Traditional Cooking School, encourages and empowers moms to teach their children the basics of cooking real food. Toddlers learn to make watermelon pops and, step by careful step through the years, kids learn more and more skills, continuing on to advanced meat cooking when they are older teens. This course is meant to fit seamlessly into family life and to graduate young adults who can recognize, shop for, and cook real foods, producing healthy, delicious meals with confidence.
So, how does it work? The course includes an ebook and many videos. What is unique about it is that the multiyear course manual is written mostly for moms, showing them how to teach their kids, although there are sections aimed directly at older children and teens as well. Course videos range from cute, encouraging ones about doing dishes with babies to technical ones about advanced knife skills, including knife sharpening. The teachers’ children show up in most of the videos as they learn, practice, and even teach various skills and recipes.
Real Food Kids begins at the beginning, helping moms figure out why they want their families to learn about food and cooking. It discusses routines and efficiency in the kitchen, something even many adults don’t know, and then outlines a basic teaching strategy that works as well in the kitchen as elsewhere. It describes ways of making kitchen time pleasant for all, gives tips for kid-friendly kitchen organization, and discusses kitchen gadgets that may or may not be helpful.
Then it discusses real food, what it is, what it isn’t, and how to recognize it, complete with flow charts for three levels, beginning with a very simple one for young children leading to a very detailed one for older teens. This course, as part of the Traditional Cooking School, is a fan of ‘real food.’ Not everyone will identify with its emphasis on ‘real food’, but everyone should at least have a basic understanding of what it is, why it is important, and what level of ‘real food’ is currently a realistic goal for their family. (This is discussed more thoroughly in Fundamentals 1 and Fundamentals 2 of Traditional Cooking School, both courses suitable for older teens as well as adults.)
Real Food Kids reminds mothers how to enjoy babies and toddlers in the kitchen. There’s the doing dishes video I mentioned above, a variety of ways toddlers can help, and an enthusiastic joy in being together. I fondly remember those days and vividly recall one of my babies grabbing the bag of onions I always left accessible, dragging a large frying pan from the bottom cupboard, climbing into it, and sitting in it cross-legged, trying to peel off brown onion skins with her tiny fingers.
Around age 3 the actual lessons start. There are 10 lessons each for Swing Cooks (ages 3-6), Line Cooks (ages 7-11), Sous Chefs (ages 12-15), and Head Chefs (ages 16-18), most of them accompanied by recipes and many by videos. The lessons cover planning, preparation, cooking, and clean up. Swing Cooks, for example, learn about basic measuring, table setting, mashing, beating, and rinsing dishes. Line Cooks learn to read a recipe, how to use a sharp knife and kitchen appliances, how to work with dough, and how to prepare a shopping list. Among other things, Sous Chefs learn about boiling water, baking bread, roasting, preparing broth, making soups and stews, and meal planning. Head Chefs work a lot with meat, learning how to braise, brine, barbeque, and roast it as well as how to cut up a chicken and plan a menu on a budget. Of course, mom is expected to teach the little ones, but teens can read their lessons themselves, although they, too, may need guidance. The accompanying videos can be very helpful.
The last third of the book contains kid-friendly recipes and ideas for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts and snacks. Each recipe lists what skill level is required, using the above categories, as well as the necessary equipment. Of course the emphasis is on real food and on delicious ways to prepare it. We have added one of the recipes, Berry Chia Mousse, to our permanent cooking repertoire, something we do with only a few recipes each year.
Real Food Kids Cooking Course mirrors the way I taught our older children about cooking—except that we did not use our fingers as much! Our younger ones, the current crop of high schoolers in our home, did not learn to cook in the same way due to family health issues. This is so ironic! However, these health issues have been an impetus for me to learn (and sometimes relearn) traditional cooking skills, and as we become healthier there is more energy for and interest in cooking. Currently these younger teens are overwhelmed with schoolwork due to the addition of a university level course taught by their older sister, but slowly they are moving back into the kitchen, and I now have a detailed guide to fill in gaps in their early learning and to teach them everything they need to know about cooking.
Note: After mastering some of the skills in Real Food Kids, teens could take Fundamentals 1 and Fundamentals 2 (links to my reviews) from Traditional Cooking School as part of a food and nutrition high school credit or even as a major history project. These courses teach some skills my oldest daughter has seen demonstrated at academic medieval history conferences and give new insight into everyday life in history.
For more information or to purchase, visit Real Food Kids.
Disclosure: I have received a free membership to Traditional Cooking School in order to review several of the courses.