By Kelly Zimmerhanzel, FoodCorps Service Member
For my family, the holidays have always revolved around food. My earliest memories of this time of year are inextricably intertwined with the smells and sounds of a busy kitchen. Free from the demands of work and school, we could finally all gather in the kitchen and cook a meal together. My mom and dad taught my older sisters the basics of cooking and my middle sister then taught me, relishing the rare opportunity to be a little bossy. As a newly-minted kitchen helper, I began as a lowly “taste tester,” but was soon promoted to “sous chef,” expanding my responsibilities to the crucial tasks of stirring and measuring.
As an adult, I’ve realized how lucky I am that my family taught me to cook; many of my friends are living on their own for the first time without these skills. I recently taught a twenty-something friend of mine how to grate cheese because he had never done it before. He could buy grated cheese or just go out to eat, but research shows that people who cook at home tend to be healthier while spending less of their monthly income on food. This is something I've noticed while eating within my own tight budget.
I know the holidays are an especially busy time for parents. With so much to do and the kids at home all week, it is tempting to give them your phone or tablet or turn on a movie to distract them while you work. But regardless of what you celebrate during the winter break, consider inviting the kids to help out in the kitchen. While you may think that your kids are too young to help, even the youngest kids can manage simple tasks. I have made smoothies and no-bake pumpkin bites with my second grade classes and found that they can easily manage measuring and stirring. You may be surprised by how eager your kids are to learn, and giving them the skills to nourish themselves later in life is one of the greatest gifts.
If you want ideas on how to get the kids to help out in the kitchen, check out this article, which outlines appropriate cooking skills by age: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/guide-cookery-skills-age.
The ChicopeeFRESH team is a group of creative individuals who are working to feed Chicopee students healthy, local and FRESH foods each day.