I am starting to implement this philosophy at a younger age with my second set of boys, hoping to cover more ground, by having them help prep food for dinner, cook for themselves when I am away for the day, and bake goodies just for fun. Hopefully by the time they are teenagers they will have some real kitchen skills and will be preparing whole meals without help.
I decided to carry this a bit farther by volunteering to teach a class for Sam and Peter's 4-H club. Knowing that the nearly all-girl club had done plenty of cookie and muffin baking already, I chose to teach them how to care for and use kitchen knives. A good knife is a cook's best friend and kids should learn how to use them before they learn to cook.
I began by showing the kids a variety of knives and explaining their uses. I brought my paring knife, a filet knife, and serrated bread knife as well as small and large chef's knives. Those versatile wide-bladed knives are my favorite tool in the kitchen. I figured out that I never even had a wide chef's knife until I was at least in my thirties. It is so true that each knife has its special use and I am utterly amazed I cooked for so long without one. For my birthday last year my son and his girlfriend gifted me with a wonderful set of Miyobi knives. Razor sharp and perfectly weighted, I am now shamelessly spoiled.
The proper way to hone a knife is to hold it at a 20 degree angle to the steel honer which is held firmly at a perpendicular angle to a cutting board. Two or three smooth strokes from the heel of the knife to the tip, on each side of the blade, is sufficient. Cutting boards should be made of wood or plastic. Ceramic or glass boards, like tile or granite countertops, will dull the knife edge by chipping microscopic bits when the knife contacts the hard surface. Honing the knife will smooth the burrs off the blade that are caused by use.
the easy recipe for oven fries. While we proceeded with the class the fries baked in the oven. When the fries finally emerged, steaming and spicy with mustard and seasoning, they were eaten so quickly I didn't get a photo of them.
The next easy recipe was creamy potato soup, which required an onion. Each of the kids brought an onion and learned the proper way to dice it.
Somehow when I was planning the class this cumulative effect of onion chopping didn't occur to me. It brought to mind the scene in the movie Julie and Julia where Julia Child (Meryl Streep) is practicing her onion dicing skills on twenty pounds of onions. Yeah, it was like that... only louder.
But the kids survived. We bagged up the onion bits to contain the fumes and proceeded to evenly chop more potatoes for the soup. Sauteed onion and celery, potatoes and chicken broth were soon bubbling on the stove as the students devoured the oven fries.
I'm hoping that the kids will remember more from this class than their burning eyes, but I'm not so sure.