Trailer Park Unschoolers

Because you don't need to be rich to unschool!

Learning the Art of Cooking

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Last night Corde and I had a wonderful experience.  It all stemmed from me being too distracted to cook dinner.  I wasn’t hungry, so I really didn’t think about making food.  Corde finally got frustrated and said, “Mom, are you ever going to make dinner?”  I hadn’t realized that time had gotten away from me.  I’d planned to do it sooner, but no one reminded me and I can get very sidetracked.

“Do you want to make it then?” I asked Corde.  I’d realized she’d get much less irritated with me if I simply taught her to cook.  Some people may see this as laziness on my part, but I view it as a life skill and really helpful for me.  Next time I’m sidetracked and keep forgetting dinner she can gather everything up and say, “I’m ready to cook” when she’s hungry instead of having to wait on me.  I’m not ready to just let her go with cooking on her own.  We have a gas stove and those are notorious for being dangerous.  Until we get the conversion, we’re working with a hot plate.  For safety sake I’d be more comfortable sitting over her when she uses either since she’s not familiar with either.  It’s meant we’re stuck with really simple meals until the point we can get the stove converted and running.

I don’t think she could have contained her excitement if she wanted to.  “Then I can cook for my brothers every day!”  At first this struck a cord with me.  I should be the one cooking for her brothers, not her.  She’s not the parent and certainly doesn’t need that kind of burden on her.  Then I realized that I’m looking far too deeply into it from the stance of my concerns.  It wasn’t until after she’d made dinner that I realized why she wants to cook for her brothers.  What better place can she get praise from?  Her brothers are always telling her how good the food is when she cooks for them!  Sometimes I’m jealous.  They don’t offer any praise for me!

So we went into the kitchen.  We started with some simple pasta.  We’ve been eating those packaged pasta side things a lot.  I know it’s better to make from scratch, but with a small kitchen, four kids to keep after, and everything else, we tend to reach for quick and easy.  Thankfully, these are also perfect early cooking solutions for Corde.  They’re more complex than ramen, but they’re still pretty easy.  I loved making stuff like that when I was younger because they were quick and easy.

Last night we got everything together.  I did most of the reading because I knew making her read it would be a fight, but I showed here where to find the things she needed so all she had to do was read the names.  Next time she could get the stuff together herself.  I measured out the ingredients because we’re using some really non-traditional means of measuring.  Our measuring cups seemed to have all grown legs in the move.  Correction, Corde says, “They grew legs, arms, and an eyeball.  They need arms to open the doors and an eyeball so they can see where they’re going!”  Then we threw it all in the pot and started to cook.

She was pretty surprised at how easy it was.  I told her that cooking is usually pretty easy.  Baking gets a lot more complicated.  Then again, there are some really complex, fancy recipes that are a lot harder too, but most of daily cooking isn’t really all that hard.  A lot of it is mixing everything and then setting it in a pot or casserole dish to cook.  Most of the cooking we do around here is pretty simple, so she’ll have lots she can learn without having to feel overwhelmed.

It was kind of funny.  Out of instinct I got up and went to stir the noodles.  As soon as I had spoon in hand Corde shouted, “No!  I have to do it!”   She was in the room in a flash and the spoon was out of my hand.  She stirred the noodles as though they were something that needed to be treated with care in order to for them to turn out perfectly.  I was surprised at how determined she was to make them with as little help as possible.

Just before we turned off the heat I pointed out to her how I knew the noodles were done.  I don’t use timers to cook a lot of what I make.  I’ve just gotten really good at looking for the signs and going off of that.  Timers just throw me off.  We talked about the thickness of the sauce and how you don’t want it too thick or it will just end up even thicker after it cools.  You don’t want it too soupy or it will be runny when you serve it up.  She decided when it was done and declared it was perfect.  She was pretty well accurate.  It was just the way I would have done it.

Not only did she get to cook the food, but she served it up too.  I wasn’t allowed to handle anything.  She made up plates for herself and Beekee, and a small plate for Oz.  Sander was asleep and I wasn’t hungry, so we left the food to them.  Oz wasn’t even all that hungry, but he wanted to try it.  She sat down to eat, truly proud of her accomplishment, getting compliments from both Oz and Beekee.  Beekee even said it was better than the food I make!

When all was said and done and there was nothing left but a few leftovers, Sander got up and he had to have some too.  He scarfed the stuff down like he hadn’t eaten in weeks!  After every bite he had to say, “Good food!”  He told her at least five or six times, “Day-day!  Good food!”  She was positively beaming.

After all was cleaned up and put away, Corde announced, “I’m going to cook dinner from now on.  That way I can learn how to cook for me and my brothers.  I think they’d like that.”  She started to list off all the things she wanted to learn how to cook.

This new love has definitely opened up her world a lot more.  First it was cross stitch.  Then it was the idea of making beautiful decorations for cupcakes.  Now she’s on to cooking.  Once she feels confident with cooking and we have a conversion kit for our stove, she wants to learn how to bake.  She’s realized that there’s a lot more to love in life, not just art.  She still loves art, but I haven’t seen her pick up her sketch book once since she we started exploring these other things.  It’s amazing how her view on life has changed from everything being about more traditional art to include things she wouldn’t have dreamed about before.  She’s decided there are arts that are far more fun than the traditional ones.

I think this is one of the things I like most about unschooling.  Things flow naturally from one to the next, allowing the world to be explored at my children’s own pace.  Corde was too focused on more traditional arts to think outside the box on what other things could possibly be art, or could just be a lot of fun.  First it was cupcakes and all the fantastic flavors and decorations that she hopes to someday learn.  From there it flowed to cooking because “It’s like baking, only you don’t make sweets!”  Though Corde’s mostly right on that, I wouldn’t consider bread baking to be sweets.  She’s discovered a whole new world that she loves because she was allowed to come upon it naturally.  If she’d learned to cook like I did, out of need and not interest and love, she’d probably not be such a fan of it, much like I’m not a fan of cooking.  I’d rather bake.

This has me wondering, if she’s decided cooking and baking are definitely art forms, then what else is going to inspire her under the name of art.  And more of a curiosity, am I ever going to be allowed to cook again?  It seems like I’ve been banished from my own kitchen as anything other than assistant to chef-in-training, Corde!

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Author: Fox

With four kids in the house, who has time for much? Well, we're trying to make it work, trying to get as close to our unschooling roots as we can while state restrictions and family pressures try to stand in our way. Every day is a new adventure.

3 thoughts on “Learning the Art of Cooking

  1. That is awesome! I wish that my mother had taught me how to make more meals before I married and moved out. Corde will surely make sure of that skill in her life 🙂
    I read a blog post a while back by a mom of two girls who helped them perfect one meal per year starting at age 10. That way by the time they were 18 and wanted to move out the knew a healthy meal for every day of the week plus a special meal for when company came.
    My husband usually makes breakfast for the family so when he was away a couple mornings agi, my 4 year old took it upon himself to make egg salad sandwiches for breakfast. All I had to do we get the paprika from the top of the fridge and boil the eggs (didn’t want him touching a hot stove!)
    Cooking skill = useful
    Solving quadratic equations = never done that since high school

    -Tessa

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