Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a growing trend in our home magazines, in TV commercials and blogs of touting the feel-good vibe of cooking with children.
Who are the crazy people who think sharing a room full of fire, whirling blades and sharp knives is a great family activity?
I’ll tell you who. People like me, who have never had children. Apparently they long for their missed chance to bond with their progeny while grating carrots or making meatloaf that looks like brains.
I know this because I’ve tried it a few times with friends’ kids and my godchildren. Turns out having pre-schoolers in the kitchen is more nerve-racking, and less productive than taking them to the grocery store.
Geez. First off, they weren’t MY kids, so I felt I couldn’t be as tough as I needed. I instead fell back on gentle coaxing, followed by more strident directions, followed by hair-pulling (mine, not theirs) and then, of course resignation. When more than half a container of chocolate syrup got dumped into the hot chocolate; when beaters lifted out of the batter did a Jackson Pollack on the kitchen walls: when the inevitable scuffles and bickering between siblings started over sprinkles, I realized something.
You need to distract them with side jobs, while you get on with the real cooking.
My husband’s grandmother was the inspiration, even though I never got to meet her. One of his favorite stories was how she would give him the scraps of left-over pie crust, sit him at a table away from the main action, and let him shape the dough into any figure he wanted. Then his misshapen creations were baked along with the picture-perfect pie, and everyone was happy.
Don’t hate me. I think teaching older children how to cook is essential. It teaches math through measuring, organization through trying to get a meal to come out together, and of course, chemistry.
But until they hit that magic age, I’m going to stick to show and tell cooking, while whipping up kid-friendly food. Let’s face it, with the average attention span of a small poodle, the kids won’t mind.
Cheesy Dog Wontons
1 cup vegetable oil
8 wonton wrappers
3-4 slices cheese
2 hot dogs, cut into bite-size pieces
mustard and ketchup for dipping
Heat the oil to 350 degrees in a large skillet or deep-fryer.
Place four wonton wrappers flat on a pan. Top each with slices of cheese and hotdogs, leaving a quarter-inch border. Wet the edges of the wontons with a little cold water. Place remaining wontons on top and seal the edges by pressing with a fork. (Note: you will be tempted to let the kids help with this step. Don’t. These babies need to be sealed properly or they’ll leak while cooking.)
Drop the wontons in the hot oil and cook briefly, just until the wrappers turn golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels and let them cool for a few minutes before serving.