I love to cook – What Mom taught, I share with my boys

I love to cook! It’s a skill I learned early in life, thanks to Mom. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t her sous chef, unless one of my aunts was in the kitchen, too.

When I was about 10, old enough to stay home by myself during the summer, Mom would have me defrost the meat, usually chicken, when she left for work in the morning. Throughout the day, she’d call with instructions to season the meat, preheat the oven, start the rice or pasta and begin steaming the vegetables.

By the time she arrived home in the evening, dinner was served.

I didn’t know it then, but Mom’s daily instructions got me hooked on cooking, a passion I want to pass on to my own two boys.

Though some kids my age might have seen it as a chore, back then I embraced the challenge of preparing dinner for my mom. Eventually, she let me experiment with different seasonings; for a time, I developed such a fondness for dill that Mom strictly forbade its use. After a few years in the kitchen, though, I’d learned enough to begin concocting recipes and meals on my own.

Once, despite the “no dill” edict, I sprinkled some on a potato casserole I created. That night at the dinner table, Mom raved about how that dish was perfectly seasoned.

A devious grin spread across my face. Mom’s curiosity was piqued: What was in that casserole? she asked.

I told her — but left out the illicit dill I’d sprinkled on.

“That’s all?” she asked, her eyes drifting to the ceiling as she savored another forkful. “I taste something else. I can’t place it, but whatever it is makes this dish.”

I finally confessed to the dill. She shot me a quick side-eye, then took a bite and closed her eyes in pleasure.

By the time I was in high school, I cooked for myself or prepared the family dinner. In college, my apartment’s kitchen table was the meeting place for friends and fraternity brothers. Relationships I treasure to this day were nurtured there, while either preparing or enjoying a sumptuous meal.

Now that I’m a husband and father, I’m the primary cook in my household, and it’s a labor of love. After a busy day at work, preparing a meal for my wife and kids is relaxing, and stimulates my creativity, freeing my mind from the troubles of a complex, difficult world.

At the same time, spending time in the kitchen, cooking for my family, is to indulge in a passion that connects my past and present. When we sit down to eat a meal I’ve prepared, I get to share a big part of my childhood — and the love I put into those dinners I made for my mom.

As a father of two young boys, I’ve found cooking with and for them is a great time for bonding over a shared activity.  Besides teaching them am important life skill, cooking with the boys helps nurture their creativity as well as showing them how science and math work in the real world. Sometimes I even sneak in some theatrics on the side.

Recently, my sons and I made beef Bourguignon, a recipe that calls for cognac, which is then ignited to burn off the alcohol. They helped with the rest of the ingredients, but when it came time for the cognac, I distracted them away from the pot. After discreetly adding the secret ingredient, I summoned them back to the stove.

As they gathered around the stove, I turned out the kitchen lights.

“Gentleman,” I declared, “behold the cauldron of fire!”

I struck a match, then touched it to the sauce. The pan filled with fire, just as the recipe instructed. The flames immediately captivated my youngest son, then an impressionable two-year-old.

“That’s cool!” he exclaimed.

But his older brother, who was five at the time, was more inquisitive. Instead of enjoying the show, he demanded a peek behind the curtain.

“How did you do that, Dad?” he asked. “There must be something other than water in there, because water puts out fire! What did you do?”

I explained the process, only to have both boys admonish me: “Dad! Kids can’t have alcohol!”

That’s when they told me to order pizza instead.

Interested in more inspiring and empowering stories? Check out these articles:

Playtime isn’t Only for Kids, Creativity still Blooms in Adult Life
Suite Talk: Laugh and Learn with The Bowtie Comedian Mike Goodwin
Consciously Curated: Professional Parenting for a Good Life and Love

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