By Guest Blogger Ellen Bryant Lloyd
I love to cook. I enjoy following recipes that intrigue me and making up new creations from an assortment of items in my refrigerator and pantry. For me, time spent in the kitchen is fun, relaxing and fulfilling. I remember watching my grandmother lay out meat, vegetables, herbs and spices on her kitchen counter and hours later, being amazed at how she had magically transformed them into a beautiful spread on the dining room table. I loved how basic ingredients with the addition of “just a little of this and a little of that” could create something really special. Today, the mere preparation of certain dishes or baked goods have the power to retrieve powerful memories from my childhood.
When I was six years old, I remember begging my mom to teach me how to cook, for real. Not “pretend” cook on the counter as I stood on a chair beside her while she prepared dinner, but with real ingredients that became food you could eat. I read my kids’ cookbook through many times and then told her I was ready. She asked me to select my first dish to make, but to make sure it was an easy one to start with. I chose scrambled eggs.
The thrill of cracking the eggs into the brown ceramic bowl and then mixing in milk, salt and pepper was only surpassed by the sizzle I heard when the mixture met the cast iron skillet. I was cooking, for real!
My experience that day sealed my love of cooking. I followed my first “dish” with many other basic ones during my formative years: pancakes, French toast, macaroni and cheese, carrots, corn, butterbeans, spaghetti, banana bread, chocolate chip cookies and more. A true highlight for me was when I came home for Thanksgiving my freshman year of college and my mom asked if I would be in charge of making the stuffing. That was always “her thing,” so to let me prepare this dish was a definite nod of confidence in my culinary skills.
I welcomed my children into the kitchen when they were very young. As toddlers, they helped me retrieve ingredients, pour, mix and set the timer for recommended cooking times. As they grew older, they added chopping, stirring on the stove and checking for doneness to their repertoire.
Together, we enjoyed looking through my collection of cookbooks (including some passed down from my mom and grandmothers) for recipes that, from their perspective, “sounded good” for us to make. For a significant period of time before they reached the age of being super busy, they each had a day of the week they planned and prepared dinner, with my help if requested.
My son is now a senior in college, living independently with three fraternity brothers. It is hard to express how much joy I feel when he calls or texts to ask me for guidance on how to cook certain dishes or to share a recipe of mine he loves. Crowning moments are when he texts regular photos of the impressively plated meals he has carefully prepared. I have also loved spending time with my daughter in the kitchen, baking and whipping up fun treats together, especially over the last months. These full circle moments make my heart sing.
I cherish each and every memory I have of being in the kitchen with my mom, grandmothers and with my children. These times are truly gifts that keep on giving.
Since we all seem to have a little more time to spend at home with our loved ones these days, I thought I would share a sample of great cookbooks for young and mature chefs. It does not matter if you are challenged in the kitchen or if you have skills that rival the top chefs, invite your children to join you when you cook. Food lovingly prepared with them will always taste amazing, but the memories you create will be worthy of five-stars.
A sampling of cookbooks to check out for young and mature chefs:
– The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook by editors of Food Network magazine
– Super Good Baking for Kids by Duff Goldman
– Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls by Betty Crocker
– Super Simple Cooking for Kids: Lean to Cook with 50 Fun and Easy Recipes for Breakfast, Snacks, Dinner, and More! by Jodi Danen RDN
– Good Housekeeping Kids Cook!: 100+ Super-Easy, Delicious Recipes
– My First Cookbook: Fun recipes to cook together… with as much mixing, rolling, scrunching and squishing as possible! by America’s Test Kitchen Kids
– Omari McQueen’s Best Bites Cook Book by Omari McQueen — will be released January 2021
– The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker
– Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook by BH&G Editors
– The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution by Alice Waters
– Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
– Betty Crocker Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook from Scratch
– How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman
– The Pioneer Woman Cooks: The New Frontier: 112 Fantastic Favorites for Everyday Eating by Ree Drummond
– Once Upon a Chef, the Cookbook: 100 Tested, Perfected and Family-Approved Recipes by Jennifer Segal
Ellen Bryant Lloyd is the author of FRECKLES and FRECKLES and The Great Beach Rescue. Please visit www.funwithfreckles.com and www.facebook.com/funwithfreckles to learn more about Freckles. Ellen writes a blog about her perspectives on life and parenting at www.mindfulmom.wordpress.com and tweets at @EllenBLloyd. She lives in Greensboro with her husband and two children.
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