As a little girl, I loved sitting on the kitchen counter while my mom cooked. While I kicked my feet against the cabinets, she taught me how to peel an onion efficiently and how to crack an egg and use my index fingers to get all the white out before tossing the shells into the compost bin. And I still vividly recall the excitement I felt over the beautiful, golden, sesame seed-studded loaves of braided challah we baked in my second grade class at the Woodstock Children’s Center – they were like some kind of miracle…
Childhood is such an important, impressionable time of life when the vast majority of our lifelong habits are formed, or at least pointed in the direction in which they’ll head. That’s why my husband and I want to introduce our son, Will, to growing and cooking food alongside us.
Will, who is just shy of three, watches and “helps” us with our container garden where we grow tomatoes, greens, peas, beans and herbs. At this point, it mostly means he digs in the dirt but he’s learning.
He had the heady experience of drinking cold, clear, slightly sweet maple sap straight from the spile (was this a new vocab word for you, too?) during our first foray into maple sugaring last winter.
And we brought him with us to forage for ramps a few weeks ago (although we confined his enthusiastic excavation efforts to a patch of ground that was not home to this fragile delicacy.) We’ve also gone strawberry, raspberry, blueberry and apple picking as a family – all activities we plan to repeat on a yearly basis.
We’ve taken him to local farms and friends’ houses to gather eggs so fresh you have to chase the hens off their nests to pick them up. In addition to teaching him where his food comes from, it’s a great way to kill an hour or so. We have not yet taught him about where the meat we eat comes from, both because we don’t have a great local source and we’re also both a little wimpy about exposing him to something so bloody at a tender age (or to being exposed to it, ourselves, at our not so tender ages…)
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