My earliest kitchen memories take me back to when I was four. I was obsessed with the mortar and pestle.I spent many contented hours pounding onions and garlic into paste, grinding spices into powder. Who knew manual pulverising would keep a rambunctious tyke so entertained?
Little did I realise how formative those years would be, for they inculcated in me an unwavering love and respect for freshly prepared food. It is for this reason that I am a proponent of children dabbling in the kitchen. Good nutrition needs getting used to. If kids see how easy it is to prepare, let’s say, a burger at home that’s both healthy and mouth-watering, why would they entertain the thought of a drive-thru?
I’m no psychologist, but I think it safe to say the young feel immense pride in their creations. We’ve all been there — we know how terrific it felt when we got to present our latest art project (or scrawl) to the unsuspecting neighbour who’d popped in for tea and gossip with mummy.
So why not let children show-off and share a snack that they’ve made? I propose a batch of granola bars. They’re a cinch to prepare, hardy enough to withstand most climates, and are a nutrient-packed, portable snack. Best of all, they can be customised with a myriad mix-ins: think wholesome (almonds, apricots, flax seeds) or indulgent (M&Ms, butterscotch chips, maple candy). If nothing else, this is a brilliant way to clear out the larder:
Kids can get very involved in making granola bars, from picking out their favourite ingredients to measuring them out. And then there’s the stirring. Don’t’ ask me why, but kids love to stir. I reckon it’s because they can play with the food, make a mess, and then stop to snack on what’s inside.
Some look forward to a brownie or cake batter because they get to lick the prep bowl and spatula right at the end. I’ve personally never been a fan due to a peculiar phobia of salmonella from the presence of raw eggs. That’s another reason I think granola bars are a safer bet to start with the young: all the individual ingredients are fine to eat as is. Plus there’s always the spoon used to scoop peanut butter and honey as reward.
Baking at home allows kids to see first-hand exactly what goes into their food. Over time, they’ll learn to tailor recipes to palates and dietary needs (or ask you to). Want something less sweet? Cut down the sugar. Like more tang? Up the lemon juice. In addition, goodies such as sugar cookies and gingerbread men allow for unbridled creativity during the decorating process. At the end of the day, it boils down to getting kids comfortable and excited in the kitchen — new recruits to the oven fraternity are gladly received.
For me, it was the trilling smite of pestle against mortar that started this journey. You never know; the low thumps of a rolling pin or whir of a whisk might just be the very sound that lights the spark in your junior MasterChef.