We’re cooking in Tesco stores across the UK this summer, as part of the Eat Happy Project. Our Business Development Manager, Wendy Carter, went along to a course with her son Alexander. She tells us about their experience…
Before my first child was born I vowed to be the kind of mum who’d cook every day with my children, teaching them about where food comes from and sitting together as a family to eat. And for a while, I was. Then the second one came along, and now I am more likely to send them off to their play kitchens to occupy them for twenty minutes while I cook, than let them loose in the kitchen with me.
I know all the reasons why cooking with your children is a good idea. It helps develop motor skills, encourages them to try new foods and it’s a great way of learning a whole host of new skills – from reading (following a recipe) to maths (weighing, fractions) and science. Plus its quality time, doing something fun, that doesn’t cost a fortune.
But for every one of these positive reasons, I can give you another one why I don’t do it very often. Too much mess, far too much stress, and it takes longer.
As it’s my eldest son’s first school summer holiday, I eagerly signed us up for the free cooking sessions, ran by the Trust and the Eat Happy Project, in our local Tesco store.
I went with my five-year-old son Alexander, who I feel I’ve neglected terribly since his little brother came along two years ago. Finally, a chance to spend quality time together.
On day one, we meet our cooking teachers, Gill and Sarah, who work together seamlessly. Gill gives us a cooking demonstration of each recipe, splitting it up into stages so the youngsters can remember the instructions, and telling us about each ingredient. Sarah slips around like a magical kitchen fairy as, without you even noticing, the next ingredient or piece of equipment is placed at hand, ready to use, and everything else is cleared away. I wish my kitchen had a Sarah!
We also meet our new friends for the next three days. We’re joined by five other mums and their children.Today we are making tasty tomato pasta and the children get busy chopping spring onions and mushrooms and crushing garlic, before it’s all added to one big pan to be cooked by Sarah. We all sit together to eat and complete a foodie word search. Then it’s back to the kitchen to prepare some fruit parcels to take home to bake in the oven. Alexander loves the pasta so much that he eats a second helping in the car, with his fingers. Rubbish table manners but I am loving his enthusiasm!
On day two, the children bring the chef hats that we decorated at home with pictures of fruit and veg and Alexander has included five people on his to represent the five young chefs. We’re desperate to learn what we are cooking and today its falafel in wraps with minty yoghurt dressing. We love squishing the falafel into patties, but I am a bit worried that Alexander won’t eat it. I’m surprised to see him polish the lot off and bring some spares home to share with his dad. We also make carrot cous cous, which he wants to eat in the car, but this time I draw the line.
On day three, we’re genuinely sad that it’s our last day and we kick off with a speedy chicken biryani, which is delicious, even at ten o’clock in the morning. The tempting smell attracts some Tesco customers who wander over to see what we are cooking, and they are given a recipe to take away. We then toast our culinary success with a citrus cocktail drink and prepare a peach and raspberry crumble to finish off at home in the oven.
So what did we learn over the three days? I’ve never let Alexander near the knives before but he learned ‘bridge’ and ‘claw’ safe chopping techniques, which did wonders for his confidence, and mine. He learned a lot about ingredients through the food quiz and from Gill’s demonstrations and ate lots of new foods, which I wouldn’t have thought he’d even try. He’s now super keen to help me cook every meal.
What did I learn? I just can’t help ‘helping’, and this course helped me to trust Alexander to get on with the recipe on his own. I learned how to make some great simple new recipes, including ‘homework’ which involved making bread in a bag and healthy noodle snack pots which will be incredibly handy to take to work. And that cooking with kids is not that hard after all!
You can find out more about the cooking sessions and book here