Dave’s Debut Culinary Dabble
It is always interesting to hear tales of how fathers take the plunge into the beautiful abyss of cookery. The stories can range from the absolutely hilarious and unexpected to the truly heart-warming, but they never fail to inspire.
Dave, a father of two little girls, often recalls with amusement the circumstances that forced him to make his first foray into the kitchen -the kids were hungry, his wife was putting in overtime at work, the foreign domestic helper was on home leave, his mother was ill, and the shops were closed.
Dave’s debut dabble in the culinary arts almost went awry. He was shocked to discover that the can which depicted a beautiful plate of Macaroni and Cheese on the outside, contained only cheese sauce.
Nonetheless, the reluctant hero however was able to avert a disastrous attempt by improvising on what he had in the kitchen. He not only saved the day by sending his children to bed happy, but probably also unwittingly created his own signature Instant Noodles and Cheese dish.
Overcoming “Cook-o-phobia” Together
For want of a better word, this probably best describes the affliction thousands of clueless dads out there have when it comes to cooking. It is undoubtedly true that fear is what holds back many fathers who are uninitiated with the kitchen (and unfamiliar with the supermarket sections as well!).
The hardest part is in taking the first step. Therefore try roping in and rallying your relatives or some guy friend who can cook to help you for a start.
Remember this: cooking is not like wizardry a la Harry Potter (either you can perform spell-binding spells, or you cannot). No one is born a chef, and neither can you make delectable food appear from nothing at the snap of a finger (ask Dumbledore how he produced the scrumptious pre-semester feasts at Hogwarts).
With some effort, everyone can learn how to cook. And it is fun to do so together with the kids. Here is how to get started.
Age Three to Six: Quick-n-Simple, No-cook Recipes
Plan and choose the right recipe. Keep in mind the level which you and your children will be comfortable. Consider whether the kids can handle knives and work at the stove with gas and fire. You may want to start off with quick and simple recipes or no-cook recipes (yes, there are such things), especially if your child is relatively young (six years and under), before going on to more complex ones that require more sophisticated cooking methods.
No-cook recipes are easy to navigate and execute, mainly because they do not need any specific cooking techniques and are generally fail-safe. Do not underestimate the humble sandwich as well, especially because you can prepare one at any time of the day. Simply put whatever ingredients you want between two slices of bread. The sandwiches you create can also be as simple, or as gourmet as you want them to be.
It is also fun to prepare no-cook desserts. Here is a simple recipe which you can try with the kids.
Chocolate Crunch Balls:
25g Cornflakes (broken into smaller pieces) or Rice Krispies
Optional: Assorted nuts (for example, Almond, Walnut and Pecan)
Toppings: Sugared balls, Sugared hearts and Coloured Sugar flakes
Mixing bowl, Microwave oven and Refrigerator
1. Melt chocolate in a microwave oven for two to three minutes at medium heat.
2. Pour chocolate into a mixing bowl. Add cornflakes and nuts. Mix all ingredients well
3. Fill into mini cupcake cases. Add topping of choice or leave plain.
4. Leave to set in fridge.
Age Seven to Twelve: Two-in-One, Flexible Recipes
A flexible recipe allows for the preparation of child-friendly meals which can be transformed to fit the adult palette by make minor adjustments. In other words, you will not have to cook separate dishes for the adults and children at home if you have this two-in-one recipe in your repertoire.
For example, you can easily have two types of pasta, one with capsicums, capers, olives and chillies (which you may love, but which disgust many kids), and one without the toppings. To know what the children like, you may wish to have a meeting with them beforehand. By doing so, the family can reach a consensus on what to cook.
Here is a flexible recipe which you can try with the kids.
Easy Pizza Bread
Four to eight slices of Wholemeal or Softmeal bread
Pasta sauce, Pizza sauce or Tomato paste
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Plus any toppings of your choice!
Suggested toppings: Ham, Tuna, Button Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Capsicum and Corn
Chopping board and kitchen knife, Baking tray and Oven
Oven Temperature: 200 ºC
Baking time: 10-15 min
1. Spread pizza sauce on bread slices.
2. Slice toppings, for example Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Capsicum.
3. Sprinkle shredded Mozzerella Cheese.
4. Bake in convectional oven (or even the humble toaster oven!) at 200ºC for about 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Age Thirteen-Infinity: Party-on, Mass-Participation Recipes
Persuading your children, especially the older ones, to subscribe to the idea of cooking with their dad can be difficult and daunting. As such, think of a more attractive proposition (or excuse) to entice them. It can come in the guise of a family gathering, picnic outing or a celebratory birthday barbeque.
One dad deliberately invites his teenaged son’s friends over whenever there is a school project to be done, so that they can prepare food for a project meeting or a “working lunch”.
Another dad rewards his son for good examination results with a “congratulatory dinner party” to which he can invite his friends to help with the cooking. For such “mass participation” cooking sessions, it may also be wise to decide on less ambitious (read: idiot-proof) recipes for best results.
Festive occasions are also great opportunities for family bonding. Start a new tradition by getting the family to cook or bake together to prepare for the celebrations! Try this out with the kids.
Chinese New Year Peanut Cookies
A: 70g Ground Peanuts
60g Icing Sugar
1 tsp Milk Powder
75g Plain Flour + ½ tsp Baking Powder
B: 60 to 75ml cornoil/sunflower oil
½ tsp Vanilla Essence
1 Egg yolk for glazing
Equipment Required: Large mixing bowl, Greaseproof paper (also known as baking paper, or silicone paper), Pastry brush, Baking tray and Oven
Oven Temperature: 180 ºC
Baking time: 20-25min
1. Mix dry ingredients ‘A’ together in a large mixing bowl.
2. Make a well in the centre and pour in three quarters of the liquid Mix B. Mix well to a semi-soft consistency. If required, add all of the remaining oil. The dough should not be sticky. Knead slightly.
3. Divide the mixture into four portions. Then divide again into eight or 10 mini balls.
4. Take each mini ball of dough and roll into a small marble-sized ball. Round and press slightly with palm till you get cookie shape.
5. Place cookie ball on lined baking tray (line with silicone or greaseproof paper) leaving a little space in between. Glaze with a beaten egg yolk.
6. Bake in preheated oven at 180 ºC for 20 to 25 minutes till golden brown.
* You can obtain most ingredients in baking specialty shops at prices lower than found at your usual supermarket.
An Enduring Ritual
It is important to keep and create traditions for special occasions. In the book ‘Everyday Traditions: Simple Family Rituals for Connection and Comfort’, Nava Atlas writes: “…when you involve your partner or children in the process of creating meals, you also create a perfect opportunity to pass down food customs and rituals, and share culinary passions.”
At the same time, it is also vital for families to gather over ‘grub’ as part of everyday life. Susie Scott, author of ‘In Making Sense of Everyday Life’, concurs. She writes: “The ritual of the family meal can be seen as contributing to the social order of the household. By sitting down together, behaving in relatively predictable ways, and engaging in meaningful social interaction, the family symbolically reproduces itself and reaffirms its core values.”
Zac recalls how he would help his dad make breakfast for the whole family every weekend when he was a kid. The Saturday morning meals could be Pancakes, Cereal with Fruit, Fried Noodles or Wanton Noodles and Soup.
He tells of how the memory of he and Dad donning aprons, with eggs sizzling in the pan and the lovely fragrance of melted butter with pancake batter, will stick ever so vividly in his mind as an undying mark of his happy childhood.
- Atlas, Nava (2005). Everyday Traditions: Simple Family Rituals for Connection and Comfort. New York: Amberville Press
- Fredericks, Lynn (1999). Cooking Time Is Family Time: Cooking Together, Eating Together, and Spending Time Together. New York: Harper Collins
- Johnson, Becky (2007). Baking with Tiny Tots. London: Hamlyn (Octopus Publishing Group)
- McAvoy, Claire (2009). The Minichefs Cookbook. London: Grub Street
- Quon, Erin & Quon, Tatum (2009). Cooking with Kids. London: Apple Press
- Scott, Susie (2009). Making Sense of Everyday Life. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press
- Shaw, Tucker (2007). Gentlemen, start your ovens. San Francisco, California: Chronicle Books
About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.
First published on 15-06-2011.
Categories: Ages and Stages