BY WENDY HELFENBAUM
WOULDN’T IT BE great to come home
from work to a home-cooked meal—
prepared by your kids? It’s not as far-fetched
as it sounds. Parents who introduce their
children to the joys of cooking early in life
reap many rewards and healthy eating
habits that can last a lifetime, says Costco
member Ricardo Larrivée, a Montreal
chef, TV personality and cookbook author.
For the past ;; years, Larrivée has
been the spokesperson for La Tablée des
Chefs ( tableedeschefs.org), a non-profit
that feeds people in need and also develops culinary education programs for more
than ;,;;; youths across Quebec each year.
“As soon as you teach kids how to prepare food, they’ll make more lunches, try
new vegetables or fruit and have better
snacks, so let’s invest in this fantastic
generation, because they’re very interested,” says Larrivée. “Kids can change
society around food, as they’ve done with
recycling: Just try throwing a can in the
garbage in front of your children today! I
think we can do the same thing with food.”
Once a child can hold something, they’re
ready to start learning, says Larrivée. Start
by showing them how fresh a lemon smells,
or how squishy an avocado feels when you
mash it with a fork.
Young children can also learn how to
peel a carrot or even slice a tomato while
you supervise, adds registered dietitian
Sydney Massey, director of nutrition
education at the BC Dairy Association.
“When you see a child interested in try-
ing to do something, let them try to do it,”
says Massey, whose team manages Better
Together ( bettertogetherbc.ca), an online
community forum that promotes family
meals. The organization holds an annual
provincial Hands-on Cook-off Contest
to encourage children and teens to cook
together; participants submit video entries
to win ;;,;;; worth of prizes.
“In our contest, we see what children
at different ages are capable of doing.
One year, there was a ;-year-old help-
ing her mother make a frittata, and she
just sat there perfectly cracking about a
dozen eggs, one after another, into the
bowl,” recalls Massey, a Costco member.
“Obviously, that wasn’t her first time
doing it, so parents do have to put up with
a learning curve: At first, things take a
little longer and are a little messier, but
then you have the payoff, because they’re
Cooking together also leads to more
family meals, adds Massey, who also
notes that contest participants often
report their children later want to keep
preparing food with their parents or
grandparents. Weekends are an ideal
time to start engaging young children,
she states. Easy meals to prep with kids
include pizza, salad and tacos.
Larrivée’s latest book, Explique-moi …
les aliments (Tell Me About Food), is geared
toward tweens and teens, and includes fun
facts about food, cooking tips and ;; easy
recipes. He also explains food chemistry
basics for young cooks.
“Kids just hate being told to do something without a reason, but if you take the
time to explain why their cake got messed
up, it’ll be easier the next time,” he says.
“You don’t have to turn them into chefs.
Kids will mimic you: If your son or daughter sees you enjoying cooking, then your
job is done. I tell parents that even if you’re
bad at cooking, make that birthday cake
anyway, because one day you’ll be gone,
and they’ll say, ‘Remember how bad that
cake was when Dad made it?’ It’s all about
love, because you took the time to do it. The
rest doesn’t matter.” C
Wendy Helfenbaum is a Montreal-based
writer ( taketwoproductions.ca).
FOR YOUR TABLE
Cooking with kids
and sharing meals
A variety of cookbooks and ingredients to
get parents and kids cooking together are
available in most Costco warehouses.