How Cooking Together is Making My Family Closer
Over the past several years, cooking with my kids has evolved from an occasional activity to a more frequent and structured pastime, but since the coronavirus pandemic sent us into a stir-crazy lockdown a few weeks ago, it has become an essential lifeline to all of us.
My grown kids never had much interest in cooking, but my two younger kids became especially intrigued when I first made what would become their favorite dish, steak au poivre. They'd come rushing into the kitchen when it was time to ignite the brandy for the sauce, and (from a safe distance, with a fire extinguisher handy) marvel at the flames and clap their hands over their ears at the din of the smoke alarms.
From time to time, I began inviting them to perform tasks while I cooked, like basting the steak, or peeling some produce, or letting them flip the occasional pancake.
As a creature of social media, I would also often post photos and videos of my creations — including the obligatory slo-mo flambé — which eventually gave me the idea to combine the activities and give birth to "Daddy and Holly and Liam's Cooking Show," a friends-and-family-only Facebook endeavor that we'd put out once every month or two. The format lent some structure to what had been random lessons here and there and getting to watch themselves on TV intensified the kids' interest in cooking.
Since the coronavirus, cooking together has become more important than ever. As even any adult can tell you, the varying degrees of lockdown have people scrambling for something, anything, to occupy time once spent in the teeming outside world. But for children, the disruption to routine is especially stressful, and a few hours of Zoom classroom are scant comfort.
Likewise, in addition to the worry that a global pandemic presents to the adult psyche, we also have to contend with the dueling concerns of watching our kids deal with this new reality and keeping them from getting on our last nerve.
Cooking together has become an escape from the coronavirus that, crucially, doesn't have us escaping each other the way bingeing Netflix and Disney Plus might do. We talk about the food we're making, I make endless dad jokes, I startle them by pretending to cut myself — good, clean fun.
Speaking of clean, cooking has also been a great way to deliver coronavirus-related lessons. Frequent handwashing is a staple of kitchen life, but now we make a loud buzzer noise whenever one of us touches our face, and proceed immediately to the sink for 20 seconds of anti-viral scrubbing.
Not everything has to be a stunning showcase of culinary skill, either. I'm making tacos from a mix tonight (gasp!), but there are still tips and tricks to deliver—like using low-sodium mix so you can season the beef to taste and beef broth instead of water to give it extra flavor—and tasks the kids can perform to keep then in the kitchen with me and away from the TV.
I wish I could tell you that having the kids cook with me lightens the actual workload, but alas, it does not. They take a little bit longer to do things than I do, the results are sometimes a little bit sloppier, and there are often extraneous clean-ups to perform.
But at a time when the rest of the world is practicing social distancing and trying to keep their minds off of a global crisis, extra time together is a blessing.
Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and stay healthy.