The Family that Cooks Together....

I recently read that the average person only knows 10 recipes. Being one of them, my New Year's resolution this year was to skill up and improve my lot as domestic cook. Given I'm a reader, I filled a kitchen cupboard with recipe books and every weekend, tried out at least one new recipe. Soon though, I realised while my cooking improved, I was heavily reliant on the book. I couldn't just 'whip up' a batch of cakes, I had to check proportions etc. My cooking had turned into my piano playing. No self-respecting rock-star stands in front of an audience with a music sheet in front of them, so had I really increased my 10 recipes (if I even knew that many?!)

So self-taught wasn't the way to go but just as I was comtemplating going on a course, I noticed that while I may not be able to retain memory of recipes, my five year old son certainly was. A quick search on the net showed that the best way to learn life-long skills as a cook is to start as a child. I had to google what 'peaks' in egg whites meant but my son instinctively knows. What's more, he's become interested in food. He comes to the supermarket with me and takes charge of picking out the broccoli, apples and other "healthy food". I will suggest chicken for dinner and he'll suggest carrots and roast potatoes to accompany. There is considerable research to show that children who often help prepare dinner with their families consume more fruit and vegetables and less junk food.

I've since learnt that cooking together not only improves the family diet but strengthens family bonds and passes on traditions. When children are involved in preparing meals, they associate good food with good times. It's fun to make something together and gives you the wonderful opportunity to spend time together - even more if there is a food disaster, providing much laughter! Your children learn valuable kitchen skills and will pick up the dishes you make and then take them with them when they eventually leave the nest. As students, it will be cheaper for them than eating out and a home-cooked meal is always a sure-fire hit to impress your new girl/boyfriend!

How do you make it happen?

Start simply, pick one dish or meal a week. It can be making pizzas, cookies or Sunday lunch.

See that your child/children have a job they like.

Keep it simple so even young kids can help.

Turn off the TV, phones etc and enjoy each other's company.

I find putting on colourful aprons makes it an occasion. I whip my one out and suddenly there are footsteps looking for his. There was even a request that Daddy gets one so he can help (he did - a frilly one that says 'Votes for Women'!)

One thing to note that if you say you don't like something, they suddenly don't too. It can be hard, but try to encourage them (and yourself) to taste things before saying they don't like them. And keep 'mum' on what you don't like!