By: Liz Krause.
Food can have a negative connotation these days. Listen to just a handful of health nutritionists and one is left wondering what is left to eat!
However, food shouldn’t have to have such a negative image and it do not have to be the root of all things unhealthy and overweight. Not only can food be used to create bonds between mother and daughter, it can also teach basic lifelong skills such as proper meal preparation.
As a young woman who grew up in an Italian home and has married into one as well, it’s the kitchen where many times the heart of relationships are given life. From fresh brewed tazzi’s of espresso dipped with biscotti, to the massive leg of lamb at Easter dinner, along with amazing side dishes of fresh vegetables to salads and antipasto, some our most memorable and cherished conversations and moments are often found in the company of great food.
Food, regardless of nationality, is a great way to nurture and grow relationships between you and your daughters. Here are few reasons why:
Food is Neutral Ground
Food is not associated with any age bracket, meaning it’s not an “old person thing” and it’s not a “kid activity either. It can bring mother and daughter to a place where they can actually agree on something together – such as what tastes great and what their favorite foods are and why.
There can be quite a bit of learning and preparation for life that goes on in the kitchen. For example, my nephew is soon going to college, and my brother is scrambling to start teaching him how to cook college meals. Why wait so long? Teach children as they grow up, incorporate them into the processes so they learn how to work a stove and fry some breaded chicken (without causing a fire), or how to use a blender to make gazpacho soup or homemade breadcrumbs.
Teaching kids how to cook also teaches them how to eat, which is critical – especially during college. Ever hear of the freshman 15? It’s because late night pizzas and 24 hour fast food joints are the menu of choice. Sure, freshman may not have their own kitchens, but they can better discern which foods are the better choices when going down to the cafeteria for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In addition, this can be an opportunity to teach children the value of budgeting and meal planning. Once they start living on their own, how well they learned these skills will make or break their budget.
Food Shows you Have Something in Common
Teens are searching for their individuality and many kids try to find it by being different than what their parents may be like. But there is one area where both can share similar interests and that’s food.
Who doesn’t love desserts? Find some ways to make homemade pies, ice cream, or other treats. Are you both breakfast lovers? If so, try making frittatas, coffee cake, or cinnamon buns. If you both like meat – find some recipes that can be prepared together like meatballs, or meatloaf. These recipes are so easy to make and can be made in quantity to be frozen for a future meal.
Suddenly you can your child can have something to talk about that is not attempting to change anyone’s personality or individuality – it’s something that can be shared and whether they realize it or not, it will be the foundation of many memories they will hold onto.
Food can Teach Pride in one’s own Heritage
When finding one’s individuality, it’s okay to encourage them to embrace their cultural roots. Knowing where you came from and the stories of how one’s Great-Great Grandfather and Grandmother met, gives a sense of belonging – a sense of identity.
Try to find some recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation and begin teaching them to your children. If you have a Polish dish, explain a bit about Poland and anything that can be tied in relation to their ancestral past. In my case, learning how to make my Italian Grandmother’s pasta sauce was something I took pride in and felt I had a connection to my past.
Food can Build Self Confidence
Food is a powerful tool for many reasons. I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t enjoy good food. Each of these avenues listed above can help a child build self confidence and a sense of pride by accomplishing something that many kids can’t boast about. This can in turn give a strong self acceptance of who they are as others compliment their budding culinary accomplishments.
And lastly, its’ not always about the child – it can be about us too. There is always something new to learn in the kitchen – whether it’s your daughters crush on the new boy in class or the latest method of cooking a roast leg of lamb!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Liz is a huge proponent of using the kitchen to build relationships. Liz now shares her own family’s Italian recipes on her cooking website, SimpleItalianCooking.com which offers tips and reviews on various Italian kitchenware products such as gelato makers which can be used at home to make Italian gelato. Liz also offers a newsletter where she keeps in touch with her readers. She hopes that others can learn to use the kitchen to make memorable family moments that will last a lifetime.
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