Food & Drink

This summer, teach kids to cook

School’s out! Youngsters are thinking no more school, no more homework, and no more rigid schedules. Parents, on the other hand, are wondering what to do with their children this summer. I say teach them to cook.

My grandchildren visit me each summer for a few weeks. We do the traditional things — the zoo, movies and swimming pool. But what my grandchildren remember the most are the cooking classes, the tea parties and the cooking contests I have done with them.

The tea party became a summer tradition several years with my two granddaughters. It was a huge event for these two little girls. Dressing up was part of the thrill: What would they wear this year? I had saved several of my daughter’s party dresses for “dress up” for the girls, and they spent hours trying on all the dresses. It did not seem to matter that the dresses were too big for them. We would tuck and pin, and they were good to go. After the dress issue was settled, next came the jewelry. They loved to dig through my costume jewelry and, of course, I let them wear whatever they wanted for this very special event. Their tastes ruled — and we had some very unusual color combinations. Of course, hats were required for our tea party and — since it was a special occasion — they could wear lipstick. Oh, they were a beautiful sight.

Although our tea party was an all-girl event, a little brother of a guest once was included. But the rule was he had to wear a hat. He came with his tall, red-white-and-blue Uncle Sam hat. The girls did not bat an eye. A hat was a hat.

Making the food was the most fun of all. My granddaughters enjoyed it so much that they invited their guests to come and help. So we had a cooking class before the tea party. I taught them how to make cucumber sandwiches. Normally, they would not touch a cucumber. But they devoured these. Our eclectic menu took various shapes through the years. Sometimes we made assorted fillings for flour tortillas, rolled them up and cut them into dainty rounds. We stuffed cherry tomatoes, arranged fresh vegetables with dip and always had strawberries dipped in chocolate. Since the girls did not like tea, we served lemonade in pretty teacups. And we always used china plates, set the table beautifully with folded cloth napkins. When the party was over, granddaughter Stephanie summed it up very well when she said making the food was as much fun as the actual party.

Youngsters love to cook, and it is a great summertime activity. An amazing fact is how much the youngsters enjoy the food they have made. It is no longer mysterious but delicious.