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On Your Father's Side  

Life lessons from the kitchen

Those cooking shows are missing a key ingredient.

If you really want to determine the best cook on TV — or anywhere else for that matter — throw a live toddler into the kitchen.

That’s sure to separate the make-believe Michelin (star) men from the next Nigella Lawsons.

If that were the contest, I’m certain my wife and I would contend.

When our youngest — three-year-old Emmy — had just learned to climb (roughly nine minutes after she had learned to walk), we were regularly pulling her off  tables and chairs.

Sadly, nine minutes after that, she had outsmarted us.

When we were most vulnerable, she’d pounce.

Imagine heating cooking oil in a cast-iron pan to its precise smoking point as a sirloin rested on the counter.

Imagine getting ready to gently lay that hand-chosen piece of beefy perfection into the pan.

Imagine looking up and seeing a two-year-old child brandishing a butcher knife.

Gah!

There is no exaggerating here.

“Emmy! No!”

I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating: Raising children is a great way to prepare for raising puppies.

As quickly as we would shoo Emmy from dangers in the kitchen (or the bathroom or the workshop), she’d re-appear somewhere else.

As soon as I had wrested the knife from her hands and placed it even further away from her that day, she had emerged on the kitchen table.

That led me to re-arranging the cutlery and glasses back to their original places.

With my back turned, Emmy did her best Yoda impersonation with the garbage bag under the sink.

You know, the Yoda from “Empire Strikes Back,” tossing Luke Skywalker’s tools behind him as he searched for tasty snacks in Luke’s backpack.

If only I had an R2-D2 to zap her.

Those tiny little footfalls — pat-pat-pat-pat — soon became a trigger for us.

“Where’s she going? What’s she doing?”

But they were so quiet, you’d rarely hear her in transit. It wasn’t until the dreaded silence that we’d panic.

“Why is it so quiet?”

It felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Predator.” After decades of covert military operations and training, Arnie could sense the alien monster’s movements, but couldn’t see them.

Before you consider raising children, you should really try covert military operations and training.

At any rate, we’ve developed a trick for getting Emmy to stop and pay attention: ask her older sisters to help us prepare meals.

Then, she’s front and centre, pushing them out of the way so she can help (she’s the youngest of three girls, after all).

We haven’t given up on the idea of teaching our three little girls how to cook despite the screeching and pushing.

Cooking — and eating together — has always been important in my family.

I’m sure many of you feel the same way. Gathering for holiday dinners, birthday parties or just random, weeknight noshes are the memories I hold most dear from my childhood.

Our grandparents set the standard, never once opening a box of Rice-a-Roni in their lives.

They turned over sod to plant gardens and they saved pickle jars for canning season.

Heck, my grandmother saved those mesh onion bags, tied them together with rubber bands and made her own pot scrubbers.

It’s important we teach those values to our kids, and the reasons why are clear.

New York Times food writers Kj Dell’Antonia and Margaux Laskey have a great list of reasons on their blog.

  • Kids who cook become kids who eat: if they have made it, they’ll likely want to eat it (warning, this is true for mud pies and dandelion “salads”).
  • Kids who cook are brave: food in a restaurant is just food to kids, and they believe they can recreate anything. They take that confidence wherever they go.
  • Kids who cook are healthier: not only do they avoid processed food high in sugar and salt, they become adults who avoid fatty, salty, overly sweetened foods.
  • Kids who cook understand food: they’ll know the difference between MSG and a pinch of salt and that high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, agave nectar and molasses are all just sugars even if they’re listed separately on the back of a box.
  • Kids who cook stay close: admittedly, my family’s in Ottawa and I don’t see them as often as I’d like. But questions about why my muffins are lopsided, their go-to potato salad or how long they boil turkey bones for broth have me running to the phone to talk to my mom or dad.

I’m certain this will pay off soon.

Already my girls are well aware that if they want to be the next Master Chef Junior, they have to know Judge Daddy likes his steak medium rare.

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About the Author

David Trifunov is a proud father, humble author and recovering journalist.

Trifunov and his wife, Erin, are raising three little girls in Kelowna and enjoying every second of the trials, triumphs and tribulations.

As a humble author, he has written three middle-grade books for publisher Formac-Lorimer.

To pay the bills so he can raise those kids and write those books, Trifunov is a journalist with 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor.

His parenting column will appear regularly. davidtrifunov.ca



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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