Teenagers Cooking

The emphasis of this blog has been cooking with young children. However, there are cooking challenges with children of all ages. I just read this article about teenagers cooking and thought some of you may have older children, too, and would find value in this as well.

It is written by Glenda Gourley, a food and nutrition educator, who has a passion for getting kids into the kitchen cooking and having fun. She has developed a strategy specifically for teenage children. Her website http://www.TeachChildrenToCook.com is designed to help parents and teachers to teach kids to cook: from this site you can access the site hosted by her teenage daughter Claire, which aims to inspire kids to cook with easy, fun, healthy recipes.

“Inspiring teens to cook is tough. We all know that children haven’t got basic food skills – either in preparation or how to make good food choices. The challenge is to bridge the gap between teen apathy and imparting food skills.

In my work with teens I have discovered that this problem knows no international barriers. The consequences of this are evident everywhere in western countries – obesity is rising, consumption of fruit and vegetables is declining and consumption of highly processed foods rises. The next generation is in trouble – they just don’t know it yet. We owe it to them to give them the right skills. Kids need to be inspired and empowered to up-skill themselves and take responsibility for what they eat.

Of all the research and focus groups, the most poignant has been discovering what teens think parents need to do if they want them to learn to cook. We identified eight key points. I still struggle to keep a straight face when I recall how deadly serious they were. So whilst they may be laced with humor – make no mistake, the kids meant them.

These points verge on being precocious, but it certainly helps parents to know what teenagers are thinking. Teenagers are fickle and probably one of the more complicated groups you can try to influence – but also one of the most rewarding when you get it right. I suggest you consider the following with an open mind and then discuss it with your teen – I am sure you will find we are not too far off the mark.

In the words of teens, this is what parents should do…

1. Let me choose what I cook – simple, if I don’t like it I’m not going to want to cook it.

2. Get me a recipe that works – If I go to the effort of cooking I want it to work. I don’t want have to have to keep running to you to ask what to do next.

3. Have all the ingredients – don’t expect me to be able to substitute ingredients when I am just starting out.

4. Stay out of the kitchen – don’t be a helicopter hovering around, give me some space to work things out. But stick around the house in case I need to ask.

5. Resist ‘you should have’ comments – please, please resist the ‘you should have done this’ or ‘I do it this way’ sort of advice. If I want to know I’ll ask.

6. Be impressed – if you expect me to do this again you need to be impressed, so you might have to ‘fake it until I make it’. And don’t go telling all your friends if I do burn something or do something stupid.

7. Don’t nag – if I take a bit longer than you do or I don’t clean up exactly like you do please give me some slack. I have just cooked you a meal!

8. Cut me a deal! – be prepared to cut me a deal – if you expect me to buy into this ‘cook a meal once a week idea’ there has to be something in it for me. This ‘skills for a lifetime’ doesn’t really flick my switch – but money for the movies, being able to borrow the car or that new dress does. Make me feel like I earned it.Okay – I know it’s all about me – but I’m a teenager – it’s always about me!

Teens, especially older ones, will be leaving home before you know it. You are doing your child a huge favor if you ensure they are armed with basic cooking skills before they venture out into the big world. By knowing how to cook, teens can learn to make meals they like, make better food choices, and they will be able to better make their money go further. The added bonus is as they learn a repertoire of recipes you see them gain confidence – and you get to eat the results. I certainly can vouch how delightful it is when one of the children prepares dinner!

So take these eight tips on board and aim to inspire your teenager to cook in 2011. It will make a big difference.”

Cooking is a basic skill that is important for persons of all ages.

Lee Jackson, CFCS
Food and Family Living Specialist