From PBS Kitchen Explorers comes this wonderful article about raising kids to love food. Eating habits are a big enough challenge for parents, but the next step of learning to cook is an excellent skill and can provide for quality family time. Aviva Goldfarb interviews J.M. Hirsch, who is the Associated Press food editor, about how he has involved his child in cooking. The article provides a lot of examples on how to include kids in cooking and provides great suggestions. Hirsch even gave a knife to his two-year-old, but explains how he created rules to ensure safety. Basically, when using a knife the child must only use one hand and keep the other hand by his side. Any breach of the rule means that knife privileges are lost. That’s a good idea for kids starting to use a knife regardless of age.
Some of the advice in the article includes ideas about kitchen games, having kids make spice rubs on their own, introducing kids to smells early on, and embracing the kitchen mess. You can also check out J.M. Hirsch’s cooking blog for his recipes and videos, and he also has a book out called High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking. The book gets good marks on Amazon and looks like a great reference for the parent who likes to cook but has limited time. There is also a video on Amazon of Hirsch actually putting his kid to work on a spice rub. I like the idea of putting selected spices that work together in a plastic tub so the kid can smell and combine with minimal guidance to come up with flavorful mixes.
Even if you as a parent aren’t comfortable with such mixtures or know what spices go together, there are some good books out there that provide guidance. Herbs & Spices by Jill Norman is a good reference and has a chapter on herb mixtures. Also, The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg has a lot of useful tables that even break things down into different ethnic cuisine flavors. Both are good books on herbs, spices, and other flavors.