French Kids Don't Get Fat, But Do French Kids Cook?

Mar 17, 2009 by

Kid cooking Jeff, a reader from Portland, asks: “I wonder as I read your blog whether your family chips in on meals . . . or is this a solo activity.

I have found that my daughters, who are 8 and 12, really enjoy chipping in. But since your kids are older, has the novelty worn off for them, as to cooking . . . ?



Reading through my diary from seventh grade recently, I came across some bitter complaining about how my mom had made me do some cooking for dinner. But then I concluded my whining thus: “But I kinda liked it.”

Then once, and only once, in high school, for some reason, I selected my own recipe, Salisbury Steak—basically a hamburger patty in sauce—something I had only eaten in school cafeterias. I made it for our dinner with mashed potatoes and a simple salad. It was even better than the ones I’d had at school. I enjoyed eating it, and was proud that I could make something that good. I still remember how my dad complimented it.

I never did that again.

A bit like me when I was a teen—but, happily, less so—my kids Alex, 18, and Erika, 16, don’t demonstrate a strong drive to get in the kitchen and cook. All the same, I consider my goals well met for them in this area.

My aim has always been that they enjoy eating and cooking good food. I like cooking well enough that most of the time, I am quite happy to do it all myself. I believe my enjoyment of it has contributed to their positive associations with it. Every child is born ready to cook, and while my kids’ interest is currently a bit dormant, it’s intact and ready to revive when the time comes.

They both offer to help cook sometimes, and other times I ask for their help. Alex says he enjoys it. Erika does like to make desserts. They’ve both successfully made complete recipes on their own and been pleased by doing so. They aren’t intimidated. They are familiar with a wide range of ingredients. They won’t go out into the world feeling mystified by cooking as are some people, who say, “I can’t cook.” They know through experience that any normal, literate person can cook well. That’s an important asset.

My kids are pressed into service more often than I was. They have also been requested to volunteer a good bit more than I did. But until the day cooking becomes their responsibility, they have other priorities. It seems that it’s one of those things they don’t often feel like doing, but generally find themselves able to enjoy it when they do. When the time comes, I think they’ll be ready to embrace it.

I don’t fault my mom for not making me do much cooking, any more than I did when I was still a teen, if for other reasons. I believe it’s better to err on the side of doing too little than pushing a child to do too much in the kitchen. Certainly my interest in cooking never had a chance to be extinguished. I just feel bad that my working mom got so little help from me. I like to think I could have maybe responded well to her pushing me just a bit more. I know I would have done more and enjoyed it, whether I would have admitted it or not.


Jeff’s question merits a series of answers. Today’s post is the first of several to come, which will discuss the value of involving children in cooking, how to preserve their motivation, the importance of keeping it fun, and letting cooking be its own reward.

© French Kids Don’t Get Fat / Anna Migeon / 17 March 2009 / All rights reserved