Thank goodness I taught my children to cook!

I am not a well girl at the moment. I have "lady garden" problems and am having a Fibromyalgia flare-up and to top the lot I have tonsillitis which has morphed into a nasty soft palate infection.

This means I not only don't want to eat (a rare occurrence in my life) but I don't have the energy or inclination to cook either. So that gives me four choices:

children decorating pizzas
Pizza -making Fun!
1. The family can starve along with me. Nope. I have teenagers who as you might know need feeding as regularly as newborn babies.

2. My husband can cook for them. Hmm. I love my husband dearly but his cooking skills only extend to the placing of bread into the toaster and getting it out again. He's very good at buttering it to my taste but other than that.... I tried to teach him but he really is hopeless. I remember going away once and leaving him lots of boxed frozen food. I phoned and asked how he'd got on. He'd tried to cook chicken Kiev and chips. The kiev needed to be cooked longer than the chips at a lower temperature so he split the difference and ended up with burnt chips and Kievs with unmelted butter in the middle - which he ate! Luckily he has an iron stomach and wasn't ill.

3. I could order takeaways. Two problems with this. Firstly, it's expensive, especially when you have a big family. But mainly it would break my heart to see everyone else tucking into lovely Indian or Chinese food or good ole fish 'n chips if I can't have any. If I can't have it neither can they. Selfish much? Yup.

4. The kids can cook their own food. This is the option I have gone for largely this week (although I did cook for some of them last night)

cooking via FaceTime
DS#3 learning to make coleslaw with
Grandma Facetime-ing from Cyprus

You see even my younger ones can make themselves food. I'm a great believer in early independence so start them preparing their own cereal as young as four or five. About 7-8 they start making their own cups of tea, toast, crumpets, sandwiches. My top toast tip - get them to watch the toaster and when toasted product pops up teach them to count to ten slowly before trying to get it out. This allows the food to cool slightly. And invest in some cheap wooden tongs for toast extraction to avoid fork/toaster electrocutions!

By 11 they are allowed to cook pasta, prepare eggs scrambled, boiled, fried and by the teens they are allowed into the freezer which contains "help yourself food."
children making fajitas
They made fajitas and fruit salad

Even when I'm not ill often we eat in shifts to fit in after school activities or meetings or playdates. We try and eat together a couple of times a week when a roast dinner or mince n mash type meal is normally the meal on offer but it's wise to have food around to make quick meals like eggs, beans, pizzas, fish fingers, pasta, stir-frys etc.

My children love to help to prepare food - my 14 year old is happy to peel potatoes if it means he gets mashed potato for tea and even my 5 and 7 year olds like to drag our little kitchen steps up to the worktop to help me peel, top and tail, chop and dice, or just put the stuff I've chopped into the pans or steamer.

child cooking
Helping to make pies
It's how I learned to cook and so far no-one has got burned or sliced - they are learning kitchen safety as well as kitchen skills. And it means that when I whisper from my sick bed: "make yourselves some food" they are quite capable of teaming up to scour the cupboards, fridge and freezer and cobble together a meal. OK so more often than not it features Super Noodles and frankfurters but it won't hurt them occasionally!

So if you are wondering what age to think about letting them cook- I'd say the earlier the better. And not just cupcakes and pizza decorating - get them helping with the nitty-gritty dull prep of family meals. That way they will not be the student eating nothing but beans on toast at Uni and when you are ill you don't have to drag yourself out of bed to feed them. They might even cook you dinner occasionally!