Graham: I’m always trying to teach the idea behind things, the weirder the better. So if I see a steak, I immediately think of the animal — the muscular structure and skeletal system. I’ll say, “This is a strip steak,” then literally trace along my kid’s back and explain that’s where it comes from. I’ll say “This is a pork shoulder, and the muscle is used a lot when the animal walks, so it’s denser and tougher so you’ll want to braise it.” I think if parents do things in a similar fashion it’s a lot better than than just showing your kids a piece of meat in cellophane and they have no idea what it is.
BuzzFeed: It’s giving context for everything.
Graham: Right. If we’re eating fish and chips, let’s look up a cod. You’ll see it’s from the North Atlantic. It all depends on the kids’ ages, but some kids are into history or science or geography, and you can get into that more philosophical approach. Like, with Italian food, you think of polenta and tomatoes, but they weren’t brought to Italy until Columbus went to the New World and brought them back. And when you think of Mexican food, you think of lard and braised pork, but same thing — pigs were brought here — they didn’t have them. And that’s not three thousand years ago, it’s five hundred. So it’s incredible to hit all of those things and make kids think about food and cooking.
Vanessa: Also, invite your kids into the kitchen at a young age. I started cooking with Brooklyn at 3 years old. Curtis made a good point. He said “Yes, they are going to make a mess, but that’s with whatever they do. So you can either clean toys in the living room, or clean their mess in the kitchen.” He’s right! She makes a mess but is interested in what I’m making and how our meals come together. Plus now I get some one-on-one time with my little girl.
Curtis: I grow vegetables with my kids, which takes some time and effort most of us don’t have, but it got my kids interested in ingredients. If kids are in any way, shape, or form a part of the process of growing the vegetables — and it can even be as simple as taking scissors out to the yard and snipping some oregano or rosemary — they will really want to know what it tastes like. My kids would look at the veggies and be like, “Are we gonna cook it? What’s the next step?” Letting them understand where their food comes from is really cool.
Graham: I was horrible at math growing up, so the idea of “one teaspoon of this mixed with two tablespoons of that” wasn’t something I liked or able to get into. But if you say to your kids “Here’s a potato. We can roast it, bake it, steam it, fry it, purée it, whip it…" What do you feel like doing? it’s like a blank canvas. That’s what I find is a great way to get people — especially kids — excited about cooking. Whatever you teach them, you excite them.