“Don’t go crazy with the salt,” my son says as I mix potato starch and flour with salt and pepper. We are cooking chicken steaks for dinner and I am showing him how to make the batter.
In between school, after school activities, iPad activities, iPad games, homework, Legos and reading, we’ve squeezed in time together in the kitchen.
Keiran Kabir is 11-years-old and I am 47. I love being a dad and try hard to find things we can do together. Cooking is one of them and has become an increasingly important activity we share.
These days I am a stay-at-home dad. My wife has a demanding job at a healthcare company in New Delhi, India, where she runs marketing communications. I am no cook and up until recently would not dare to make food for anyone but myself. Graduate school was one big haze of Spaghetti Bolognese and cheese toast.
But it’s all changing and I figure boys need to learn how to cook and take care of themselves in the kitchen.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer that it is a good thing from a child psychology perspective,” says San Francisco-based child psychologist Charlotte Tilson. “Being present with a child” and doing joint activities helps kids “build a sense of competence,” Tilson tells me.
Keiran is an active boy scout and the scouts lean heavily on being self-reliant and resourceful. He wants to join the navy and serve his country in uniform. Being self-reliant is a big deal for him.
“One day I would like to cook for my family, just like you are doing,” he says, carefully adding the chopped garlic and onions to a sauce we are making.
Including Keiran in our tiny kitchen in one of New Delhi’s leafy and quiet neighborhoods is more than just a way to be in his company. It’s about teaching him the importance of family and responsibility.
“Teaching our children to cook helps prepare them for the future. Giving them these skills may help prevent them from getting stuck,” says Bangalore-based chef Archana Doshi who runs Archana’s Kitchen, a food website.
Doshi points out that cooking is a “great way to bring in chemistry and math into the kitchen.” Like his Father, mathematics does not come naturally to Keiran. But when I discovered I needed a 28-ounce can of chopped tomatoes for a skillet lasagna recipe, he immediately rattled off, “Dad, you’ll need two 14-ounce cans.”
“Cooking is your best way to let out your creativity and there is no one to hold you back,” says 28-year-old chef Saransh Goila.
Mumbai-based Goila cooked his first meal for the family when he was 12-years-old. Today, Goila is a food celebrity and hosts cooking shows on Indian television and has also authored a book called India On My Platter.
Goila remembers watching his grandfather cook for the family every Sunday. “I was very active as a kid in the kitchen and picked it up watching my grandfather and dad.”
Initially, Goila endured taunts by some of the boys at school who teased him about taking up a “girls’ activity.” But in college he was popular as he could feed his friends.
Psychologist Tilson, said, “Cooking allows children to be generous—to make and offer something to others. It can be a way to demonstrate caring.”
Doshi remembers “compulsory days in the kitchen” where she and her brother chopped, cleaned up and did dishes.
Keiran and I have a hastag, which we use on twitter. It’s called BoysWhoCook. It is more than just cooking. It is about a father and son spending time together.
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