By Nate Schlief
Growing up on the farm, most of my time was spent outside taking care of the animals in the livestock barns and doing fieldwork. I always knew Mom would have something good for dinner or supper when I was finished.
When I went on to college, I quickly learned cooking and preparing a meal was not always an easy task. The quick and simple meals that come in a box are not always the most healthy and nutritious either.
Thankfully, my two young sons have taken an interest in cooking and, with their mom’s help, are now able to prepare a complete meal for the family. Nick, my 14-year-old, started by making oatmeal in the morning for breakfast on his own. He graduated to stirring the noodles for spaghetti, and then began making mac and cheese. Pretty soon he was browning hamburger and adding sauce. He learned a little salt goes a long way and he has started experimenting with spices to make it taste more delicious.
Austin is my 11-year-old. He has some special needs and is always wanting to follow in his brother’s footsteps. He started helping in the kitchen to prove he is big enough to do things too. He likes to make mac and cheese, and his favorite food is squash. Not sure why he picked squash, but he loves it. Last year when Austin had foot surgery on both of his feet, helping in the kitchen was one task he could do with his feet elevated. It was a pretty good way to be able to help out when he was recovering.
Learning to cook is a wonderful lesson at their age. It’s a tool they will use for the remainder of their lives. Try to find time in your busy schedule to teach your kids the importance of being able to cook for themselves as well as determining what it takes to have dairy products, vegetables, meat sources and even dessert in their meal plans. Bonus: They can help teach Dad how to make some foods now that Dad hasn’t prepared before. Also, it’s a great help on the nights Mom has meetings, or shopping to do before she gets home from work.
My boys are learning what it takes to make a meal, the time preparation to do it, an appreciation for the need of balance in their diet, and gratitude for the people – farmers and ranchers – who provide them with the abundant choices they enjoy.
Nate is the NDFB District 1 Promotion and Education Committee member. He and his wife, Deb, live south of Grand Forks. More information on all the P&E Committee members can be found here.