When a teenager likes to prepare real food (that is, something other than sweets), you may be in the best of all worlds. Feed their interest and they will develop into fantastic cooks for whom nothing is too much to take on.
Parents always want to know how to encourage them to continue their interest in cooking and expand their repertoire.
- Look for specialty cookbooks on ethnic cooking (Greek, Thai, even Sushi!) or breads, etc. It’s really helpful to have beautiful photographs to visualize the end product.
- Get all the little accoutrements for the style of food that your teen likes to eat. For example, for sushi rolling, the rolling mats, tiny tip dishes, flat serving dishes, etc. Teenagers still love to set the table for a Japanese meal and all the little paraphernalia make it so much more real.
- Prepared sauces in jars make a simple set of ingredients into a tasty treat. Trader Joes has great curry and tomato sauces, chutneys, and soup bases, for example, that will transform a simple combination of meat and vegetables into a delectable meal. Encourage your teenager to sample what’s out there before they try creating their own. From them they will get a sense of the target taste and appearance (what they are aiming to create).
- Making more than one sauce may be a recipe for disaster. Some of these sauces cook for hours and one risks losing the teen’s interest or attention. If you try purchasing one at a time, your money and their interest will be spared.
- Children get an early interested in cooking from cooking shows on TV. We have a large sample of 2 (!), both of whom loved cooking shows when they were little and still love them as teens. Seeing the creation of complex tastes demonstrated visually is invaluable experience. Teens will learn about the instruments of cooking, the importance of time and technique, and have a running commentary on how to select the foods, how to handle them, and, maybe best of all, what to pair them with in a real meal.
- Be wary of cookbooks that call for a dozen ingredients that are difficult to find. We live in a very cosmopolitan community where foods from all over the world are available in a heartbeat, but that is not the case for MOST of us. Even then, small jars of exotic sauces or some savory seaweed can add up when the recipe calls for 5 such ingredients. That said, keep your eye out for cookbooks that use more common ingredients (or that state what the possible substitutions are) but that have beautiful photographs of the resulting dish. You’ll be happier in the end.
- Teach your teens about the requirements for a complete (nutritious) meal: protein, carbohydrates (starches), and fat. See our page on Fats for more information on that all-important topic.