Cooking 101 for Your College-Bound Child
Teach your children the basics and beyond
Beyond scrambled eggs and sandwiches, I was pretty much lost in the kitchen
of my first apartment in college. When I realized I was responsible for
preparing dinner once a week for my roommates, I felt completely
Mom got the 911 call, and sent a couple of favorite family recipes she could
talk me through. With time, patience, a few inedible dishes, and the cooking
wisdom bestowed upon me by my savvier roommates, I ultimately learned to churn
out decent and healthy meals.
During this learning process, I decided that my yet-to-be-born children were
going to know their way around the kitchen. But as the years passed, sports,
lessons, and friends always seem to interfere with my intentions to teach my
two children the kitchen basics. My chance finally came during my son's senior
year of high school.
My son managed to talk his way into early release his final semester of high
school. This time is actually designed for internships or work-related
experiences, but neither would work for Andrew because of his tennis team
matches and practices.
We settled on an 18-week curriculum titled "Mom 101." Here was my
opportunity to teach him all the life skills I knew before he left for college
(well, almost all). After scouring bookstores, libraries, and the Internet in a
vain search for a book to guide me, I decided to develop my own curriculum (I
keep threatening to write a manual for parents who want to prepare their
children before they leave the nest, and I may actually do it now that my
daughter is college-bound).
Every afternoon, my son (and a few years later, my daughter), and I enjoyed
quality time together as we went over an extensive list of kitchen skills,
along with laundry basics, first aid, money management, car maintenance,
planning for college, and the all-important parental expectations while away
Each child kept a notebook to write down tips, recipes, and reference
information they could use and build on later. Our first field trip was to the
grocery store, where I showed them how to read labels, select fresh produce and
lean cuts of meat, pick out fresh seafood, and understand expiration date
They also learned simple techniques such as the best way to navigate a
grocery store: first, hit the center aisles where the nonperishable items are
usually located, followed by breads, produce, dairy, and last, frozen
Together we chose recipes that the kids loved, and that were healthy and
easy to prepare. Mediterranean Pasta was their hands-down
favorite, and it has been prepared for family and friends numerous times.
We discussed what goes into a well-stocked
pantry, and the importance of having all the ingredients measured before
you start cooking, and of cleaning as you go.
Each day, we prepared an item or two (which we usually ate for dinner) until
we checked off all of these items on our curriculum:
- Breakfast foods. Popular with most teenagers and easy to prepare,
these were first on the list. Pancakes, omelets, and scrambled eggs are easy
- Beverages, ranging from a good cup of coffee to steeping hot and
- Baked goods, including Mom's favorite oatmeal cookies, as well as
muffins, breads, and doctoring cake mixes.
- Pasta cooking techniques, including quick-and-easy sauces and
various combinations to increase vegetables and fiber in the meal.
- Seasonings, including tips on cutting an onion, mincing garlic and
fresh herbs, as well as a list of cupboard must-haves.
- Grilling basics for poultry, steaks, burgers, and vegetables,
suitable for the portable grill.
- Soups, stews, and crock pot dishes. All make inexpensive,
nutritious, and filling meals.
- Ethnic cuisine, including favorite recipes for tacos, spaghetti, and
simple stir-fry dishes.
- Multiple ways to prepare chicken and ground beef.
- Simple salads that can serve as side dishes or main meals.