food · raising boys · slice of life

Salade Niçoise, Anyone?

When Isabelle was little, I heard everyone say that if you wanted your children to eat different foods, you must involve them in the meal preparation. I truly tried to do that… I even bought a special, kid-friendly knife set to make that happen. Basically, Isabelle thumbed her nose at helping me in the kitchen. The knives went into a drawer with the thought they’d be used if we had a second child… someday.

Ari is different. He loves to help me in the kitchen. He adores baking. (I do too. My hips, tummy, and thighs… not so much. But that’s another story.) He asks to bake nearly every day. I say yes about two days a week since he enjoys creating something delicious with me.

Ari helps with breakfast and lunch preparation too. He is starting to understand about different units of measure. Also, since we talk the entire time we bake, he’s begun to understand certain principles about why we do things (e.g., get the butter to room temperature before we cream it, bake only one sheet of cookies at a time) the way we do. Also, he has strong opinions about ingredients. For instance, he prefers Vietnamese cinnamon to Indonesian cinnamon. I. Kid. You. Not.

Last night, I was preparing a Salade Niçoise for the first time. While I’ve eaten many of them through the years, I had never made one myself before. Since the recipe was new to me, I was moving slower than expected taking care to make sure everything was right.

Ari asked, “Can I help you bake?”

“I’m not baking, buddy. I’m preparing a salad for dinner.”

“Can I help?” he asked.

Having him help would slow me down — immensely. However, I already have one kid who groans when she prepares so much as a cheese sandwich. I had to say yes.

“Go ahead and get your helper tower. I’ll get the special knives and will teach you how to cut these vegetables.”

Ari raced to get the helper tower. He pushed it around the kitchen island where I was standing beside the sink.

“I need an apron,” he declared.

I removed his apron from the drawer and put it on him. Next, I grabbed a plastic kid knife so he could help me cut the red pepper.

At first, we worked hand-over-hand to cut the pepper together. However, he said, “I can do it by myself.” I doubted it, but stepped aside, staying close enough to help him if he needed it.

Ari didn’t need my help with the actual cutting. He was able to make his way through the peppers, placing each tiny piece into the salad bowl one-by-one. (That’s right. One. By. One. Talk about slowing me down!) The only thing I helped with was getting the size of the peppers more uniform since some were wide and some were razor-thin.

Cucumber Slicing

I thought he’d lose interest, but he wanted to cut the cucumber next. Again, this was an arduous task, but one he enjoyed so I let him continue.

Dinner was ready later than expected, but Ari had a hand in helping. Truth be told, I didn’t expect him or Isabelle to eat the Salade Niçoise — since neither of them is into salads — so Marc made them grilled cheese with our Griddler, which acts like a panini press (Isabelle’s request!). However, I thought Ari would at least try the salad since he had a hand in making it. However, he refused, which disappointed me. Weren’t kids supposed to want to try something they helped to make? That’s what they say.

Maybe tonight. This evening I’m making rosemary-fontina stuffed chicken with fingerling potatoes and spinach on the side. I know both kids will eat the chicken. Neither of them eats the sides, but maybe — JUST MAYBE — I can get Ari to eat the side dish if he helps to prepare it.

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6 thoughts on “Salade Niçoise, Anyone?

  1. Ari’s enthusiasm for helping you is heartwarming. I was surprised to hear that he didn’t sample his creation. And while dinner prep took longer, I bet you enjoyed his company!

  2. GAH! That’s not my comment! I *love* that you are letting Ari use a knife & learn knife skills. My kids are really proud that they can do these things. And I can attest to two things that struck me in your post: first, if you keep slowing down for them, eventually they cook. My two – now 10 & 12 – are both able to make their own lunches, including baking bread some days!, as well as basic dinners and, of course, brownies and cookies. It’s delightful (well, mostly). Second, helping me cook has almost never led to them trying something they weren’t already willing to try. I don’t know who told us that meal prep => trying food, but I think they were, ahem, exaggerating.

  3. That’s Jamie Oliver who tried to make us all think kids will eat things if they help prepare it! Doesn’t work at my house either. But we do have fun working in the kitchen together.

  4. So fun to see! My grandson of 16 months comes in each weekday morning pushing the chair over to the counter he is ready to help cook or, fruit and anything with ketchup on it. I, like you, have hopes we will move on to veggies soon!

  5. Ari is enjoying what he is doing even though he does not eat the results of his labor. Kids are finicky. I love it when I go to my daughter’s house and my granddaughter decides to be the kitchen helper. Great slice!

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