Eating and (to a lesser extent in recent times) cooking meals within a family or other group are important daily rituals with many traditional and practical elements which can enrich the lives and skills of children.
Rae at The Creative Process shares both the meaning and many artistic representations of meal sharing in Sharing Food, Food in Art Unit Study. http://www.amonco.org/winter1/montessori_winter1.pdf
Gayle Henderson discusses the subject of family meals and includes an interesting questionnaire about family relationship styles here: http://www.ivillage.com/family-dinner-value-sharing-meals/6-a-128491
This University of Florida Extension article goes into even greater detail. It also encourages families to not only eat together, but cook and clean up together, too. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1054
Cooking provides many great opportunities for children to practice both academic principles and practical life exercises. Reading recipes, shopping, cleaning fruits and vegetables, measuring ingredients, making substitutions, serving family or guests, and trying new flavors are all wholesome and educational activities that help children learn and grow. They also offer opportunities for children to “absorb culture”, as Maria Montessori put it.
This short article talks about how one busy family uses friendly family “cook-off” competitions to share their love of cooking and for one another. Male and female family members of all ages participate, and relatives who don’t cook get to eat and vote along with everyone else. http://www.associatedcontent.com/shared/print.shtml?content_type=article&content_type_id=1765762
Do you have good cooks among your family and friends? Do they have “signature” dishes you look forward to eating over and over again? If so, and especially if they are older folks, a fun and meaningful project is to compile these recipes and related stories into a booklet form that your whole family can share and save to remember when the beloved cooks are no longer around to share their cooking secrets and stories. For some great hints on how to get started, check out this article: http://www.kitchendaily.com/2010/04/28/preserving-family-recipes/
Farm Country General Store has a great selection of cookbooks — historic, thrifty, beginning, Amish, etc. – as well as books on gardening, nutrition, and other related subjects. Many are on sale now, just in time for the holidays! http://www.homeschoolfcgs.com/index.php/cPath/34
Also, here are some recipe ideas from our resource list members to get you started.
Main dishes and side dishes
Children and adults alike enjoy a dish that looks fancy but is actually easy to make. Laeticia from Professor Toto shares a great example of this with her recipe for Crêpes for Children http://www.amonco.org/winter7/montessori_winter7.pdf
For a variety of filling ideas for both main dish and dessert crepes, check out: http://www.world-of-crepes.com/crepe-filling-recipes.html and http://www.easy-french-food.com/crepe-filling.html
Mary Roberts from Hello Wood Products offers another simple but tasty main dish recipe with her Onion Pie.http://www.amonco.org/winter7/montessori_winter7.pdf
For a taste of a different culture, try Verna from The Music House’s recipe for Aromatic Basmati Rice with Saffron. http://www.amonco.org/winter3/montessori_winter3.pdf
Get kids to eat their greens with Elaine from Kimbo’s fun Spinach Dip. It is perfect for many types of fall/winter gatherings. http://www.amonco.org/winter6/montessori_winter6.pdf
Desserts and sweets
Introduce children to a new flavor combination with Pistachio Poppy Seed Cake from Rick at Fun With Languages. http://www.amonco.org/winter2/montessori_winter2.pdf
Have fun with this classic recipe for Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookie Cut-outs from Cooking with Children Can Be Easy. http://www.amonco.org/winter2/montessori_winter2.pdf
Ligia from Childsake offers a quick and easy no-bake Holiday Cheesecake as a festive dessert for busy families. http://www.amonco.org/winter5/montessori_winter5.pdf
For a baked cheese pie, try this recipe from Sara L. Ambarian, which makes two pies: http://www.amonco.org/ambarian4thofjuly.html
Get more cheesecake topping ideas here: http://www.baking911.com/recipes/cakes/cheesecake_toppings.htm
Dale Gausman at North American Montessori Center shares a traditional dessert with a tropical twist with his Ginger-Coconut Baked Apples.http://www.amonco.org/winter3/montessori_winter3.pdf
Even the youngest budding chefs can help make Dianne from Conceptual Learning’s Nutty Chocolate Pudding Squares. What a great opportunity for the little ones to get involved and serve their own creation with pride! http://www.amonco.org/winter4/montessori_winter4.pdf
Georgette at Cantemos shares some sweet snack recipes with her Dried Pineapple and Chocolate-Dusted Almonds. http://www.amonco.org/winter4/montessori_winter4.pdf
Perhaps Farmer’s Favorite Fudge from Larry at the Farm Country General Store will be come a new family favorite for you. http://www.amonco.org/winter6/montessori_winter6.pdf
Find more recipes in AMONCO’s Christmas in Australia Unit Study, including historic and delicious Anzac Biscuits. http://www.amonco.org/winter2/montessori_winter2.pdf
Kitchen chemistry, substitutions and science for older students
The following sites have lots of interesting and useful information for older children to use in the kitchen.
If you know an aspiring “Iron Chef”, this blog provides really complex and interesting information about both the chemistry and the art of cooking, with gorgeous photos of nouvelle cuisine. Check the left sidebar to see specific subjects, or just enjoy whatever is current.