I haven’t always been the greatest cook. For the entire first year of my marriage, my signature dish was Dinty Moore served over instant white rice. Canned meat, ladies! Meat in a can.
Let’s just say I’ve come a long way since then! It may have taken sixteen years, but I now love to cook! I find it strangely satisfying to chop up veggies. I can sauté, steam, and stir fry with the best of them!
I take pride in my dinners and I do my best to feed my family healthy meals. I love roasted sweet potatoes, zucchini noodles, and butternut squash everything.
The problem is my children.
You see, they would rather I had never left the comforts of canned meat. They snub their nose at my zoodles and act like I’m trying to poison them when I offer them absolutely anything with butternut squash.
A few years ago I grew so tired of listening to them complain about my dinners that I decided it was time to do something about it. So, I had them make dinner! On their own. In its entirety. Of course, I had to approve the recipe, and no – frozen pizza was NOT an option!
They selected zucchini bake for their dish. Their teeny tiny little hands grated three large zucchinis. They learned to break an egg and fish the shells out of the gooey yolk. They measured the milk and cheese and even worked the oven all by themselves! I was so proud.
And a strange thing happened.
That night at dinner, there were no complaints! In fact, they asked for seconds! This gave me an idea. What if I involved my children in the cooking of all of our dinners? What if they had a role in the chopping of veggies? Maybe they would be so proud of their hard work that they would forget that they thought I was poisoning them?
It seemed worth a shot. I really didn’t have anything to lose at that point!
The next night, I asked them to help me in the kitchen. To make it less like a chore, and more like something fun, I pretended we were on a cooking show. In my best Julia Child accent, I told them what to do. We baked and basted and boiled and blanched dinner together that night. Again, we enjoyed a whine-free meal.
Our cooking show has continued through the years, and now is one of the highlights of my day. Of course, there is still complaining from time-to-time. But I have learned that when my children have a hand in preparing the meal, they are more likely to try the vegetables we prepare, and less likely to dry heave all over their dinner plate. Sounds like a win win to me!
Karen Wonders, Ph.D., is the Founder and Director of Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, and Professor of Exercise Physiology at Wright State University. She is also the best selling author of the 40-day devotional, Beauty from Ashes. Her passion is to advocate for exercise as part of the standard of care for cancer. Maple Tree provides free exercise training, nutrition counseling, and emotional support to hundreds of cancer survivors every month at several locations across Ohio and Pennsylvania. Karen was recently recognized for her work by the Dayton Business Journal’s “Forty under 40”award. In addition, Maple Tree has been awarded “Best in Dayton” for Health and Fitness four years in a row. Karen is committed to evidence-based practice in her facilities, and has a robust research program that has published two text books, four book chapters, and more than 40 peer reviewed manuscripts on the topic of exercise and cancer recovery. A gifted communicator, Karen has given numerous professional presentations on the national, state, and local levels, including a talk at TEDxDayton 2017 on Exercising through Cancer Care. Karen is married to her college sweetheart, Andrew, and together they have seven (yes, seven!) children. If you think her hands are full, you should see her heart!