My kids and I have recently started watching the new Netflix show: “A Series of Unfortunate Events” based on Lemony Snicket’s famous books. I must confess that I usually use screen time to catch up, make dinner or sit and do nothing for a short time, but after reading about the new show, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, I was intrigued.
In the first episode Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire, siblings who have recently lost their parents to a fire, move in to live with their “closest relation” Count Olaf (played by Neil Patrick Harris). Olaf is a villain who wants to steal their fortune inherited from their rich parents. During their time living with Count Olaf, whose house is disgustingly dirty, the orphans are ordered to prepare dinner for Olaf and his colleague. The children, who have never cooked for themselves before, wonder “how are we supposed to make dinner for an entire theatre troupe?” But they put their heads together and calculate their first steps. Being the oldest, and most resourceful, Violet simplifies the task declaring "We start with a recipe."
With the prospects of a creating a meal, the Baudelaires look a bit encouraged. They walk over to a neighbor’s house to look at some cookbooks, and pick a simple recipe, “Pasta Puttanesca”. The next steps are easy, they need to get groceries and then follow the recipe. As Violet says “All we have to do is sauté garlics and onions in a pot, and then add olives, capers and anchovies, diced parsley and tomatoes to simmer”.
The Baudelaires enjoy cooking together, on their own, creating a meal from scratch and are proud to present it to the diners at the table. I won’t go into detail of the rest of the episode, but I’ll just say that the sequence of events reminded me of serving food I’ve labored on to a unsympathetic and unappreciative crowd (I’m sure you can relate).
Of course the circumstances are dire (and so grotesque), but this scene really reminded me how much we need to encourage our kids to do the same; that is, to go through the same process: pick a recipe, go grocery shopping, cook a meal. Some kids (and parents) might start with anxiety and others might feel more comfortable, but these simple steps make it easier, especially when you pick the right recipe and follow it. If you feel your child is ready, offer him or her a cookbook to pick a recipe; have them make a shopping list, take them shopping, or help them order the food online and lastly, make a plan to help them cook!