Some of our fondest memories are often from our childhood. A time when there were no responsibilities; life was about fun, playing and exploration; and our family was always there for us. Of course, family bonding takes place in a whole host of places. From the dining table on a Sunday to the beach on a summer holiday to the lounge in front of the TV – it can take place anywhere. But when it takes place in the kitchen, a special kind of magic happens. Memories are made; traditions are tried and tested; and lifelong habits are formed.
The kitchen isn’t called the heart of home for nothing. It’s where the love is. The home is a place for making memories. Of course, other special family occasions – such as summer holidays – are also prime memory making moments. However, the everyday; the comfort; and the safety and security – the happiness we feel – is mainly down to the environment in the home. It is all those things: safe, secure, and comforting, because it is just that – home. It feels right and it is the place where we feel most comfortable.
The heart of the home
The kitchen is at the core of all that in the family home. It’s the place where we start the day and get ready for the day ahead – be that school, or work. Increasingly, in the modern home, it’s where the family gathers to eat, or the kids complete their homework. The kitchen as a location or setting has never seen as much social interaction as it does now.
But let’s not forget that the kitchen is still the place where cookery and food preparation take place. This can be a genuine way of making memories for family members too. Whether it’s cooking dessert pies with Gran over the summer holidays or baking cakes with Mum on rainy Sunday afternoons, these are special memories that stay with us forever.
Memories made in the kitchen with my Mum
The topic of how memories are made in the kitchen with our loved ones has a personal resonance for me right now. My own mum, Joye, passed away a couple of months ago after a short illness. After the initial sadness and shock and the horrible business of funeral arrangements and such like, part of the grieving process – I believe – is to think about the legacy that a loved one has left behind. You take comfort from all the good times and all the special memories that you can remember.
I spoke at Mum’s funeral and talked about how our childhood experiences being brought up by her had shaped mine and my brother’s lives in so many ways. Not only did she have so much of an impact on making us the people we are today, her own passions and interests have been passed on to her sons too.
A love of cooking is born in the kitchen
For me, two of my strongest and most abiding of childhood memories centre around two of Mum’s own passions. The first was music. My own love of music was nurtured by Mum. Probably my first musical memory was listening Mum’s ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ albums by The Beatles. I remember her telling me about how she saw The Beatles in concert and met all four afterwards early in 1963. The signed photo she had was her most prized possession. I also remember my own confusion and distress on the morning of the 8th of December 1980. The news of John Lennon’s death had just broken – and I had never seen Mum so upset and inconsolable as she was that day.
Mum’s passion for music certainly rubbed off on me. However, music wasn’t the only one of Mum’s loves that I have carried on in my life. The other is cooking. That I can trace back to the memories made in the kitchen with Mum all those years ago.
The magic of memories made in the kitchen
As with many people, their first memories of cooking in the kitchen with their mothers revolve around baking. For me, it was two particular family favourites: Mum’s inimitable Chocolate Cookies and her ridiculously tasty Chocolate Crispy Corn Flake Cakes. In fact, the crispy cakes required no actual baking at all. All that was needed was the assembly of various wonderful ingredients into a big bowl, vigorous stirring of said ingredients – and the placing of the gorgeously gooey mixture into individual cake cases.
The whole process was messy and, naturally, it involved much of the obligatory ‘licking of the spoon’. This, of course, is what most little kids remember about their first cookery experiences in the family kitchen. The chocolate cookies were just as tasty, and almost as simple to make. Both recipes were passed down to me but have remained a closely guarded family secret over the years. However, I have continued to please family, friends and work colleagues with these two firm favourites on various occasions over the last 20-odd years. Mum was proud that these two delights had taken on near-legendary status in certain circles in that time. I took the plaudits and the thanks; but really it was all down to Mum.
From my own personal perspective, memories made in the kitchen with Mum were about more than just the creation of tasty treats on special occasions. It was also about the practical necessity of everyday cooking. My brother – five years older than me – was notoriously lazy and, frankly, useless in the kitchen. I remember on the morning that he left to go to university, Mum gave him a last-minute cookery lesson. Much to my amusement, as I sat mischievously on the kitchen table passing comment throughout, the lesson was not particularly advanced. Far from it, Mum was teaching my brother ‘How to boil an egg’ – I kid you not!
…and the practicalities of the kitchen
As Mum struggled to make ends meet and give her two sons everything, responsibility for cooking the tea for me and my brother before Mum got in from work sometimes fell to the younger brother, yours truly. This was a responsibility that I took on with relish and a real sense of pride. It started off small with very simple and practical everyday dishes. However, it progressed quite quickly. Before I knew it, I was cooking big family meals for everyone at the weekend. I wasn’t forced into it. Mum had simply instilled the same love for the kitchen that she felt in her youngest son.
This has continued throughout my life. I soon became the ‘house cook’ in various student houses. And now my wife – herself a pretty good cook – never gets a look-in in the kitchen. The kitchen is my domain. Cooking is how I unwind after a day’s work. It is how I chill out. And I get the same pleasure now seeing satisfied family and friends’ faces after eating what I have created in the kitchen as Mum did all those years ago. I hope I’m doing her proud.
Making memories in the kitchen: Through the Generations
Of course, the tradition of making memories in the kitchen is something that can be passed down through the generations. When memories are made in the kitchen with your mother, it’s only natural that you will want to make similar memories with your own children when you start your own family. When it comes to passing the tradition on and down to the youngest family members, you get to make memories from the perspective of an adult. It’s not all fun and games this way around though…
The cleaning up – and let’s be straight about this; things can get very messy – is likely to be your sole responsibility. The kids will no doubt disappear from the scene sharpish once all the fun is over! But that’s just parenting, I suppose. You knew that already. And it’s the circle of life in action. Family roles come full circle. One minute, you were the little kid with gooey mess all over your nose; the next, you’re the one who is teaching recipes to your own children. Overall, there’s just something really lovely about the way food and the kitchen brings the family together.
How to make memories in the kitchen with your kids
So, how do you go about making new memories with your kids in the kitchen? Well, it’s important to remember that there is no rule book. You will remember that part of the appeal of your own memories of the kitchen from your own childhood will have been the spontaneity, fun, and general silliness of it all. That’s not something that is taught from a rule book. It comes from how natural a parent/child relationship is. However, there are a few things that are still worth bearing in mind.
Baking Tips: Straight from Mum’s Kitchen
Although the spontaneity and fun of it all is a major part of the memories made in the kitchen, you do need a starting point – a recipe. The learning point is that although experimentation is great in the kitchen and you certainly don’t want a recipe to be too mechanical, it is also true that there is a certain discipline needed for successful cooking. But if you really want to make cooking with the kids special, remember to:
Baking and cooking isn’t just about eating the finished product, it’s also about enjoying the whole process of making great and tasty food with your loved ones. As director of that process, you coordinate the way everything goes. You may love a tidy kitchen but baking with the kids could be the perfect time to let go! You shouldn’t be afraid to mess things up. Indeed, this is an opportunity to enjoy making a good old mess together! It’s a bit of a fun killer to be cleaning up after yourselves every few minutes or so. You want your children to be swept away in the fever and excitement of the moment.
This comes with an important caveat, mind. Once they have got the cooking bug, that might be a good time to introduce the kids to the good sense and order of regular cleaning up – and, of course, you should never forget safety. Get the kids into good habits in the kitchen when they are young and they will carry these habits into adult life.
Keep things simple!
A really complicated bake – something that the professionals might produce on Masterchef isn’t going to cut it when you first introduce the kids to cooking in the kitchen. At the beginning, it’s much better to keep things as simple as possible. Focus on the tastiest but easiest recipes that you know at the outset. If things are too difficult and complicated, you run the risk of them getting bored.
Encourage and build confidence!
This is simple common sense but it’s worth mentioning anyway. Try to be really encouraging and praise your children a lot when they are doing anything in the kitchen. Regardless of how simple the task you have given them is, it’s still important to praise them and then praise some more. This builds confidence and means that they will enjoy it more. Even if their baking creation is far from a masterpiece, make out that it is!
Taste, Taste, Taste!
At the end of the day, food is for eating. Yes, it’s great if a dish looks fabulous; but ultimately you eat it, not stare at it! For this reason, promote the enjoyment of food at every stage of the process and at every opportunity. Sampling the batter, or sticking your finger in the cake mixture – get everyone involved as much as you can!
Teach the love of good food and memories are made
Being chief chef and parent, it is a natural progression to pass the love of good food, good eating, and good helpful behaviour in the kitchen. Watch in wonder as you see the little lightbulbs go off above their heads when they master a new technique – or they realise the beauty of a particular taste or flavour combination. Get them to enjoy cooking for others: breakfast in bed for Dad on Father’s Day, for example; birthday cakes; or special treats at Christmas time. The opportunities are endless. What’s more, if you can make the point that cooking and food preparation can be an enjoyable shared experience, you will have a willing extra pair of hands in the kitchen for those big occasions!
Pass on family traditions
When memories are made in the kitchen, you are teaching the importance of family at the same time. Favourite recipes are passed down the generations and there’s something incredibly endearing about Gran’s favourite Apple Pie recipe being carried on by the grandchildren. Everybody has their little tips and tricks and secret ingredients that elevate a dish. It’s really fun to pass those secrets onto the younger members of the family.
Cooking in the kitchen with Mum or Dad can be an enduring and important memory for us. It’s one that we will treasure for the rest of our lives. However, it’s the way that everything is passed on and continued through the generations of the family that really resonates. It’s because it constantly brings those early childhood memories sharply back into focus for us. Of course, there is nothing more important than family. Cooking with our own children in the kitchen is a tangible way of emphasising that importance in a meaningful and genuine way. There is nothing as natural as having fun in the kitchen with the kids. But at the same time, you are drawing on memories and stories of the older generations of the family too. There is something about that process that is very special indeed.
How to set up your kitchen to make memories
In many ways, when it comes to how memories are made in the kitchen, it’s reassuring to know that it doesn’t really matter what type of kitchen you have. When I think back to those special memories of cooking in the family home with my Mum, it was in quite a snug old-style galley kitchen. It didn’t make one jot of difference. There wasn’t a lot of space to play with. Not only that, we certainly didn’t have theanciest technological gadgets at our disposal either. We didn’t need them or particularly want them. We made do with what we had.
While there’s a lesson to be learned there – the fact that it’s the people you spend time with that create the special memories, not the size or type of kitchen you have; there is much you can do to make your kitchen absolutely conducive to cooking sessions with the kids.
Creating a suitable and safe kitchen environment
Planning any sort of new kitchen upgrade is an exciting time. There is a lot to consider though. You are certainly not the only one you have to please. If there are kids in the family, the ideal kitchen needs to look and function differently.
Obviously, the main priority – first and foremost – is the safety and suitability of all the separate elements of the kitchen. The first step of this is choosing an appropriate kitchen layout.
The family-friendly kitchen layout
Creating a family-friendly kitchen that works for everyone is all-important. Conversely, although we are thinking about how to make memories cooking with kids in the kitchen in this blog, in general you’ll want a kitchen layout that encourages the children to avoid the food preparation and cooking areas. You don’t really want to have them running around and playing under your feet. Having the fridge near to the door is often a good idea as it allows the kids to have easy access to it without having to enter the main cooking area of the kitchen.
Choosing family-friendly kitchen worktops
A family kitchen can be a messy place, so ease of cleaning is an important consideration. This makes quartz perhaps the perfect pick for a kitchen worktop surface. It’s strong and durable, and gives you a genuine look of luxury and class. However, as a non-porous material, it is also very easy to clean. It’s so reassuring to know that any smears and spills can be quickly wiped away without any fuss. Furthermore, as it is heat resistant, and not prone to stains and scratches, it’s ideal for the messy clumsiness that is bound to happen when the kids are cooking with you. Curved edging – especially near the entrances and exits – to the worktop can also be a good idea, from a safety point of view.
Remember safety with kitchen storage
With kids in the home, your choice of kitchen storage needs to strike a balance between easy accessibility and safety. You want all the kitchen equipment to be within easy reach for the adults in the home – but out of the reach of the exploring hands of children. Think carefully about the safest way to store knives and other potentially dangerous items, such as graters.
Memories are made with the practicality of a kitchen island
If you have the space, a kitchen island is a welcome addition to any family-friendly kitchen. A kitchen island can be perfect. Ideal for the kids to help you cook; it can also be a great place for the kids to do their homework. If you want to incorporate a hob into your island, an induction hob is probably your best bet safety-wise.
The Final Word
Making memories of any kind is really what life is all about. It’s the beating heart of family life. So, it’s fitting then that the room commonly referred to as ‘the heart of the home’ – the kitchen – is the perfect place for memories to be made in. The thing that it so wonderful is that an afternoon spent baking in the kitchen with your child is literally an experience that will stay with them for a lifetime. That’s really what it’s all about. If you would like any advice and guidance about choosing the perfect family-friendly kitchen, get in touch with the Kitchen Warehouse team.