In my household, I feel like it’s always pretty high on the list – our combined Greco-Jewish cultures don’t clash so much as pair beautifully like, erm, hummus and pita – but during the festive season it kicks into a higher gear. Right now we’re knee deep in latkes and doughnuts, and in just a couple of weeks it’ll be turkey, goose-fat potatoes and carrots sliced into little circles because that’s just how it’s done in the Roumbas household.
This year is the first time I’ve been able to think about involving our daughter in the preparations. I’m actually a full-on control freak in the kitchen, and have only really allowed her to help with very few things; she was allowed to stir her birthday cake and apply sprinkles, and she once got to spoon some chocolate icing on some cupcakes, but that was about it. When I consider that my biggest complaint to my mother was that she never let me cook or prepare anything without getting in there to tweak, correct and give it a final stir, I realise that I have entirely transformed into her – at least in the kitchen. So it was with no little amount of shame mixed into my pride that I was presented with this beautiful Christmas cookie she made at nursery. “I wolled it and made Cwistmas twees,” she solemnly intoned, before happily chomping her way through it (it tasted pretty good).
Now, obviously she’ll have had quite a lot of help, but since baking them she’s obsessed with emptying the contents of my baking drawers all over the living room floor. Last night I came home to an obstacle course of silicon tins, paper cases and squeezy icing bottles, and was informed that “Mummy, I’m baking and I have a spatula for the icing” (a plastic palette knife, actually, but who’s quibbling with a 28-month-old’s baking vocabulary?).
I’m therefore gradually concluding that I need to dispense with my kitchen perfectionism and uptight attitude and actually let the kid practice real cooking. Admittedly the fried food of her dad’s seasonal festivities will have to wait as it’s actually dangerous to make – even for adults; I have latke scars – but there’s plenty of Christmassy stuff to be made that children can have enormous fun with. To inspire myself, and hopefully anyone else who’s wondering how to get the kids on board, I’ve collected a few recipe suggestions to try out.
This recipe needs an adult to make the chocolate mix, but the actual assembly of the truffles is just sticky, messy fun. You will need to accept that unless you have very dextrous children they will end up looking like snow-capped lumps of poo, but that’s all part of the fun. Probably. (See? I’m trying.)
These have been all over Pinterest this past week, and I’ve seen variations with tiny sweets for eyes, etc. They require absolutely no cooking and, once the strawberries have been sliced by an adult, no dangerous equipment at all.
Perhaps not one for someone like me who’s likely to twitch at every random placement and have more than a little jelly bean wrath, but this is really just an extension of the ‘decorating a gingerbread house‘ idea limited to a single type of sweet. Irritatingly precocious children can try and recreate the Mona Lisa in a jelly bean mosaic or something, if they must.
Hurrah! A foodstuff not likely to transform your beautiful offspring into sugar crazed loons. For a variation you could try making your own dough like the lovely Alice at More Than Toast, whose daughter Elfie rather sensibly loves a good pizza party.
I can already feel myself biting my lip at the idea of most of those, but I do like the pizza party idea, and I think I could live with very wonky snowmen – plus guzzling up some strawberries couldn’t hurt either of us half as much as ingesting half a bowl of rich chocolate truffles. I’d love to hear some suggestions from the Bea community on things that could be fun for kids, especially the youngest, while not triggering an apocalyptic meltdown from an overly perfectionist parent. Or, you know, you can just send me food; that’ll do too.