It is often said that the great Singapore love is food and our national pastime is eating. And a great way to initiate a child into the wide and wonderful world of food — eating right, eating well and enjoying food — is to cook with them!
WORDS CHERIE TSENG
Of the many wonderful qualities my husband possesses, that he is an excellent cook has got to rank up there. My mother-in-law is a wonderful cook and my husband had the opportunity to spend many happy days learning by his mother’s side: Asian cuisine to Italian fare; from knife skills to plating — my children and I are happy, grateful beneficiaries.
Because I also cook, it is unsurprising that our sons are keen to dabble in the kitchen. They “help out” when I am baking, they do simple prep work when we are cooking — shelling eggs and counting potatoes. Last Christmas, someone gave them a Cooking for Boys cookbook and we have been picking out simple recipes to try out. Add to that, a friend of ours is a bona fide Bento Queen, so ever so often we try and make a cartoon inspired lunch box.
While getting kids involved in cooking/baking can mean a great deal more clean-up and needing more time to get anything done; cooking is a great platform for kids to learn a myriad of things!
Kids who are able to cook develop a great deal of self-confidence and gain a wider and deeper understanding of the world around them. They are given a lesson in responsibility and have the chance to play grown-up as they do things “just like mummy and daddy,” Especially when closely supervised, kids can surprise in being able to handle some pretty nifty tasks like cutting up bread, marinating chicken or measuring out the sauce.
Another benefit of getting kids involved in the kitchen is the chance for them to learn about science: Why does bread need to be set-aside before baking? How do you get fluffy peaks from whipping egg whites? How do you use apple sauce to sweeten things? These are just some of the common questions children invariably encounter in their kitchen adventures. And you don’t even have to be a walking science encyclopaedia to “teach” your child — it could be a wonderful time to spend with them discovering more about food and chemistry together!
There are also many math concepts that can be taught in the kitchen: measurement, volume, time and addition are all part and parcel of any recipe. Kids can help to measure out ingredients; be it counting garlic, weighing flour or using measuring spoons to apportion seasoning.
Also, cooking alongside them can teach a child a lot about nutrition. It is a great platform to introduce new food to a child and they tend to be more receptive to eating food they had a hand in making. Some parents have gone a step further and started little vegetable gardens they can farm with their kids and use in cooking activities at home.
Finally, cooking is a great way for kids to learn more about the world. Learning about Japan — its culture and history — is so much more fun when assembling sushi together. Likewise, putting together a homemade pizza (you can buy off the shelf pizza bases) sets a great stage to learn about
A new player in the cooking scene, ABC Cooking Studio hails from Japan and provides cooking, bread, cake and wagashi (Japanese sweet making) lessons that allow aspiring chefs to experience the joy of cooking in a comfortable and relaxed environment.
My six-year-old took part in their kids’ programme that is specially designed to teach children cooking of food and also the background knowledge about the relationship between food and science. They were slated to learn how to make a yummy pineapple pork chop and tortilla wrap. The accompanying science lesson was on enzymes (from the pineapple) and how it can be used to tenderise meat. Bromelain in pineapple and papain in papaya are excellent examples of tenderising enzymes that have a myriad of cooking applications. Plus, it is far healthier to use fruit juice than using chemical tenderizers.
Before class started, the kids were all suited up in their chef gear and given an overview of the programme — the recipe, the plan and an introduction to the science behind that day’s lesson. They were given a cooking recipe handout and an activity guide to facilitate the lesson.
They learnt how to cut up their pineapple slices into smaller pieces and began working on using the juice to tenderise the pork chop. While waiting for the juices to work its magic, they learnt how to make tortillas (from scratch). In between, they learnt the importance of keeping a clean and neat workstation too.
They were most excited to be given the chance to cook their own pork chop. Closely supervised, each child pan-fried the pork chop and tortillas. They also learnt how to plate their meals before helping their teachers with final clean up. Finally, they all adjourned to the dining hall (where parents can join them) to dine together.
The school’s philosophy is to focus on quality teaching and experience. And while students learn less per class than other kids cooking programmes, they make it up in the quality of experience. The kids have the chance to do everything (supervised) by themselves — from cutting, to frying, to cleaning up, to plating. This focus on quality means that each child is confident to recreate the dish at home (which our son did!)
ABC Cooking Studio is a global outfit with studios in Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Korea. They recently opened their largest studio to date right here in Singapore in Ngee Ann City (next to JTB). They offer five different learning tracks: bread baking, cake making, cooking, wagashi and one for kids.
The programme is designed for kids aged four to eight with about two teachers overseeing each class. That is a great 2:1 ratio. Older kids may opt to join the adult's programme. The studio has over 30 full-time teachers and more than 20 freelance cooking and baking teachers.
Unlike other schools, ABC Cooking Studio runs like a club where students join as members and buy a package of classes. All their classes are done in an ultra small group setting (usually four per class) with multiple lesson slots available all day. Members may reserve slots via their online booking portal.
Tel: 6694 6259 or 6694 6104