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Kitchen knives: Teaching culinary conduct to three kids

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The Christian Science Monitor/Tony Avelar

(Read caption) Etiquette is a tough lesson to teach to kids. Kate Behan, 7, learns how to properly hold her fork in a formal setting, January 12, 2012, during a Mrs. Good Manners class in San Jose, California.

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As I set down the orange juice on the breakfast table, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of my 12-year-old daughter struggling to cut up her pancakes. Holding her knife in her left fist like a ski pole and her fork like a video game controller, she ground the two utensils together until her plate became a mess of shredded, torn pancake bits. 

My future Mensa member and current household video game champion had no more ability to use a knife than had our house cat.

How did she escape learning this basic life skill?

Looking back, I admit I purposely kept knives away from my kids. I thought that giving a sharp object to a child could only end badly.

And on the occasion that we went to a restaurant and knives were recklessly set on the table, the inevitable sibling sword fight would ensue, confirming my suspicions. 

It’s likely also that kid foods were to blame. After all, one doesn’t need to cut up chicken nuggets, pizza and macaroni and cheese. But most nights my kids dine on more grown-up fare like salmon, shrimp and pastas – again, all fork-friendly foods.

After deciding to brush off the knife incident as a minor blemish on my otherwise spotless parental record, I was faced with another shortcoming.

When we were having some dinner guests, my two older girls wanted me to bake a corn soufflé to serve our dinner guests. Rushed for time, I instructed them to start without me by gathering all the ingredients and opening up the cans of creamed corn.

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