Kitchen knives: Teaching culinary conduct to three kids(Read article summary)
Etiquette is usually a tough sell to kids, but to Mom's surprise, one daughter possesses a natural skill.
The Christian Science Monitor/Tony Avelar
As I set down the orange juice on the breakfast table, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of my 12-year-oldÂ 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 plateÂ became a mess of shredded, torn pancake bits.Â
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.Â
Itâs likely also that kid foods were to blame. After all, one doesnât 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 â 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 soufflĂŠ 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.
With the front room finally tidy, I went to check on their progress. I walked in to find every drawer in the kitchen open as my daughters rummaged about, muttering, âI donât know which one is a can opener. Is this a can opener?â
âNo, I think itâs this thing,â the other one said, holding a corkscrew. âOr maybe itâs that thing there?â while pointing at a garlic press. Â
Astonished, I interrupted. âWhat? Do you mean to tell me that neither one of you knows what a can opener looks like?â
I reached into the appropriate drawer. âThisÂ is a can opener!â
âOh,â they said in unison.
âYouâve never used a can opener?â I demanded, only to be treated to shrugs and the onset of uncontrollable giggles.
âOh, yeah. Go ahead and laugh.âÂ
I tried to impress them with the seriousness of the situation. âIt wonât be so funny when The Big One comes and Daddy and I are squished under the entertainment center and you kids have to fend for yourselves. What will you do then?Â Huh? Iâll tell you what youâll do. Youâll starve! I can see the story on the ten oâclock news now: âLocal children starve to death in a kitchen surrounded by cans of food!ââ
Now gasping for air, Chloe somehow managed to squeak out, âWe wonât starve. Weâll just order a pizza.â
I ignored her. âThis weekend, the two of you are going to learn about the kitchen, and we will have a special class in advanced knife work.â
Morning came and, after a half-hour ofÂ Show and TellÂ with the kitchen utensils and appliances, I presented my children with a stack of easy-to-cut French Toast.
I gave them a lengthy dissertation on proper knife holding and exact index finger placement for maximum pressure and then encouraged them to try it themselves.Â
Chloe tried to flaunt her knife skills first, but soon food went flying off the edge of her plate. Samantha made a couple of feeble attempts and then disregarded my advice and began mashing up her French Toast like she had her pancakes. Again, more giggles.
I was ready to admit defeat when my seven-year old asked, âMommy, am I doing it right?â
To be honest, I forgot my overlooked third child was even at the table. But now, I was thrilled to learn someone had actually been paying attention.
Â âWhy, yes!â I gushed. âYou are doing it right! Wow, girls... look at your much younger sister. See how well she wields her knife? Why canât you two be more like her? Excellent job, Peyton. Here, have some more syrup and powdered sugar.â
I knew very well I had violated the advice of every parenting book by comparing the children to one another, but I didnât care, I was feeling desperate.
But my efforts were apparently in vain. Chloe and Samantha soon abandoned their utensils entirely and resorted to ripping off bites of French toast with their teeth, much like the feral children they were apparently meant to be.
The good news was that at least my youngest child would someday be able to enter civilized society.Â Â In the meantime, I can only hope that video game designers can invent a game that teaches kids how to use a butter knife.
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