Teaching Teenagers to Cook

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


I wasn't taught to cook by my mum, I don't think she liked people in her kitchen any more than I do. She did let me make cakes and biscuits but I taught myself to cook proper meals. Thing was, I wanted to cook, I have always loved poring over cookbooks and discovering how things were made. Neither George nor Tom have any interest in food beyond enthusiastically eating it. When they go to university they are going to live on pasties and sandwiches respectively.

George who is 18 starts university in October. He can scramble eggs, cook bacon, bake potatoes, make toasties and knock up campfire chilli over a campfire. I am trying to add to his repertoire but it's an uphill struggle.

I say 'George you're cooking tea on Monday. We're having macaroni cheese, it's easy'.
He sighs and says 'ok'. 
5.30 on Monday I say 'you'll have to start tea soon',
He sighs and says 'right, just let me finish watching Game of Thrones'.
I sigh and think 'I wish I was doing it'.
Once in the kitchen he stands there waiting for me to tell him what to do. Surely he knows by now to get a pan of water on the boil for the pasta?
'George you do know that macaroni cheese has pasta in it don't you?', 'Yes' he replies rolling his eyes. 
And so it goes, me telling, suggesting and he resignedly doing. By the end we have an edible meal and he can't remember how he produced it and I am left wondering why I bother.

Last night, under duress, George cooked a very tasty version of this meal which we have now decided to call 'red stuff'. It's an excellent student meal. A half quantity will serve one hungry student for two nights running. It has a good amount of veg in the form of tinned tomatoes and onions, can be customised ad infinitum, is easy peasy, requires little in the way of equipment, is made from storecupboard ingredients and is cheap. George's version has kidney beans. black beans, sweetcorn and barbecue sauce in it. These were all my suggestions as he failed to work up enough enthusiasm to think of any himself. Sigh.


But let's not forget my other teenager. Katie adores cooking and will drop everything if I suggest she comes and helps in the kitchen. She has just finished a surprisingly comprehensive food tech unit at school which included; toad-in-the-hole, bolognese, pasta with ham and cheese sauce, jam sponge, pineapple upside down cake, pasties and egg and bacon tart. The boys did not do this when they were at school. The curriculum must have changed in the last couple of years. When we studied the ingredients lists for the recipes she made at school Katie really impressed me by being able to suggest substitutions for things we didn't have or were never going to have (margarine). After she had made the bolognese sauce she told me she really enjoyed cooking the meat and seeing it change colour, that made me happy because it's exactly what I like about cooking, watching ingredients change and become delicious. Clearly Katie is going to leave home able to cook without much effort from me. 

How do you do teach teenagers to cook?
How did you do teach teenagers to cook?
Specifically how do you teach a teenager to cook who doesn't think he needs to learn (because he already knows everything).
Should I even bother if the teenager in question doesn't want to learn? 

76 comments:

  1. When he leaves home to go to Uni and realises there won't be a meal put in front of him each evening he will soon learn to cook!! Equip him with a folder containing the recipes for all his favourite meals.

    My son (14) loves to cook but is very disappointed that in the 'food tech' lessons at school they don't cook real food instead they 'cook' (and he uses the word cook loosely!) rubbish things such as fajitas or rice crispie cakes

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    1. Whilst I agree that rice crispie cakes don't count as cooking, I'm not sure about fajitas...? We regularly have them - a couple of diced chicken breasts, 3 -4 peppers (mixed colours), 2 onions, 4-5 cloves of garlic and a finely diced chilli or two - all stir fried off and then a small glass of white wine thrown over the ingredients, making it all lovely and brown and sticky. Serves 4 in wraps with salad accompaniment & chopped fresh tomatoes - reasonably healthy (3 or 4 veg portions min, depending on salad size) and I'd class it as quick and easy cooking. No packet mixes used, all fresh ingredients and very tasty :)

      I have 2 teens and 2 small ones. Teens are totally uninterested in cooking :(

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    2. Mrs G the way you cook fajitas sounds lovely but at school they are asked to take in those kits that contain the packets of sauce, they are even asked to take in a bag of chopped peppers and a bag of chopped onions!!

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  2. I have a DD17 who will be flying the nest in September, hopefully to Aberdeen, and she can cook, but she needs to learn to cook cheaper recipes! I am encouraged that she can follow a recipe, has enthusiasm for cooking and won't starve, but I am slightly worried about how fast she will literally eat her way through her budget if she doesn't take heed of my warnings about the cost of food! It is a work in progress....

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    1. Good point, I am trying to select cheap dishes to teach George, also how to make use of leftovers and planned leftovers. We had a look at an excellent how-to cookbook called What to Cook and How to Cook It by Jane Hornby -a really great visual guide to lots of lovely recipes but each one seemed to require a shopping trip.

      Aberdeen is a long way from the Fens isn't it?

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    2. 480 miles, or about 8 hours on a train......yep, quite a way! Very good department for the degree she wants to read and she was born in Fife. Great excuse for me to go and visit - I love it up there too!

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  3. Somehow they never seem to starve while at Uni, so I shouldn't worry.

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  4. I lived on some rubbish whilst a student (cheap and nasty noodles from the now-defunct Kwik Save) despite being brought up on 'proper' food. I also got into real cooking once I left uni.
    Men often enjoy cooking heroic things like big Sunday roasts and complicated curries. I suspect that will come later though. If he's staying in halls of residence with some meals included I shouldn't worry too much.

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  5. My teenager doesn't follow recipes or instructions because he knows it all and better but he has not got the experience to experiment and improvise yet. When he cooks, the result is often not very good. I have essentially given up on him and he'll either have to starve, eat disgusting food or get himself a well paid job to eat out. He has a few years left to learn. I would send yours off with basic cooking equipment. He knows what good food looks and tastes like and he is probably capable of producing a decent meal under duress.

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  6. My Mom didn't teach me to cook and I'm afraid I didn't teach my daughter, her university had a room and board included in her tuition and later when she moved to an apartment she learned on her own. She's a very good cook now, now thanks to me.

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  7. I'm really glad you're doing this with them. I intend to do the same with mine. I always lived in dormitories so never had a kitchen and always ate in the dining hall. My husband lived in a house, though, and didn't take the time to cook for himself. He and his roommates once bought a huge amount of pasta in bulk and ate it plain, just boiled with nothing on it, at every meal for weeks. I'm surprised they didn't end up with scurvy or something.

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  8. I am a self taught cook. I became interested while I was in High School and while I never took any of those "home ec" classes, I still loved to read cookbooks and watch cooking shows. I think my Mom resented us in the kitchen because it was her only time alone! I can relate to that feeling now that I have 2 daughters of my own. They are both keen to cook and while I want them to be capable, I find it very challenging to share my kitchen. I like having time to think while I make dinner. (I would go crazy if I had to teach your son! You have the patience of a saint.)
    I am not fussed about whether my girls know how to cook or not as I didn't get any of that from my Mom and am now an accomplished cook and even worked as a baker/pastry chef. The way I look at it is if they're interested they'll learn it. But, that being said, I do try to have them help me some of the time so they can enjoy that "mom and me" time. It's much easier with my youngest who is naturally cheerful and very open to instruction. My eldest is unable to handle being told what to do which makes trying to guide her through a recipe virtually impossible. It almost always ends with her stomping out of the kitchen mid-way through.

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    1. I find it extremely challenging to share my kitchen! I thank my lucky stars that my husband has never shown any inclination to cook.

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  9. Son no 1 is in his second year at uni and is very popular because he loves cooking interesting and tasty food for large numbers of friends. Son no 2 is about to go to uni in October and may well die from starvation because of his complete inability to cook anything. Son no 3 is willing but horribly messy and I cringe whenever he suggests helping me. I have no idea how they've all turned out so different, particularly as they all love eating, a LOT! So sorry, I can offer no advice whatsoever!!

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    1. I am constantly amazed at how my 3 children are so different from one another.

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  10. Just tell the boys how much it will impress girls!

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  11. my 4 sons told me that there is a lot of nourishment in beer ! try not to worry and don't ask too many questions is my advice, you do not want to know !

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  12. Mine are not at that age yet but already I have one who is so disinterested in where his meals come from and another who would 'help' me every day. One of my to dos this holiday was to show SmallBean how to make a meal. His choice. I haven't summoned up the courage to suggest it or the energy to persuade him yet. Perhaps the summer would be better...? Ax

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  13. My mother was a keen cook and I must have helped her in the kitchen but she often used to lock the kitchen door at critical moments because we got in her way. I used to make Polish cake and Lime Cream if I was bored but relied heavily on Cooking in a Bedsitter by Katharine Whitehorn when I went away to college. At one point I lived with macrobiotic vegans who commandeered the kitchen and would only serve brown rice and muesli. I got very thin, but survived. Other meals were taken at a greasy spoon in Bristol called The Sir Prize. My sons are both keen cooks, but idiosyncratic. One is chilli obsessed and the other is accomplished but has rather expensive tastes.

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  14. One-oh-four5:40 pm BST

    I couldn't cook at all when I left for Uni, I went armed with a large stash of baked beans and tinned soup, which was pretty much all we ate at home, other than meat/potatoes/boiled veg. I learnt to cook during my first term with the help of a lovely mature student who mothered us all, and inspiration from the colourful food in the amazing Leicester market, but struggled with quantities as I'd never seen things like rice or pasta cooked from raw. My housemates bought me a set of weighing scales as my secret Santa present, and I bought myself a basic cookbook with my Xmas money. I've not looked back since!

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  15. Anonymous6:24 pm BST

    Growing up my DS and I made many cookies together, happily, though not without a determined amount of patience on my part. I regret that I didn't teach him to cook things other than desserts when we were willing to be in the kitchen together. Teen years were not happy years. Many food tantrums, eventually resulting in his explaining that he decided to be a vegetarian. Huh? I don't think I could have taught him to cook anything then. I did pack him off to college with a bunch of vegetarian cookbooks. Distance has significantly warmed our icy relationship, and he actually asks me occasionally how to cook specific dishes. He tries to eat a healthy diet, though it's not an abundant one, as he is skinny as a rail. One thing that really tries my patience is that he approaches every recipe as if he were doing a science experiment and PRECISE measurements are crucial. Thus it takes about five times as long to make a recipe as it should. We joke about the fact that a recipe will list prep time as 10 minutes and it will take him an hour. Seriously. All you can do is laugh, and "Keep calm and carry on." What if you got your DH to cook a meal as a role model, or even DS and DH together as a challenge. Or DS and DD? I think, too, that we tend to read too much into the Attitude our dear sons and daughters project as teens. They may be overplaying the emotions and hiding the fact that they really appreciate your taking an interesting in their welfare. Even if it takes a few years for the light to go on. Cooking lessons can continue on holidays.

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  16. I have no advice for you at all. In fact, I'm in the same boat this year. My son is entering his third year at university, but the first two years he was in residence and ate in the dining hall. This year he's living off campus and will have to cook. His attitude to cooking is the same as George's. I think the question will be how many times he can coerce his girlfriend into coming over to cook for him, before she leaves him for someone less incompetent.

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  17. Son no. 1 and son no. 3 are both enthusiatic and excellent cooks, son no. 2 can cook for himself but not really for anyone else and youngest will live on pizza given half a chance yet they were all taught and encouraged by me in the same way. If they want to do it they will. Husband on the other hand hasn't a clue.

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  18. Assign a night a week in advance when it's their turn to cook. They pick the food, and they make it. They can look up a recipe, and ask you questions, but if they don't cook, no one cooks. The pressure has to be real, or they'll just wait you out.

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  19. My son had a spate of meals which consisted of sandwiches of some type or other. I came home from work one day to the smell of garlic and onions and discovered him and ‘Delia’ making tomato sauce for spaghetti. As another commenter said - he won’t starve and sandwiches lose there appeal after a wee while. He will cook when he is hungry,

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  20. I have boys: one enjoyed cooking (once you got him away from his friends) and one who happily said 'I can cook 2 minute noodles' when asked how he would survive. At 28,. I am glad to say he has expanded his repertoire. I found the hardest part of their teen cooking was when they would call out questions every two minutes: 'Where's the grater?' 'We don't have any cheese!' 'Where's the frypan?' all things that were in fact present and had been stored in the same places for years and would take only seconds for them to find for themselves. Hence i appreciate your 'sigh' and phew, these days pass!

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  21. My husband was taught to cook by his mother before he left home, trouble is she only cooked things that I hate! Hubby managed to feed himself pretty well all through university though and can cook for himself now. I learned to cook at school, although we had to make some pretty atrocious things - cheese, cauliflower and nut quiche anyone? That is a legend in our family, it was awful!!! I would not say that I am the greatest cook, but I will try most things and have results that I am happy with and which get eaten up so it can't be too bad. Your son will want to feed himself, so he will work out some way of cooking things when he has to! xx

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  22. Not being much of a cook myself I didn't teach either of my sons to cook. Having left home with minimal skills and a student cookbook from me, hey are both now self-taught, having started with Jamie and then moved on. I love their cooking, as do their girlfriends!

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  23. I've started early. My son is 13 and I leave him a note to get the ingredients prepared for a spaghetti bol and he remembers everything to go in. He will chop the onions etc and most of the time he will help cook when I get home from work. Perhaps it could be a sign of his future career???

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  24. Do not rely on a miracle teaching and motivating anyone to cook. That is absurd and denigrates the role of parent. Who said that raising a family is easy? Time to become a parenting SAS or something like that. Plan to go out a few afternoons and issue orders to George that he must have dinner ready by a certain time. Hand him the recipe. Ask if he has any questions and walk out the door. Text him half an hour before you are due to come home and say that you have headache. You will need a really good cuppa when you get there. Then make sure you actually arrive home on time. Where will you be during this ordeal? Dentist? A library? With a friend? At a gym? Pap smear? Mammogram? Climbing a mountain? Anywhere but reachable. Just make sure you provide a simple recipe and compliment the cook during the meal in front of everyone. You raised this man so you know what is there. George is capable of learning household management. Atrocious diet does not lead to fabulous academic results at university. He is old enough to be a parent himself so he has to step up to the mark.

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    1. I don't think you are ever too old to be taught how to do something if you don't know how to do that thing.

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    2. Anonymous10:01 pm BST

      A person will only learn something if they want to. You can't make anyone do anything just because you say so. Louise's response is the absurd one and rude into the bargain.

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    3. It is possible to motivate your children to learn to cook. With some solid parenting you can even motivate them to succeed at running a marathon or playing wheelchair basketball or becoming a drug addict. The choice is yours. But it is possible. Schools, advertising agencies, television documentaries and more all are evidence that you can motivate people to do things they have previously been averse to doing.

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  25. Can I ask what year Katie is in? The list of foods she cooked is really impressive. Amy is in Y9 and her food tech term consisted of a pasta salad, pizza and cookies. She loves cooking and was disappointed they didn't do more. She's chosen food as her non-optional GCSE tech, the theory being she'll know how to feed herself through Uni xx

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    1. Katie is in year 9 too.

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  26. Anonymous10:05 pm BST

    My daughter had not so much as cooked an egg before university, as she just wasn't interested. She is a faddy eater but nevertheless likes what she likes. Much of that is home cooked food. So if she wanted to eat she had to learn to cook those limited dishes that she liked. She did. I gave her detailed written instructions. She followed them and she had edible food at the end of it. She found it hard work though and didn't enjoy doing it at all and she didn't like the washing up. Still, we know now that she can do it.

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  27. Keep going Sue, some of it will stick I'm sure. And their future wives will be eternally grateful. Either that, or your boys will tell them that you're the best cook in the world and nothing compares to the things you make. After reading this post I'm even more determined to do some cooking with mine while they're still quite small and eager to do it. My eldest made chocolate orange cookies today. He pre-heated the oven first, as the recipe said, then took about an hour to make the cookies.

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  28. Food tech nowadays sounds much more adventurous than when my youngest daughter did it for GCSE over twenty years ago. She managed to complete her whole course by cooking just chili con carne, quiche, and a lentil and potato bake. My eldest daughter didn't take Food tech but had a much wider repertoire of recipes, following recipes from a variety of cook books.

    As I was at college myself when they were doing their GCSE's and A Levels we had a cooking rota. Eldest had Monday and Thursday, I had Wednesday and weekends, and youngest had Tuesday (Food Tech day) and Friday (takeaway). Eldest went off to university and self-catered, making loads of friends early on by cooking up huge pots of hearty soups from cheap ingredients, and teaching boys how to iron shirts. Youngest stayed at home and went to college locally and continued with her limited repertoire. Married with two children of her own, she is now a much more adventurous cook. My eldest now comes to me for her dinner every evening but loves to cook at weekends.

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  29. I think he'll suddenly become interested when he's hungry and nobody is looking over his shoulder. Equip him with a hand written book of his favourite, quick and easy recipes to start him off and he'll be fine. A lot of his reluctance may stem from not wanting an audience to judge his efforts. You're no further away than a telephone when he needs cooking advice !

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  30. Anonymous12:48 am BST

    I lived off red stuff at university and am encouraging my daughter to do the same.Although she says she will mostly eat potato waffles. I am also experiencing teaching my 86 year old mother who has Alzheimer's to cook omelettes using the methods she passed on to me when I was my daughters age. All very odd!

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  31. My mother cooked for a living and was an amazing cook. She couldn't stand my sister and I in the kitchen: too messy, used too many utensils etc. But at high school we both did four years of Home Economics - cooking and laundry. We developed fantastic skills and made some quite sophisticated meals, as well as having a real grounding in the basics. Both my sons cook, more than adequately. One does all the day to day meals whilst his wife does the baking. The HE course has been greatly diminished in today's curriculum, and for many it is their only opportunity to learn some basic cooking skills. I have a friend who teaches in a low income area, and she sells cooking for yourself opposed to buying takeaway by telling the kids they will get hungry later and will have some left-overs if they cook. If they have had a Macca's burger its gone! And their appetite is not satisfied. I admire that you are helping your kids learn the skills. Oh, and how lucky to have a Katie who loves to cook with you.

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  32. It's interesting to hear about the different cooking skills of your three teenagers! Out of my three children, the two boys loved cooking from the start and even asked to do it! My daughter held little interest and still has to make an effort to create things ... She did learn to cook finally and can rustle up tasty little meals when pushed, but she'd much rather be invited than invite!

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  33. Anonymous8:41 am BST

    The thing that stood out for me in your post was that your husband doesn't cook! What, never? I love cooking but there are times I just have to say to him that he is responsible for the meal (or meals, if I want the weekend off). He is a good cook so long as he is told what to make, if I can't even be bothered to do that we often end up with chips or a homemade meal from the freezer, but at least I don't have to cook it.

    Daughter and son didn't have any interest in cooking until they went to uni but realised that if they wanted to eat reasonably they had to learn and did so, mostly by dint of ringing me for advice at odd times and they are both good cooks who enjoy cooking, so there is hope for George yet.

    By the way, thank you - I've always beena bit of a recipe follower until I read your blog and the lightbulb came on that I could and should make substitutions I preferred, it's made me a much more adventurous cook.

    Sue F

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    1. He has cooked when I have been incapacitated and he certainly cooked for himself before I met him, also he cooks when he takes the kids camping. Because he works and I don't I don't expect him to do any cooking or housework. If I worked then we would share those tasks -he would do all the cleaning and I would do all the cooking! It isn't a gender issue, just the way we have organised our lives. It works for us, besides it is rare that I don't want to cook.Very rare.

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  34. Anonymous9:31 am BST

    I know you don't like Jamie O, but many men seem to enjoy the blokey approach - and his 30 and 15 minute meals on tv are full of great ideas (although pricey and unrealistic timing-wise).
    As for survival, noodle sarnies….

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  35. Anonymous10:12 am BST

    I loved cooking for the family and never encouraged husband or children to cook.At the age of about sixty I suddenly became totally bored with cooking and now find it a real effort.I only have myself to blame that husband and children are not interested in taking over the role.

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    1. Oh dear, I hope I don't find myself in the same position.

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  36. Dont worry, if he can read he can cook! I sent Jacob off with copies of his favourite recipes some of which he'd tried before and he just rings me for advice( mainly of the sort "I made this last Sunday, do you think it's gone offf?". Friends have shown him things, they often cook for each other. In fact one of his friends has a blog mystudentkitchen.com which has some great simple cheapish recipes on it. I use them quite often myself. I agree with other comments though, he won't starve and if you're not interested in doing something you're not motivated to do it regardless of who is telling you it's for your own good!

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    1. That's a fab blog, I've given George the link, thanks.

      I think I'm going to leave it up to him, I know he won't starve.

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  37. I bought my son a Sam Stern cookbook - great ideas for food that appeals to teen boys but the instructions are atrocious and seem to assume a certain level of understanding of how to do things as as such useless for a beginner. At the other end of the spectrum Delia's How to Cook has great instructions but the recipes are not appealling to my boy. Much as I hate the man Jamie O's book that came out alongside his campaign to teach people to cook is pretty good on both counts.

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    1. I know all three books and yes, as much as I hate the man I think you are right.

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  38. I don't think you can teach someone to be enthusiastic about cooking anymore than you can teach a passion for gardening. If he is going into catered accommodation in the first year he will be fine - and shared meals is a great way to make friends. After that if he is sharing a house he can learn with his housemates. I think you will be surprised what he has absorbed over the years.

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    1. Thanks Alice and speaking as someone who has no passion for gardening I know exactly what you mean. He has opted for self-catered accommodation -perhaps he is fed up of having his meals decided for him.

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  39. My mum didn't really teach me; my gran did all the cooking when I grew up and she just slammed things in an oven with little thought. It didn't taste amazing. They both cooked in order to keep alive rather than with an enjoyment of food. Littlest will cook with me - begrudgingly - as long as she is allowed to pretend to be hosting a cooking show and wandering off tp do her pieces to camera at all the salient bits. I find teaching Eldest hard, because her disability means that she's hard to position in front of the cooker; she does some food tech, so to be honest I'm letting them deal with it, because she's hardly falling over herself with enthusiasm.

    I think we all learn at different rates; I know at uni, with utterly no experience of cooking, I got INCREDIBLY excited at my newfound ability to melt cheese on top of stuff. You learn when you learn. Your children have grown up with utterly delicious food, and sooner or later - it may well be later - they're going to miss it, and try to find a way back to it themselves.

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  40. My son had to learn to cook as he and his girlfriend would arrive home at all hours and want some thing to eat. He left for uni able to make a chicken pie from scratch -pastry as well. Toad in the hole, with proper homemade yorkshire pudding, roast dinner and anything grilled or fried. So proud of him!
    It must be that you are such a good cook that your son doesn't bother!

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  41. Let him fend for himself if he doesn't want to or isn't willing to learn to cook from you at home. He'll soon learn to cook when he gets hungry. He might even learn to appreciate all that you've done for him over the years. Learning to cook is a basic skill boys should learn at some stage just like washing clothes and being able to iron them. I don't believe in kids not learning the basics. There might be weeping and gnashing of teeth but some time down the track they'll thank you. When he comes home from uni breaks I'd be insisting he keeps doing his own laundry. If he does it at uni he can keep it up when he gets home. I make my girls do their own laundry and insist they cook once or twice a week. One of them detests the cooking but consider it my responsibility to ensure she has some basic skills for when she leaves home. Good luck with yours.

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    1. But if cooking is a basic skill he should learn how will letting fend for himself help? He can iron though thanks to air cadets!

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  42. My son (now 33) went off to uni with minimal cookery/housekeeping skills. I think he lived on pot noodles & left-overs at his part-time job in Starbucks!
    However, at some point he discovered J.O. - having derided him for years - & his interest in food and cookery grew apace. Last Mother's Day he came and cooked us a J.O. 15 min meal & it was delish.
    When I see him we end up talking food partly because he's lived abroad a lot & we like to analyse other cuisines.
    This weekend I emailed him recipes for basic white bread and hot cross buns which he's going to try this weekend.
    Luckily his Spanish girlfriend loves to cook and so they share the chores. To my certain knowledge when he left home he had never cleaned a floor or a toilet, tho' he had used a vac. He's picked it up from sharing numerous different houses with an assortment of different people - mostly Spanish & Italian - it seems they're fussy about cleanliness. He says his English house-mates have always been the laziest about doing anything in the house but sleep/watch TV. Oh, and Australians are also v fussy apparently. So I guess he's had to shape up when sharing!
    Like other commentators, I think they survive in spite of what we do or do not say. Sometimes it's as well not to know.

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  43. You have taught them all you can - you've given them home made, healthy food with thought and care included. When they leave home it is up to them whether to apply this to their own lives, or not. They might come back to it later. The hardest thing to do as a parent, I have to keep reminding myself, is to remember that they are not part of you anymore. Mine are 16 and 18, one cooks the other makes strange creations all her own devising, mostly inedible! Both can and do feed themselves regularly, so will never starve. And both despise nasty processed stuff and see takeaways as second best, hurrah for brainwashing!!

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    1. Yes indeed, hurrah for brainwashing!

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  44. I always thought that, if you can read, you can cook. So I do it but don't enjoy it. I love to grow food but yearn for someone else to hand it to. ( regret the misplaced preposition... sorry!) I get stressed in the kitchen and rarely had my girls around while I cooked; happily, they both love to cook and YD produces wonderful meals with casual flair and is a marvellous baker although ED has leaden hands. It's all in the genes, I suppose. As regards your son, there may be an element of not wanting to cook for such an expert as yourself. I'm sure his standards will be as high as yours in later life!

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  45. I left home at 19 and knew absolutely nothing about cooking. Even my pasta was dodgy... and I'm Italian, right?

    I survived.

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  46. Hunger is the best cook :)

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  47. Funny, I was chatting about this very thing to my friend the other day. I don't remember ever really being 'taught' to cook. But I suppose I hung out in the kitchen enough to pick up the essentials via osmosis. Really, it's not that complicated - a rumbly tummy and a recipe book will lead to something vaguely edible and lat's face it, he has a lifetime to hone his skills. Interestingly, I wouldn't have said I could cook until I saw the efforts of my housemates at university and then it didn't take long for me to be promoted to head chef. He'll learn by doing, but probably not until he has to. You can pat yourself on the back that you have at least educated his palate so he knows what things are supposed to taste like.

    My boys can make toast and scrambled eggs and fried eggs (courtesy of the hubby). If they don't learn some other recipes quick they are going to be terribly constipated when they leave home!

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  48. In my experience once boys get to university and discover how bad some meals can be they soon discover an interest in making them better/good aka 'like you make it Mum'.

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  49. Don't wait until too late! Start them as little ones and let them experiment and make mistakes. When mine was 9 she kept insisting she could do it herself, and I had to remind myself to leave the kitchen and let her get on with it. That's the beauty of Scouts, btw - let someone who is not so invested in it teach them in a fun environment.

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  50. Sue, what an interesting post, and what a helpful and supportive comment thread. Presumably George wont be alone, but will be in a shared house or halls, so can learn with his new friends? I learnt how to make a roux from one of my uni housemates!

    At uni I lived off tuna pasta, jacket potatoes, noodles and beer. I wonder at how I was so thin... I learnt some cooking at home as a teen but the difference is I learnt how to cook, but not to love cooking. That didn't come until I was 29 and at home with my first baby with lots of time and a tight budget. You've probably equipped George with more knowledge than you or he realise and I expect he'll be fine. Good luck to both of you. X

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  51. I wouldn't worry too much if I were you. I went into catered accommodation at first, and could really only cook a couple of very basic things, but in our second tern my new friends and I started wanting to take turns cooking occasionally, and I e-mailed my mother asking for her recipe for carbonara. Then in my second year, I moved out into a shared house, intending to share catering with my housemates. When I realised they were quite happy to live off Bernard Matthews golden turkey drummers served with Batchelors pasta 'n' sauce every night, I appointed myself head cook and set out to learn how to do it properly. I'm sure he'll early on either want to reciprocate for a meal cooked by someone else, or he'll get desperate for proper food without having to spend beer money on expensive meals out. Once either of those happens, he'll apply himself to learning.

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  52. deedownunder9:12 am BST

    I wouldn't stress about this Sue - once he is at uni, all he needs to do is look on your blog under 'recipes' to find something easy he can make. "Spicy vegetable stew with Chickpeas and Chorizo" looks easy enough, with a photo of all the ingredients and steps to make it. He can make campfire chilli on the stove, and his mates will think he is amazing. Enjoy the time you have with him before he goes to away, and leave the stress and pressure.

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    1. I never thought of telling him to look at my blog Dee! Perhaps I should add a 'cheap and easy' category to my my recipe index.

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    2. deedownunder2:27 am BST

      A 'Cheap and easy' category is a good idea. I don't know if you know this blog Sue

      http://www.simplysogood.com/

      Janet in Utah has written it for the sole purpose of providing her college age children a place to find good recipes with detailed instructions. Read the "About" and you can read about it. I found the blog when I was looking for a bread recipe and she has a great "no-knead" recipe, similar to your latest bread recipe. Dee

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  53. What an interesting post, Sue! My kids are still little but I have my own experience to offer.... My grandparents and mum run a restaurant in Spain for more than 40 years. Both my gran and mum were/are excellent cooks. I never, however really showed a lot of interest in cooking. My mum used to cook all the food at home and I may have done the occassional pasta dish on a Saturday. I went to uni locally so I didn't need to learn, however, when I moved to the UK in my 20s and lived on my own I had to learn quick. My mum bought me a book with easy everyday recipes before I came here. Perhaps because it was in my genes, I took to cooking (out of necessity) quite easily and I would often call my mum to ask her for quantities, orientation of how to do this or that and learnt as I went along and discovered that I really loved it and that it was not difficult. I bet that some of your kids may have inherited your "cooking gene" and when they really need it, they may discover an unknown talent.... Cooking nice food can be a great way of meeting people at Uni and that may also play a part in the development of their skills...
    I agree also with what you say earlier, anyone can learn new skills at any age, one is never too old to learn or to teach.
    I hope you've enjoyed your Easter! Those flower pics you've shown us in your latest posts are gorgeous by the way. (Sorry, I've been reading your blog backwards to catch up with it...)
    Pati x

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  54. Only just seen this. Dd did some food tech. Used to go through recipe and do a practice run before the lessons - just as well because the teacher admitted she couldn't cook ... The day dd did pizza, because I knew lesson time was short, dd made fresh pizza dough the night before and took it in. She'd also chopped some onions and bacon (we prefer it to ham though we do partially cook it before using), cheese and sauce. Teacher was gobsmacked she'd go to the effort. They also did guacamole (or green sludge) and bruschettas ... Jolly useful - not. At UEA since October, she shares a campus flat with 9 others. It's not feeding herself I would worry about ... It's the fact the kitchen is so icky, dd has taken to keeping her own crockery in her room. And although she won't skivvy for the others, she does have her own jcloths, tea towels and surface spray, so she doesn't fall prey to lurking bugs and keeps her stuff clean and washed up. If you could see the fridge, your hair would curl. The cleaner tells them their kitchen is the best in the block! All these people no doubt come from clean homes, but you'd never think it. They pile unwashed plates on top of clean, leave half used uncovered saucepans of cooked food in the open on the crockery shelves, and never wipe up after themselves. Dd does cook for herself and has not fallen prey to the endless Domino's pizzas so easily available. Her food is quite simple - pasta based often, baked potatoes, chicken dishes. And she eats veg - thank you God, the nagging worked. But I'd say, nag like mad about food hygiene, and if you go to a hall of residence, have a good look at what's in the fridge and how clean it is. Everything you can see will look pristine ... There are quite a few things we wished we'd asked about.

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    1. Valuable insight Linda thank you. I will make food hygiene a priority.

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  55. I shouldn't worry, Sue. He will learn when he wants to or has to. It will also depend on his flatmates and the influence they may have. Also don't worry about hygiene....It will fall on deaf ears until the above applies to that too. Perhaps send him with a simple cookbook and one of those supermarket voucher cards then at least you know you've provided him with the resources!

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