Edible Basics: Kids in the Kitchen—Summer Baking
Photos and Styling by Béatrice Peltre, assisted by Lulu and Rémy
I know that my love for locally grown foods—and cooking—comes from my upbringing in a small rural village in the northeastern part of France. And that thinking about food is a family matter since everyone, including me, constantly talks about what our next meal will be.
On my father’s side, my grandparents, uncles and aunts were all farmers, and as far as I can see, everyone back there—and most people in the village—still grow a vegetable garden at the back of their house. This is just the way of life, I suppose, à la campagne.
Because of this, I started helping in the garden early in my life, whenever there was a need for it—and being outdoors was a bonus, too. I picked and cleaned vegetables with my mother in the summer to prepare for winter preserves, and collected whatever fruit was in season to make jams. The women in my family took pride in sharing stories, comparing each year which of them produced more bocaux of ratatouille, beans, beets or cornichons. I remember the tall labeled glass jars neatly stored on wooden shelves attached to a wall in the darkest corner of the basement at my parents’ house. They were the prizes coming after hours of meticulous work.
To be honest, I didn’t love each task in the garden equally— clearly, picking young petits pois and juicy sun-filled raspberries that I could easily gobble down was way more attractive than gathering the endless haricots verts my mother grew in tight rows—but I now know that it paved the way to the healthy relationship I have with food.
I quickly followed my mother into the kitchen where she taught me how to bake my first cake. And once this started, a lot more cooking followed.
I loved the space my mother kept for me in her kitchen. Whenever guests were invited for dinner, I was in charge of dessert, taking the responsibility extremely seriously. Together, she and I baked cherry clafoutis, strawberry charlottes and fruit tarts, using whatever fruit was available at the time. To this day, a tart garnished with delicately acidic quetsches (plum) or mirabelles remains a favorite summer treat that I invariably look forward to when I visit.
With two children of my own today—Lulu, 10 and Rémy, 4—I realize how important it is to involve them in the kitchen along my side. They neither try every food nor like everything I cook, but when they clap their hands at the thought we are going to eat a vegetable tart, a gratin dauphinois or strawberries served with a vanilla-flavored crème anglaise, and then exclaim Mmmmm maman c’est bon after the first bite, I know that I am doing something right.
They both love to help in the kitchen. While Lulu prefers to help with anything sweet like I did at a her age—she particularly enjoys a cake pop baking activity with a friend—Rémy is ready for anything, especially if it means using lots of funny cooking utensils, as he likes to call them. Right now, he tells me that he is awaiting the arrival of cherries because it means that it will be summer and he can use the cherry pitter.
Chances are that if children help with the cooking of a meal, they are more likely to be adventurous eaters, too. So we cook together. At age 3, Lulu was helping to roll crusts for a tartlet. Rémy loves to feel the texture of food with his hands. He likes to crack eggs, stir a risotto, mix flour and water to make a crust, make an omelet and put his hand on mine when I am chopping vegetables. We experiment, they make a mess and we have fun. We bond with food.
These four recipes are examples of childhood favorites. You will love how easy they are. It’s now my turn to pass them on to the next generation for them to enjoy.
This story appeared in the Summer 2019 issue.