What I Am Teaching My Kids About Spices


When my kids help me cook, one of the first things they say is “Daddy, can we make spices?”

A couple of years ago that meant pulling down all the spice jars they could reach, mixing some of each in a bowl then digging in with a spoon to taste their latest concoction.

They learned quickly not to eat too much at once! I also made sure to modify certain spice jars so that I didn’t lose half of it each time (“Oooh Daddy, it’s just like sand!”). Kids naturally love to create and experiment, regardless of the outcome.

In an effort to bring order to chaos, I showed them recipes. I wrote down ingredients, evenly spaced apart on a sheet of wax paper. Carefully measuring, they know each herb and spice has their place on the paper.

When we’re done we talk about the colors, textures, smells and flavors of each one. Then we scoop up the paper and funnel it into their mortar and pestle, giving them a chance to grind away. We fold up the paper for next time, smell the aroma of our latest mashup then taste test the awesomeness!

What am I teaching here? That it’s OK to make a mess. There are no mistakes. Every spice mixture is different and that still makes them wonderful. Ultimately I’m teaching them to understand the nuances of flavor.

As I forge ahead grilling with my kid chefs, they will learn that rubs are a great way to add life to meats and that those same spices can transform otherwise plain vegetables into something great.

They know that salt, pepper and garlic powder make a ribeye taste great and spices like cumin and smoked paprika make pork shine. They also know that fresh herbs like parsley, thyme and oregano (along with salt, pepper and olive oil) make a perfect marinade for vegetables.

How can you think outside the box when teaching your kids about food? Share your ideas!