Tishara Rajagopal, 10, finds it boring to roll out . Her favourite foods this summer are pasta with chicken and mango ice cream, and she loves helping her grandmother Sabita Radhakrishna make both at home. “I am not a big fan of Indian food. When I help chapattis amma in the kitchen, I want to do it for different kinds of foods like pastas, not for dal and rice,” she says.
Young cookies: Ananya (left) and her friend Sahara learn how to make chocolate-chip cookies; (below) at the Institute of Baking and Cake Art, Bangalore. Hemant Mishra / Mint
Radhakrishna, the author of Kids’ Kitchen, a cookery book for children that’s just come out, says one way of getting her grandchildren into the kitchen was not forcing them to learn how to prepare traditional Indian foods. “My grandchildren always want to make burgers, pastas, fried rice—foods I would call ‘junk food’. But since these dishes are not part of their staple diet, they are attractive for them. These are the kinds of foods they want to try cooking as well.”
To get her grandchildren interested in cooking and cut down on their “junk food” intake, Radhakrishna decided to make these dishes at home, but in a healthier way. “I make it a point to tell them how to use less oil for frying or why baking an ‘aloo patty’ for a burger is better than shallow-frying it, or why paneer (cottage cheese) is healthier to use in snacks rather than processed cheese only. And when they get to decorate the food on their own, the whole activity becomes even more exciting.”
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Nishi Chopra, who plans to enrol her nine-year-old son Aditya for chocolate-making classes at Choko La, New Delhi, says she wants her son to learn early in life that cooking is not a “sissy” activity. “My friend’s son had joined last year, and he had a lot of fun decorating the cookies and making chocolates in different shapes. A hands-on experience hopefully will convince my son that cooking is almost as cool as soccer and swimming.”
Radhakrishna made her four grandchildren and some of their friends practise almost all the 52 recipes—including drinks, soups, salads, main meals, snacks and desserts—in her book. “As a child growing up in Chennai, I was never encouraged to step into the kitchen,” she recalls. “My parents said there would be time to work in the kitchen later. They made cooking sound like a chore.”
But Radhakrishna did not want to adopt the same approach with her grandchildren. “Learning to cook at a young age can be fun. And I believe this activity also helps instil healthy eating habits at a young age.”
Vidya Suresh, who also subscribes to this view, was more than happy to accommodate her 13-year-old daughter Ananya’s wish to join a cooking class during her summer break. She had heard about the Institute of Baking and Cake Art, Bangalore, and suggested that Ananya take part in a three-day programme there. “I thought baking would be more gratifying than a traditional Indian cooking class.”
A huge plus was the institute encouraging children to adopt a hands-on approach. “I knew Ananya would like that and learn more that way rather than just standing around and watching other people do all the work.”
By the end of the 15-hour course, Ananya had learnt how to bake bread, cakes and biscuits. Her favourite recipe is chocolate chip cookies. “Now that her basics in baking are clear, we both intend on trying out new dishes from a recipe book over the weekends,” says Suresh. Ananya can’t wait for the weekend.