By Elinor Spokes
When Emily Demsky eats something she has baked, she is often surprised that she made it herself. That is because her children, Bennett, in second grade at Krieger Schechter Day School, and Lucy, in the Hebrew Immersion program at Goldsmith Early Childhood Education Center, are regulars in the kitchen of the family’s Stevenson home and have been cooking for years.
Prompted by a love of food, but also by necessity when Lucy developed a peanut allergy (which she has since outgrown), Demsky baked a lot so that they could bring baked goods wherever she, husband David and the children went. That way, they did not have to worry about ingredients in other people’s food.
Insider: What are your children’s favorite foods to make?
Emily: Baked goods are staples of the Demsky family repertoire, with cookies and brownies being the favorites, and challah. When I was on maternity leave from my job, I promised myself that I would make challah every Friday for Shabbat dinner and that I would type all of my recipes onto cards. I did both. Now I do make challah with the children when I can, when they are not in school.
Have you made any changes to your kitchen to make it more kid-friendly?
I gave my kids special mixing bowls that will not tip and child-size spatulas to encourage them and to make cooking easier for them to do.
How do you prevent your children from making a mess?
When Bennett and Lucy were really young, I would help them a lot. Now Bennett really needs just a little help –– separating eggs is still something that I do. And I have learned not to get upset when sugar falls all over the floor. Recently, Bennett insisted on pouring salt from the salt container into a small measuring spoon. I couldn’t resist putting my hand under the spoon just to catch whatever spilled.
What cookbooks do you use to inspire the food you make with your children?
One Chanukah, a friend of ours gave Bennett and Lucy “Honest Pretzels” and “Pretend Soup,” age-appropriate cookbooks by Molly Katzen of Moosewood Cookbook fame. These books have detailed illustrations so that both children can easily follow the recipes and feel a sense of accomplishment for creating a dish. Lucy’s favorite is a recipe for popovers and Bennett has several favorites, including the recipe for cinnamon waffles (on the web).
Which holiday is your family’s favorite?
I bought an electronic skillet last year so that we could make latkes during Chanukah. Using the skillet will allow the kids to get closer to the pan. During Passover, we make charoset together using the crank-arm apple peeler and then we throw in the nuts, cinnamon and other ingredients. And for Rosh Hashanah, we will make round challah together.
What are the benefits of having young chefs in your family?
It gives me time with them doing something we all love. Once a week we pick a recipe that they make. When they make food themselves, they are more likely to try new things. For example, Bennett discovered he likes olives after making a salad which called for them. When I let the children cook, they really take ownership of their food and are less likely to complain when something doesn’t come out the way they think it should.