I gave him all the tools he needed to cook. My son, Will, started his life in the kitchen with me as I developed a career as a food writer. At first, he watched from his swing. But as he grew, he was often standing on a chair watching me — or helping.
Our bookshelves were full of kid-oriented cookbooks and he cooked from them regularly. In one memorable cooking experiment when he was in the first or second grade, he made breakfast sausages enrobed in pancake batter. They were delightful. He may not know this, but that was my favorite thing he ever made.
Will joined a cooking club through his afterschool program when we moved to Maine and loved it. Inspired by what they learned, he hand wrote his favorite recipes in a notebook to use again and again. At home, he recreated some — pumpkin turnovers were a particularly successful endeavor.
Then he began plucking recipes from my more advanced cookbooks. Lasagna roll-ups were delicious — but oh-so-time-consuming to make. I was so proud of him when he served those roll-ups for dinner.
Will’s love of cooking was beautiful. As a food writer, by then with an established career, I was so excited to tell folks about how both my kids also love to cook. But as he hit middle school, Will’s love of cooking waned. Sports caught his interest. He rediscovered track and fell in love with cross-country.
Still, two summers ago I sent him to culinary camp at Eastern Maine Community College. The program is a wonderful immersive one that my daughter has attended twice — learning knife skills, how to make pies and other desserts and experimenting with homemade veggie burgers. For her, it’s only inspired more cooking.
During camp, Will learned to flip an egg and made countless dishes. And he came home with a chef’s hat.
But despite his enjoyment of cooking when he was younger, Will didn’t want to cook anymore. My daughter, Paige, began cooking from the cookbooks I wrote. She experimented with baked goods and created a list of recipes she wanted to try.
But not Will. For the last two years, he didn’t make anything more complicated than toast. Well, maybe he boiled water for me once. But his adoration of cooking had fizzled.
And yet, a funny thing happens when you are a 14-year-old athletic boy who runs year-round: You get hungry. Super, super hungry.
And that, my friends, is what has led Will back to the kitchen after a years-long hiatus. When his hunger couldn’t be quenched by a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and leftovers weren’t doing it for him, he wanted a quesadilla. So he made one. Then he tried a mug cake recipe from one of my books. Scrambled eggs? Sure, he could do that, too.
Now, he’s looking for that old notebook — the one where he recorded his favorite recipes. It seems that the kid wants to make some turnovers again. I can hardly wait.
All along, I have told both my kids that knowing how to cook is essential — there will come a time when they will need to fend for themselves. I told them how their uncle, when in college without a meal plan, ate salmon filets every night because they were cheap at his local grocery store — and the only thing he knew how to make.
But I never imagined it would be running every day that would lead Will to rediscover the joys of cooking.
I’m not complaining though.
I’m glad he’s cooking again.
Sarah Walker Caron is the author of four cookbooks, including “The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook.” Her latest book, “The Easy Appetizer Cookbook,” was released in November by Rockridge Press. Both are available where books are sold.