Oh, the ballad of getting kids to eat their veggies…as plenty of parents know, the struggle is real. I have 7-year-old boy/girl twins whose eating habits are like night and day. My daughter loves her fruits and veggies; the more colorful and crunchier, the better. She’s been known to ask for cantaloupe when we’re out at the park (sorry hon, I don’t carry one with me at all times) and the last time I made roasted asparagus (cooked simply with olive oil, salt and pepper) she ate all of hers — as well as the portion I was saving for my and my husband’s dinner.
My son, on the other hand, is a picky-eater kid — firmly in the “chicken nuggets and mac-‘n’-cheese are their own food groups” camp. He eats mixed vegetables every night, but only under duress (I refuse to serve him his protein or carbs until it’s all gone). Every day after school, when I open his lunch box, I’m greeted with the apple slices, carrot sticks, or grapes I had packed earlier that morning. For a while I thought he was into bananas — until one day I opened his backpack to find a week’s worth of them he had been stashing away.
Since one of the ways my son and I like to bond is by cooking recipes together, I figured maybe a veg-centric cooking class could help get him over to the greener side of life. With my hopes high and my expectations low, I registered us for the “Asparagus and Ramp Workshop” at The Farm Cooking School. What better way for my kids to see where their food comes from — and also find new ways to enjoy some fresh vegetables? So, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, we ventured out to the farm.
On the cooking class menu? Pickled asparagus, ramp and fontina quiche, and peeled cooked asparagus with asparagus mole and coffee mayonnaise. Get ready, kid, I thought with skepticism.
As class was about to begin, we put on aprons, and everyone was given different tasks. The kids enjoyed snapping the bottom parts off the asparagus, using a peeler, and cracking eggs for the quiche. We learned that ramps are a bit oniony, like scallions; they were perfectly in season. But would getting to know about the veggies and how to handle them actually get my kids more interested in consuming them?
Of course, I had to stop my daughter from constantly taste-testing both vegetables as we cooked. My son, on the other hand, was happy to simply help chop ramps, holding the knife handle like a big kid. The workshop was only an hour — just long enough for the kids to sustain some form of attention. And by the time the food was finished, all of us were ready to taste the fruits — veggies, rather — of our labor.
My son’s face puckered up when he tried the pickled asparagus. I admit, that one was a harder sell, so we moved onto the peeled asparagus. I watched with bated breath as he swiped the veggies through the creamy, spicy mayo we had made and took a bite — and then another, and another. And the sauce didn’t even disguise the asparagus; it simply accented its fresh flavor. Kid cooking for the win.
Finally, we sampled the pièce de résistance: our cheesy quiche made with those fresh, in-season ramps. I am happy to report that all three of the kids hoovered that quiche down (and who could blame them?).
After the class ended, the kids even got to see where their meal had come from. We followed the chef into the farm fields, where she offered a pair of scissors to the kids so that they could cut an asparagus stalk from the ground themselves — instructing them to leave a little bit at the base so that the plant would continue to grow after it had been cut down.
I’m not sure that the twins will ever order fresh asparagus over fries, but I know that learning to help cook their own food — and seeing where it came from — sparked their interest in eating a more diverse and colorful variety. And it certainly gives me a few more options beyond the frozen mixed vegetables.