By the time they were two years old, twins Raphael and Joachim Markarian were already helping to break eggs, mix dough, and wash vegetables.
Their mom, Adeline, made a point of bringing her two sons into the kitchen to help prepare their family meals.
Now five, the boys have developed a keen interest in cooking and still regularly lend a hand, along with their two-year-old brother Matthias and father Daniel.
With age, the kids have become more involved in the preparation process, and the twins are now adept at using the dishwasher as well.
Their favourite kitchen tool is the salad spinner, which they use to dry lettuce and vegetables.
The youngest of the trio of tiny cooks enjoys playing with raspberries in the sink, and washing potatoes, among other helpful tasks.
“They’re pretty hands-on,” reports Adeline of her kids.
Helping prepare meals offers the kids a chance to use many skills, including some academic, such as arithmetic (measuring and counting), and some social.
Patience and appreciation are two skills Adeline is especially pleased to pass on to the kids through cooking, noting many people these days expect a great meal to be made in minutes, but “sometimes you need time.”
Adeline wants her children to appreciate the whole process of putting a meal together, including buying the ingredients. She often takes them with her to shop for food, and they offer suggestions for dishes they can make together. For example, recently they saw some tomatoes and suggested making stuffed tomatoes for dinner.
Adeline says she isn’t a chef by any means, but she and her husband both come from families in which food played a positive role.
“I find cooking has a lot to do with culture,” says Adeline, who speaks with a thick French accent. She lived in France until the age of 17, and still retains her French culinary influence.
She explains, however, that the type of French cooking she grew up with wasn’t the sophisticated, complex cuisine highlighted in magazines and movies.
Growing up in France, she “didn’t eat five-star meals on a regular basis,” she reports with a laugh.
Instead, dinners often consisted of hearty foods and family fare.
“People take the time to cook more, to enjoy the meal more, and talk about food more,” she explains.
These days, the North Vancouver family’s weekly menu often reflects their cultural background, which includes French, Vietnamese, Syrian, Lebanese, and Armenian.
The kids are game to try anything and their tastes differ. Adeline notes that one of her twins loves mussels, but the other won’t eat them. Like many parents, she has a rule that the kids at least have to give something new a try before they decide they don’t like it. “I think the more they try it eventually they’re more likely to like it,” she says.
An easy meal for the family is pork tenderloin, which has a simple preparation, and the chops can be marinated in different sauces to suit individual tastes.
A few years ago, Adeline heard about a family-focused cooking contest called the Hands-Off Cook-Off, by a group called Better Together BC. The contest called for families to record themselves cooking together. This year was the second year Adeline and her family entered and this week they found out they won the People’s Choice award for their video of the family cooking Croque-messieurs and Croque-mesdames.
Adeline says she hopes her kids will continue to enjoy cooking, noting: “In a way, I think the more you’re into cooking the more you’ll enjoy the food.”