Last week, I had the privilege of interviewing the talented author, Tamar Ansh, about her recent new cookbook, “Let My Children Cook”.
I learned so much from Tamar – and not just about cooking. Her tips for making Pesach prep, cleaning and even the seder more enjoyable were wonderful.
If you aren’t familiar with Tamar yet, you will love getting to know her through this interview.
You have written a number of cookbooks, why did you decide to produce one for kids?
I’ll give the ultimate Jewish answer and answer your question with a question! Why not? It was an enjoyable and fun project, one that I had many ideas for and I feel that Jewish children everywhere, the entire spectrum over will be able to utilize and gain from.
Passover is a family time and I have been cooking with my kids for so many years (we do so all year, not only Passover); it occurred to me that others would enjoy using many of the ideas we do. When I started compiling the first drafts I realized how much there really is that can be geared for younger cooks and that is how the book was initially ‘born’.
Do your kids actually help? Or is more “help” in quotes (aka “get in the way”)?
Most children who are very young, up until the age of about 6 or 7, yes, do “get in the way”. However, the way you experience this and utilize it for the good of your children is largely up to YOU as the parent/ adult.
Spending quality time with your kids is something you don’t have endless opportunities for. You get the merit of your kids as little people for only a few short years. After that they are going to be interested in friends, their own hobbies and other things…and then they grow up and you don’t have that same time alone with them anymore.
Cooking together is a great way to bond and it also creates very special memories for your kids. Remember: what you do today is what is building the memories for your kids tomorrow! So although it can be time consuming or even a tad difficult to include kids in the kitchen, it is time very well spent.
I don’t expect young children to really be a true “help”. But if you make it pleasant and you make it enjoyable, then when they do get bigger and are really capable of helping, they will.
Kids as young as 8 or 9 can certainly peel potatoes. I wouldn’t give them 55 potatoes, but a few is a good way to start. They can certainly roll cookies, make their own fruit or veggies or turkey shish-kabobs, cut a nice salad, make some brownies – why not? It may take you a bit more time than “just doing it yourself” but it is very worth it.
Just designate a certain amount of time, limit the number of things you will do together and then give them dinner and a good bedtime. After that you can “do it yourself”!
After all the hours I put into giving my kids time with me in the kitchen, they do help and they do cook. Lots of things. And not only for Pesach, but all the time. My son is a great challah braider, he makes wonderful apple crisps, ice creams and cookies, and my daughters are very good cooks themselves.
What tips do you have to make pre-Passover prep a great experience for families?
- Get decent sleep so you have energy to work without losing your cool.
- Make a list of what you’d like to see done that day or for that week. Be specific with the list and be funny too. Ex: one checkbox can be “Eat up all the chocolate in the top drawer after you’ve cleaned it out.” Tell each member of the family to check off what they’ve done from this master list and put their name next to it. You can choose to reward those who have at least 5 or 10 or whatever number you feel appropriate, checks that week.
- Turn on some music while working.
- Work with them, don’t just assign jobs and walk away. It’s the togetherness that makes it feel fun.
- Above all else, don’t expect that “Helping” will be something your kids will do all day, every day. If you get two hours or so, that’s a big deal. Thank them and let them have down time as well.
- My friend Chava Dumas put out a really nice book on this subject, called Prepare for Pesach—b’simcha! It is all about how to prepare for Pesach with a good attitude. She’s got tons of tips and ideas in the book and I suggest reading it.
What are 3 things we can do to make a seder amazing for kids?
When my kids were little we got the ten plagues finger puppets and my husband made a whole show out of them at the table for the kids. They loved it and even though they are teenagers now, they still remember that particular seder very fondly.
Having guests or family that you don’t normally get to have is also something that gives the seder a very special feel. Getting something new to wear for each child helps too. Or getting a small Pesach present for each one, really small nothing fancy or expensive and leaving it on their chairs for them to find when they sit down is also a nice idea.
I used to prepare a small dish with some special treats in it, soft candies, chocolate chips and the like, and for every child — no matter the age, every time they either asked a question or answered a question, they got to pick one thing from that dish. This worked wonders at getting them to participate, to look forward to the Seder, and to really stay awake and want to say things.
After all, that is the main purpose of the Seder: “To get the children to ask.”
What can parents do in advance to make Pesach run more smoothly?
As much as possible, don’t leave anything you absolutely don’t have to do for the day of Erev Pesach. Try to get most of everything done beforehand and leave only the essentials for that day.
- Try to get a nap.
- Turning off the phones by a certain time, turning off the computers, emails, handhelds, cell phones, etc by a certain time will also give you a lot more tranquility and not to mention, focus without constant interruptions.
- If you pre-plan a sort of format to what you will do each day of the intermediary days (Chol Hamoed), it will go smoother. Even simple things like this park one day, a different park a different day will make your little ones and even the older ones happier. Even if they complain, once you’re doing it and you’re all out enjoying, you’ll see that they will relax and enjoy it.
- Older teenagers can bring along a book or reading material if they really think it is “so boring”. These are just some quickie ideas that I’ve found helpful and I hope all this will help you too to enjoy Pesach, enjoy the time you have with the most important people in your lives – your family and your kids and to enjoy your cooking!!
Thank you so much, Tamar!
Be sure to check out my review of Tamar’s new book, Let My Children Cook.
To order a copy (or three) of Let My Children Cook, head on over to Judaica Press, where they are offering an additional 15% off exclusively for Kosher on a Budget readers.
Just use the coupon code KOAB at check-out.
Note: You must create an account (with a password) for the coupon code to work.