Why Every Kid Needs a Signature Dish

updated Sep 30, 2020
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(Image credit: Anne Wolfe Postic)

Every kid needs a signature dish, something they can cook for themselves, a dish they can offer to make when they visit someone else for the weekend, something they can use — one day — to impress a potential partner. My oldest son is a breakfast guy. He can make eggs to order, he flips a mean pancake, and he knows how to make the best use of leftover bacon grease. Our middle son loves a bowl of pasta, and he was riveted when I showed him how to make a variation of carbonara.

Our “carbonara” isn’t authentic. I taught him to make a version with ingredients he had on hand. Every signature dish should be easy and flexible, so you can make it anywhere. Also? I always want my kids to eat vegetables, so I suggested that he add peas, broccoli or spinach, three veggies we almost always have in the freezer.

The first time I showed him how to make my carbonara, he had only one question, “Mom? So, can I make this as a snack when I come home from school?” Do you remember being an adolescent? Back in the day, a bowl of pasta was considered a snack. Growing takes a lot of energy!

(Image credit: Anne Wolfe Postic)

Last night, he began by chopping prosciutto, because that’s what we had in the fridge. I was proud to see he remembered his knife skills.

(Image credit: Anne Wolfe Postic)

As his chopped prosciutto browned in one pan and his linguine cooked in another, he cracked eggs into a bowl, then mixed in Parmesan and added a few shakes of our favorite seasoning salt. (Yes, I will be sending all of my children to college with a jar or two of this.)

(Image credit: Anne Wolfe Postic)

After draining his pasta, careful to save some of the liquid to thin the sauce, he tossed the prosciutto and peas into the pasta with chopsticks. (Much like Kate, I use chopsticks for a lot of things in the kitchen!) At the end, just like I taught him, he mixed in the sauce.

Maybe I’m thinking too far ahead, but it warms my heart to picture him making dinner for his college roommates one night, bringing a taste of home into what will likely be a pretty messy apartment, full of futons and bean bag chairs. Sure, they might eat in front of the television (something he looks forward to, because we don’t have one), but won’t they be impressed with his skills?

Make the real thing: Authentic Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Teaching the necessities — cooking, laundry, cleaning, tooth brushing — is pretty basic parenting. How many of us have dated people who were babied? Or continued to be babied into adulthood? It’s not pretty. On the flip side, I once went after the wrong guy for way too long, simply because he taught me the foolproof way to hard boil an egg. Hey, it was college, and I was impressed. But I digress.

Does your kid have a signature dish yet? Do you? And, um, do you often obsess about your child’s future, picturing it in a totally unrealistic way? Because I sometimes do that.