malecookMy last couple of posts have been on fairly serious issues… so for this week, I’ll take a break from the news and discuss a pretty uncontroversial skill I believe teens need to learn.

Some teens love cooking. The first cooking project I took on was bread, because I liked hot bread and had a copy of “The Joy of Cooking“. After tasting homemade bread for the first time, I was sold. By my senior year, I was cooking some family meals and having a great time experimenting with different ethnic cuisines.

Some teens aren’t interested in cooking. They’re quite happy to rely on you or someone else to cook. If there’s nobody around, they might make a peanut butter sandwich or microwave a frozen pizza.

If you have a teen that isn’t interested in cooking, it’s still important that they master the basics. Some teens will argue that it’s not necessary, because they are going to college, or because they are moving in with a romantic partner who loves to cook, etc.  It’s true that in college one can survive completely on dorm food, but your teen may want to get an apartment with some friends, take a summer job, or even cook for themselves in their student lounge. If your teen plans on working after graduation, they will most likely want a place to themselves at some point. And no teen, no matter how committed to a relationship, can count on always having a partner or spouse around who loves to cook and is good at it.

While many young adults have survived for years on delivered pizza and microwaved meals, home cooking is cheaper, healthier, and just tastes better. Your teen doesn’t have to become a chef and produce elaborate meals. They should, however, master some basics, and the sooner the better. Let’s start with the easiest:

1. Boiling water. I’m being partly sarcastic, but I have known (quite intelligent) young adults who literally are uncomfortable with the idea of boiling water by themselves. This is not a hard skill to learn. Once your teen can boil water, they can make pasta, a staple of life for many younger (and older!) adults.

2. Making eggs. Scrambled, fried, omelets, the sky’s the limit. Eggs are cheap, filling, and full of protein. If your teen hates eggs or has an allergy, check out these great tofu scrambles (which are delicious, even for non-vegan folks.)

3. Grilled cheese. I’m just going to go ahead and say that any young adult experience should include the regular consumption of a good grilled cheese. Vegan and gluten-free options are readily available.

4. Making a stir-fry and rice. Stir-fries don’t involve the spooky interior of the oven, and they are good way to get a couple of servings of vegetables. They also work for any kind of diet: vegetarian, gluten-free, multiple allergies, etc. Rice can be made the old-fashioned way (see #1) or in a rice cooker. Put stir-fry over rice, eat, save the leftovers.

5. Salad. I’m mainly including this for health reasons; feel free to skip it if your teen doesn’t like salad. I know many adults who refuse to make salad because of all the chopping involved. If you feel your teen might turn into one of them, show them how to make a salad with prepackaged, chopped lettuce, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, corn kernels, etc.

6. Your teen’s favorite meal. If your teen’s favorite is some kind of locally foraged mushroom souffle with a nice hollandaise, you may need to scale down. But many favorite dishes- from lasagna to pad thai– can be made pretty simply, even if the original recipe is complicated. It’s so comforting to make a favorite dinner when you’re living away from home, and don’t have a parent to cook it for you. There are some dishes my mom and dad made for me that I still remember- and eat- as the epitome of good dinners, and your teen will too.

7. Cleaning up afterwards. Everyone in your teen’s life- including you- will appreciate this one.

What does your teen love (or hate) to cook?