Nurturing Culinary Creativity

I am not brave in the kitchen. I generally follow recipes to the T, unless I’m missing an ingredient. I lack the vision to read ingredients and preparation and imagine the final product. Once I know what a recipe should make, I feel more comfortable adapting it.

I’m trying to nurture my son’s culinary creativity and allow him to explore. I admire friends who can whip up delicious dinners from whatever they have on-hand. I want him to be better than me.

Setting him up with a snack-making activity has the added benefit of freeing me up to focus on my other two and whatever mayhem they are causing. I’ve learned to set a few ground-rules with food-making that also apply to other projects. He has to give me the supply list ahead of time, and it may be limited to 5 items (my discretion). These constraints give him the flexibility to create according to his vision while letting me feel things won’t get too out of control.

This is how his snack on Monday – jelly sandwich, bologna sandwich (JSBS) – was born. To clarify, there is no bologna in this sandwich. I don’t think he knows what bologna is, actually. For clarity, I will refer to it here as “jelly cracker sandwich” (JCS).

My son told me he wanted to make a JCS, so I asked him what he needed. He told me:

  • bread
  • crackers
  • jelly

Step 1: Spread crackers on the jelly and then layer the crackers on a slice of bread.

The ingredients seemed harmless enough, so I went with it. Jelly (or honey, or anything sweet) always induces begging for more, so I’ve developed the habit of giving him a portion of the sweet stuff in a pinch bowl. When it’s gone, there’s no more.

Step 2: Spread a thick layer of jelly on top of the cracker layer.

I think at this point he envisioned additional steps that involved “more jelly”, but I put the kibosh on that.

Step 3: Top with a second piece of bread and serve at room temperature.

I imagined the top chef judges critiquing his work:

“This sandwich makes no sense. The crunch of the crackers overpowers the softness of the bread.”

“Did you even try this before you served it?”

“I like it. The hint of salt from the cracker sets off  the sweetness of the jelly.”

But his feedback was the best of all — he ate the whole sandwich and asked if he could make it again before bed.

3 thoughts on “Nurturing Culinary Creativity

  1. So cute, Sarah! I especially like the “top chef” comments. Just so you know, I have an aversion to cracker peanut butter jelly sandwiches myself. If I had one of those in my lunch, it meant my mom drank to much the night before and we didn’t have any bread in the house. Hahaha! But seriously…I am glad your kids have a fun association with the idea of cracker sandwiches!!

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