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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Boys who Cook

When a mom is raising sons, she has to decide what kind of men she wants to raise. For me, raising men who cook was a top priority. (It's no coincidence that the romantic heroes in my books are often found in the kitchen.)

My dad always cooked. Although Mom usually did most of the cooking, Dad worked beside her--cutting up a salad, prepping fresh fruit and vegetables, chopping onions for the dish she was cooking. If Mom was the chef, Dad was the prep cook. When Mom was needed elsewhere, he could take over and run the whole show--which he frequently did. My brothers learned both by example and by being taught, invited into the kitchen and told how to help.

The family that raised my husband did not take the same approach. Though he is usually willing--and decades of experience have taught him how to throw a few kinds of meals together if necessary--Hubby prefers to bake goodies, his one great cooking expertise.

When our genetic mix produced sons, six of them, I was determined they would learn to cook. It worked well for most of them. The one great exception is the boy who took "Foods" four years in high school, but never really learned to cook anything.

My eldest can cook all kinds of foods, but like many men, he specializes in barbeque. His BBQ wins awards and gets him invitations to cook for crowds at parties and fund raisers. He's also a superior breakfast cook.

Son #2 is a chef. "Cooking is creation," he likes to say, "but baking is chemistry." While he largely leaves the baking to others, he subscribes to foodie magazines, watches the Food Network on TV, and experiments constantly with recipes. At the end of a stressful day, he unwinds in the kitchen, leaving his wife free to take on other duties such as helping the kids with homework.

One of his more enjoyable work conferences featured an onstage cooking performance and a meal prepared by celebrity chef Guy Fieri. Anyone who knows my son will not be surprised to know that he skipped a chunk of the conference to introduce himself in the kitchen and ask, "Do you need any help?" He spent the rest of the day working side-by-side with the famous chef and even helping in his onstage show. Teaching this son to cook produced not only a fine household chef, but a bold and polished showman who loves the kitchen.

Like his showman brother, our youngest watches the Food Network, studies recipes, and experiments with variations. He's the one who created a "flying pig" for Thanksgiving last year. You've heard of the Turducken--the deboned chicken stuffed inside a deboned duck which is then stuffed into a deboned turkey and all of it stuffed with stuffing? The "flying pig" takes it one step farther with a layer of ham as well as some bacon in part of the stuffing. Talk about a gourmet treat! I felt rather smug when I saw what had come from teaching this son to cook.

Son #4, the one who spent most of three years living in Korea, has learned to prepare Korean food together with a number of other meals and can easily take over the kitchen if his wife is busy elsewhere or he just feels like it. So can Son #5, although he is generally less interested and tends to leave the cooking--except for the outdoor BBQ--to his wife.

It's been an adventure to see how my efforts to raise men who cook have produced such varied results--everything from the son who can hold his own with the best to the one who thinks micro-waving a hot dog is the height of culinary effort. It should also be mentioned here that I have one daughter, who is an excellent cook.

One never knows how parental teaching will play out, but I was gifted with cooks. My daughters-in-law, son-in-law, and grandchildren are glad I made the effort.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at or find her @SusanAylworth, at, or on Pinterest.

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