and so it begins

Lu's knife skills

This was a big day.

Lu has been in the kitchen with us since she was born. Her first few months, she spent a great deal of time in her bouncy chair in our Seattle kitchen, as we cooked and wrote down recipes for our first cookbook. As soon as she could stand, no matter how wobbly her legs, she stood next to me on a chair at the counter. (Mostly, she loved to crawl on the counter, especially when I was baking.) And since then, she has learned how to stir stock, scramble eggs, and move the spatula around a hot skillet. We stood beside her, smiling, and reminding her to be aware of the hot stove.

A couple of years ago, we bought some nylon chef knives for her. They’re sharp enough to chop carrots but never cut her. She has loved those knives.

A few weeks ago, she was suddenly bored with them. She wanted more. She wanted to use the sharp knife.

So Danny let her hold a real chef knife in her hands, with his hand on top of hers. He showed her how to put her left hand down to hold the food, slide her thumb behind her fingers, and curl her fingers in to protect the tips. For the past few weeks, she has been using the training wheels of her dada’s hands on hers.

This morning, she decided, she wanted to do it on her own. I picked a bunch of chard from the garden and stood beside her as she picked up the chef’s knife, curled the fingers on her left hand, and chopped a stem from a leaf. And then she did it again. And again. And again.

She was so proud that she stood up straight and grinned. We clapped, of course. But when she waved the knife in the air to celebrate, we both swooped in to teach her that wasn’t a good idea. And then we clapped for her chopping again.

And so it begins, an entire lifetime of chopping vegetables to make her own meals.

It really was a big day.

35 comments on “and so it begins

  1. Lynn Pawluk

    I LOVE the photo. Good job, Mom. I can’t believe she’s five — seems like just yesterday…

  2. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    I can only imagine how scared and proud you must have been at the same time! And in years to come she’ll be able to look back on this post and see her cute, little, hands chopping with a “big knife” for the first time. So precious!

  3. Letty

    Your little (big!) Lucy was born at the exact same time that I first found your blog/book/support when I was going gluten free. I cannot believe that it has been five years! She has grown into a beautiful girl and you are teaching her wonderful things.

  4. EmSewCrazy

    Wondeful! Not only are you making memories and sharing what you love, you are also teaching her a valuable life skill. Simply wonderful!

  5. Corinne

    Thanks for the kiddie chef knives tip. Those look fantastic. Enjoy this new phase of ‘big girl’ cooking!

  6. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    So Lucy can do at 5 what I can’t seem to do at 50. Since I can’t seem to get the hang of curling my fingers under, it’s only fingernails that have prevented me from chopping off my fingertips — an embarrassing number of times. When Lucy finishes that chard, can you send her over? I’ve got a ton of parsley for clam sauce …

  7. Kristin

    Congrats! That’s huge! Funny story…our daughter (14) was rapidly approaching her first high school solo & ensemble contest & was taking a piano solo. I called home & my husband said she was slicing an apple for herself. I asked if that was a good idea (untrained slightly clumsy child) & he pooh poohed me. Then suddenly I heard, “STOP!!” Apparently she was about to put her hand down on the sharp side of the chef’s knife to slice the apple. She’s 18 now, and I still cringe a bit inside when she uses knives.

    1. Sandy

      *giggle* It doesn’t stop, either. I’m 50+ and fine with knives, and my Mom (age 80+) still cringes when she watches me slicing vegetables. Sometimes, I want to banish her from her own kitchen. (I haven’t, yet.) Or just bring the salad over already put together .…

  8. Zena Herbert

    There is no better, easier way to learn than at your mother’s (or father’s) knee. When it’s fun, the learning goes almost un-noticed but stays a lifetime. What an advantage! I could knit and crochet at Lucy’s age and like her, I learned I could learn, and that is invaluable. I salute you both.

  9. Nina

    This is such a moment of pure joy. Lucy is a wonder… but it’s really no surprise with you and Danny as parents. I know I’m going to see Lucy on the Food Network soon. She will have a cooking show for kids. Mark my words.

  10. Kit

    This story made me tear up a little :-) I hope that when I have kids one day, I can instill a love of REAL food like you have in your Lu :-) Enjoy her! She seems like an absolute gem!

  11. julie melin

    what a great story and I can see it in my heart so well. You are great parents and she is one blessed little girl. Thank you for sharing slices of your life with all of us.

  12. Margit Van Schaick

    You and Danny are so wise to teach Lu how to use a knife when she asks. My daughters also learned to use a sewing machine at age seven. And to hand-sew and knit. When cooking, we worked together, and I supervised carefully over sewing machine projects. So, as adults, they are handy with tools and can take pride in knowing how to take care of themselves and their family. BTW, we fortunately never had mishaps with either knives or the sewing machine–if you have confidence in your children and a trusting relationship, children will respect your teaching .

  13. Ellen

    Seriously that may be the sweetest picture you have ever posted. And so her next steps begin!

  14. Molly (Sprue Story)

    That’s fantastic! It’s great to see parents celebrating this kind of milestone. I remember cooking with my parents from Mollie Katzen’s “Pretend Soup” as a kid—the super sugary Carrot Pennies stand out particularly in my mind—and it was definitely formative. Having parents who love to cook and teach you how—is there any better first step along the path to a good life?

  15. Margaret

    Oh, how exciting! There’s really nothing like the joy of teaching children to cook — here’s to many more years of cooking together!

  16. Patti

    Hi Shauna,
    I can’t post on Instigram, and I wanted to make a comment about the change you are making. I loved that you have opened your heart, and shared your family’s adventures, especially Lucy’s adventures. I am in nursing school, and somedays are really difficult. When I come home I always check your blog, instagram, and twitter account to see what has happened during the course of your day. It has meant a lot to me, and I wanted you to know I appreciated all those personal stories and pictures. I will miss them. Thank you.