Not every stepfather is so lucky. Chad Carleton admits he’s a blessed man, but he thinks some of the magic may have begun in the kitchen. “We bonded,” he said, “when we started cooking together.”
Chad got to know Jewel, his step-daughter, when he started dating Emily, her mother. She was 12 when they married; today’s she almost 16. Any parent will tell you, the pre-teen and teenage stages are not always easy. For step-parents they can be particularly difficult. It takes time to get to know each other, to learn what to expect. The biological parent, who has been around since birth, usually has an edge. That’s why Chad so values his relationship with Jewel as they work side-by-side in the kitchen, preparing meals for the family. He sees it as an opportunity to build their relationship and enjoy time together. He sees it as “incredibly rewarding” to be a positive, significant role model in a child’s life.
Chad is very candid about the importance of being intentional about the relationship with a potential stepchild. He insists, “Any man pursuing a woman with children should recognize the significance of the children out of the gate. You can’t come and go out of a woman’s life because it has a dramatic effect on the children.”
Chad explains, “I knew I wanted to be with my wife and I knew she had a child, so we were very intentional about me building that relationship. Over time it became less intimidating and it didn’t take long before I wanted another (child).” That child is their eight-month-old daughter, Isla, who loves to wheel her walker close to her parents and big sister when they gather in the kitchen.
Working together is especially important because Chad and Emily are co-owner of Everything Kitchens, a primarily on-line store for almost anything a person might want in his or her kitchen. Chad credits his wife with the store’s success and praises her ability. Given that Chad grew up in a family of all boys and admits to having very little experience with the female perspective, his understanding of how to be important in the lives of the females in his life if commendable. Though he’s young, we could all learn a lot from dads like Chad.
It’s hard to believe, but just ten years ago, I was a fast food, frozen pizza eating bachelor. I rarely did any real cooking of any kind. When I met my future wife, Emily, I quickly fell in love with her two children, and her cooking. For the first five years of our marriage, She did 95% of the cooking and baking for our family of five, after our youngest was born in 2011.
Our oldest, Leah, who is now 15, would enjoy helping her Mother bake at a young age. Alex, now 14, had no interest in being in the kitchen, while Herbie, now eight, was always sneaking into the pantry to find snacks.
In 2015, my wife was in a serious car accident. She was hospitalized for four months while recovering from a traumatic brain injury. I quickly became the head chef in the Cody household. This also meant that my two oldest, Alex and Leah, had to learn a few things in the kitchen as well. I had to lean on them to take care of some lunches and dinners as I was constantly back and forth to the hospital to see Emily.
Once Em was released to come home to be with us, she also needed to re-learn a lot of the daily things she used to do with ease. On the weekends, we would cook breakfast and dinners as a family. This was great for her TBI recovery, while the kids also learned how to cook more than a hot dog and frozen pizzas.
Last July, I broke my leg a couple weeks after Leah tore her ACL. We had surgical procedures two days apart from each other. Leah was down for a month, while I was bed ridden for a couple months. While we had a lot of friends and family bring us dinners, Emily and the boys were in charge of breakfasts and lunches, and did a fantastic job taking care of us.
It is definitely never too early to get the kids in the kitchen, so they may learn the basics. If they enjoy it, they will want to learn more as they get older.
Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at email@example.com You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com
“They could crack an egg by themselves when they were two.”
That’s how Paul Allen proudly describes the cooking ability of his daughters, Norah (8) and Azrah (6).
It’s clear Paul believes in getting his offspring started early.
Paul is a world class chef, having cooked his way around the world on yachts owned by the rich and famous. He trained at The Culinary Institute of America and is a former Ritz-Carlton chef. There's no question that he knows his way around a kitchen.
These days, though, Paul makes his home in Springfield, Missouri where he focuses his energies on Farm 2 Counter, a business providing fresh, homegrown food on a weekly basis to persons living in 13 cities in southwest Missouri. Every Friday customers receive a small, medium or larger personalized delivery of locally grown or locally produced meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables.
“You usually can’t taste the difference between organic and non-organic food, but you can tell when something is fresh and in season from something similar you might buy at the store.” And, Paul insists, fresh foods make all the difference as the basis for a good meal. It’s something he learned scouring local food sources in various ports of call in faraway places.
“Whenever the ship docked,” he explained, “I always made a point of going on shore and exploring the fruits and vegetables grown there.”
Today, cooking is a family affair. When Paul’s wife, Ashley isn’t caring for Lilly, their eight-month-old daughter, she cooks as well. In fact, these days the entire family often gathers in the kitchen spending time with the people they love most, making a meal they can enjoy together.