We take food seriously. And as a reader of Edible Cleveland, you know there is plenty to be serious about. From how we farm to healthy food access, we are at no loss for issues that need to be addressed by all of us. But there’s another side to food that we believe is equally important to explore—the side that is about curiosity, creativity, and play.
In our house, the kitchen isn’t off limits to anyone, even our 6-year-old son. In fact, Asher is usually the one in there experimenting. Whether he’s pulling out random spices from our cabinets to create a “secret recipe rub” or combining every kind of “juice” in the fridge (including lemon juice and homemade hibiscus simple syrup) to make a “special cocktail,” Asher loves to play in the kitchen. He even asked for his own spatula and apple slicer for Christmas. He expresses insatiable curiosity by tasting everything as we cook and trying to guess ingredients at dinner. And now, as he builds his skills, he has started making his own snacks and sandwiches. I can’t imagine a better playground than a kitchen.
We often think that playing is kids’ territory. While it’s true that kids are particularly skilled at the practice, they shouldn’t be the only ones having all the fun. Studies show that play can help encourage physical health, maintain memory, strengthen relationships (even with strangers which we commonly call community building), and boost mental health and creativity. With all of this to gain, isn’t it time we start encouraging each other to play with our food?
If we make the kitchen a place where everyone is invited to hang out and children are able to practice cookie cutting, sifting, kneading, shredding, and other classic culinary tasks, we’ll quickly see kids take the reins. While their creations may push the boundaries of good taste (really, you want peanut butter, honey, and mayo on that cracker?) their exuberance and delight (and near obliviousness to failure) is where we can take our cue.
Getting started is easy. Add a new spice. Plate your dinner on a Tuesday night. Buy something at the farmers market you’ve never cooked before. Use the kitchen to explore and experiment and find new twists on reliable recipes.
In this issue, we challenged our writers to explore the lighter side of our local food community, from culinary carving to recipe illustration, and from an artisan hot dog to a locally foraged root beer. So take a break from the serious—just for a little while—and dig into this “Play” issue. We hope it will inspire you to add more playtime to your mealtime this summer.