This season, as you make plans for what to put on your holiday table, I encourage you to take a different perspective on the holiday kitchen—not as a hurried, stressful place but as a place of opportunity for building trust and fond memories with the child God has placed into your home. I invite you to slow down the busy holiday season by cooking together with your family. Let’s start by considering the concept of the unhurried kitchen.
Even the Grinch Couldn’t Pass Up Some Roast Beast and Who-Pudding
One of the holiday traditions loved by so many is that of the feast—a veritable cornucopia of delicious flavors that far surpasses any other culinary undertaking throughout the year. As much as we all love the idea of bringing together family and friends to celebrate all that God has done in our lives, the process required to fill every available countertop with roast meat, bread, starches, pies, candies, and a few vegetables (if there’s room) can be the source of much anxiety.
There are three main reasons why holiday cooking can be stressful:
During the holidays, you cook dishes that you only have that time of year. It’s easy to whip up something that you’ve made countless times before, but something that you only make once a year doesn’t hold the same strength in your memory banks. Even a chef like me can have difficulty remembering how to prepare a recipe I haven’t seen in nearly 12 months. Unfamiliar dishes require more attention, and more attention means less available attention for everything (and everyone) else.
You also cook holiday dishes that hold special meaning to those eating them. Whether it be oyster dressing, baked apples, or those fluffy angel biscuits grandma always made, many of the items up for grabs at the buffet line are permanent members of the menu not just because they’re delicious but because they remind us of people, places, and periods of our lives that have come and gone. Therefore, preparing these dishes well is important to honoring their legacy. Unfortunately, these expectations can also increase the pressure to make them just how everyone remembers them.
Holiday cooking means cooking for more people than you would on a typical weeknight. If it isn’t enough of a challenge to make dishes once a year that carry a heavy mental and emotional weight, there’s also the fact that there are far more than usual mouths to feed—so many so that the living room and playroom are currently acting as overflow dining rooms.
When you combine these factors, what you typically end up with is a hurried kitchen.
The Kitchen During The Busy Holiday Season
The hurried kitchen is governed by a mindset aimed at getting dinner made and on the table in the quickest, easiest, or least stressful way possible. Eating fuels our bodies to do important things—such as work, school, activities, therapies, and spending quality time as a family. We need that fuel, but we may not think we need the hassle that comes with making it. In fact, time in the kitchen could be seen as wasteful, an unnecessary luxury, or a self-seeking escape from doing the tough work of being attuned to the people in our lives. No time or energy to cook? That’s why God gave us Chick-fil-A, isn’t it?!
It’s not hard to see how this mentality could lead to anxiety even on a typical night, let alone when trying to entertain guests around the holiday season. There might be a certain nostalgia around having that special dish that mom or grandma used to make or the sense of satisfaction of putting something from scratch on the table, but is it worth the potential pitfalls that come with it? Is it fair to put your own enjoyment at risk for the sake of everyone else’s? What’s the benefit of preparing food for family and friends when you could just as easily order it from a restaurant?
Do not be discouraged. There is another way to frame the kitchen.
Slow Down By Cooking Together
Recently, I was asked to speak at the annual Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit in Oklahoma City. This year’s theme was Unhurried—living with the long view. This theme applies directly to how we treat the kitchen, especially around this time of year.
While the hurried viewpoint sees the kitchen as a place where food is made, the unhurried perspective sees the opportunities the kitchen holds not only for building flavors but for connection in relationships with other people. The pressures of holiday cooking can provide a perfect motivation for allowing and inviting others in your family—including children from outside your family of origin—to be active participants in the process. This shifts the goalposts away from the finished product to the production itself and to the delicious memories we create when working side-by-side with those we cherish. Furthermore, cooking involves trust, and offering that trust to a child helps to grow their capacity to bond and feel connected to you and your family’s traditions.
In my own experience, allowing others—especially my children—to take part in the holiday cooking process has made me less stressed, less lonely, and more joyful throughout my time in the kitchen. Surprisingly, the food has often turned out even better than anticipated. It takes a certain amount of vulnerability at first, but I think you will discover that making your family favorites as a family will become just as meaningful and memorable as the dishes themselves.
Believe it or not, any dish or recipe you have ever made or plan to make can have the hurriedness removed when you understand how to look at it through a lens of connection. Seeing the opportunities for involvement for kiddos, both young and old, can open up a world of possibilities for collaboration in the kitchen.
Most recipes aren’t written for a family cooking together. This poses a challenge for most caregivers looking to invite their little ones to cook with them. Thankfully, I have created an easy tool you can use to help find the tasks that work best for kids of any age. Click here to download this helpful PDF.
I hope you will take the time this season to take the hurry out of your holiday cooking and create new traditions that feed the hunger for connection within your home.
© 2023 Chef Kibby. Used with Permission.