“Can I make dinner?”

I don’t know if it’s the nonstop loop of “Chopped” that he watches, his budding love of science or (my favorite) watching his mom at work, but my youngest is a budding chef.

eggsIt started with olive oil-fried eggs. It progressed to omelets. Now he’s tackling dinner.

The menus are basic: Tacos tonight. But he shuns recipes and any advice from mom. Instead, he ransacks the fridge for creativity and flavor.

“Taste this,” he instructs, scooping up a spoonful of chopped tomatoes and peppers. “I seasoned it with lime juice and chili salt.”

“Do you like this?” he asks, stirring big chunks of red pepper into his browned ground beef.

I love that my kid is cooking. It reminds me of my mom. She had me stirring and measuring before I could reach the countertop.

I’ve tried to involve my own children in meal preparation. It’s important they know that dinner isn’t just something other people serve you; that (real) food doesn’t come pre-formed and pre-packaged. They learn patience in the kitchen. They see the rewards of effort. They learn how to fail … and how to fix those failures.

Both my kids can make their way around the kitchen. The big boy follows a mean recipe, but the youngest seems to take to cooking instinctually.

Consider his taco spread:

sammy tacos

Bell pepper-spiked beef; tomatoes with lime; romaine doused in a lime-and-olive oil vinaigrette; mashed avocados with grated garlic and, yes, lime juice. (He really likes limes.) A jar of salsa, a bowl of shredded cheese and a carton of sour cream rounded out his meal.

Which was delicious.

Now if he’d only learn to clean up …