World Chefs: What cooking teaches you about parenting

Tue Jun 7, 2011 10:47am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - When Keith Dixon's daughter Gracie arrived five weeks early and about half the size of a normal newborn, it ushered in a long period of learning to cope with the unexpected that faces all new parents.

As Dixon, an enthusiastic life-long cook, adapted to fatherhood, he found that lessons learned in the kitchen came to his aid in dealing with everything from teething to sleepless nights.

In a memoir of Gracie's first year, "Cooking for Gracie," Dixon shares recipes and stories of how he learned to be a new kind of cook -- quiet enough so he wouldn't wake his daughter sleeping nearby -- even as he juggled work and parenthood in a cramped New York City apartment.

Dixon, who now has two daughters, talked about what cooking means to him.

Q: You seem to have a long history of cooking, were you self-taught?

A: "Yes, I was entirely self-taught ... I grew up in a household where they're very interested in the quality of their food. So during the week I would eat my mother's comfort food -- she tended to gravitate toward comfort food classics like meatloaf and roasted chicken, things like that. And on weekends my father would arrive as this sort of experimental member of their union, and suddenly we'd be eating smoked brisket or Chinese food. So all my life I grew up eating very well.

"When I moved to college, like most people I discovered just how horrible food can be. Eventually I learned that there are only two ways to eat well in this life -- you can get rich enough to pay people to feed you every night, which as I was an English major who wanted to be a writer that was pretty much out. I realized that the only other way is to learn to cook for yourself. So you become a sort of cook's apprentice, and you make all the mistakes...

"It really does remind me of parenthood. Because parenthood is this new puzzle every day, every morning you sort of wake with a renewed interest or a new excitement."   Continued...