Mud Kitchen

3 generations. 3 kitchens. One love for cooking.

My mom doesn’t have a Mexican bone in her body but you would never know that if you tasted her tamales or huevos rancheros. And don’t get me started on her green chili soup and candies jalelanos. She has a gift in the kitchen, one that I’ve had the honor of watching her cultivate from the bar stool across from her. I’ve been her sou chef since i was a little girl and have the way her wedding ring sparkles as she holds an onion steady with one and chops with her other cemented in my memory bank. I’ve laughed at her dance moves and disco voice as she uses her spatula as a mic. And I’ve been grateful to be her taste tester.

I’ve never farmed nor does my garden look pleasing to the eye at the moment but you would never know that if you tasted my vegetable soup or chicken pot pie. I have a passion for using fresh herbs in my cooking and am fascinated by how a twig of rosemary can transform a dish. My cooking is often interrupted to pretend to be the wolf as my three year old trots around as Little Red Riding Hood, a frequent scene that I know I will miss greatly when this season in life is over. We have some dance moves too, they mostly include ballet twirls to some old school country as I use the mixing spoon as a mic. And I’m grateful to have my own little taste tester.

She’s never cooked a complete meal in her life but you would never know that as she stirs and pours in her mud kitchen. She carefully gathers leaves and flowers from the yard to add to her muddy creation. She twists and turns, slowly mixing her soup one moment and frantically pouring water and tossing in dirt the next. She always has a song in her head; her three year old voice belting out, her hips do a little sway, and a stick transformed into a mic in her hands. And I’m grateful to once again be a taste tester, even if it is a bit muddy.

3 kitchens. 3 generations. One love for cooking.

My parents made Lydia a mud kitchen for her second birthday. It has shelves and hooks for dishes, a stove top with buttons, a dog bowl sink and an oven that is always baking some delicious cookies. It’s the most well-loved and used present she’s ever received. She spends hours outside foraging sticks, filling her tea kettle with water and creating meals. She frequently falls into the roll of the mom while cooking. She tends to her baby dolls and stuffed animals that seem to find their way outside to join her kitchen. The learning that happens when a pot overflows, the mud is too dry, or the flower petals float on the water’s surface is invaluable. And the memories made in the kitchen continue…

Kitchens are a place for creating, experimenting an connecting. They are a place to both reflect on the day but also to just be completely absorbed in the textures she smells of your creation. They are a place to gather and bond over a mutual appreciation for kinship or food.

Mud kitchens are no different. If you’re searching for my daughter pre-breakfast or between 3 and 5pm, check her kitchen. She’s often engrossed in stirring, patting, mixing and foraging ingredients from the yard. She was gifted the kitchen from my parents for her second birthday. We are over a year in and it’s not an exaggeration to say that she plays in her kitchen daily. My parents did an excellent job creating a space that is simple yet had wonderful little details that allow her imagination to explode. They created little knobs for the oven that pulls down to bake muffins and cakes. They selected a dog bowl for the sink so she can easily pull it out to dump it when she’s done doing her muddy dishes. They placed little hooks on the back wall to store her well broken in pans.

Her dishes and pans are a hodge podge. We love this Melissa and Doug set because they are light weight but durable. We also have had luck snagging cheap utensils and cups from thrift shops. A little water station has been a wonderful addition because it allows for more independence in her cooking adventures.

One of my favorite ways to surprise my daughter is by adding a new element to the kitchen. Recently it was transformed into a cut flower shop, using old flowers we are gifted when my son was born. I’ve also welcomed painted rocks and adorable little pumpkins. Fresh herbs and citrus slices add another layer of sensory to the kitchen as well. In the summer months, I’ve added ice cubes to some bowls. I’m still plotting some new winter surprises- suggestions welcomed.

 

To answer questions that I’ve received about the kitchen. Yes, it does get extremely messy. I highly recommend that you put your kitchen within reach of a hose to spray it down. Yes, our kitchen is in a covered area because the covered space was already in our yard. I don’t think that is needed though. Yes, I resume her to clean up her own kitchen. This is a new one for me but I love it. She has a mini broom that she sweeps the floors and I encourage her to put her dishes away at the end of her play session, like I do in our home kitchen. No, she doesn’t try to actually eat her concoctions. However, I’m sure she would have if she has it when she was under two. We have that to look forward to with our son. Yes, I do play with her in the mud kitchen. There is a good healthy balance of independent play and parent-child play. I love mushing mud, adding in flower petals and if course sitting down to enjoy sone freshly made soup with her.

So yes, I’m just as in love with the mud kitchen as my daughter is. It was made with love by her grandparents and is played with with love by the little chef. 3 generations. 3 kitchens. One love for cooking.

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