In this series about Little Cooks, I talk with kids and parents who have a love for cooking and family time in the kitchen. This Wednesday I’m talking with 12-year-old Tristan and dad Derek. I get educated on French Canadian cooking and plant-based diets.
As a total newbie to Canada – I’ve lived here now for all of 4 months – I find myself learning new things all the time. I learned, for instance, status that Tim Hortons holds and the beauty of the free turn at a red traffic light. Tristan and Derek furthered my Canadian knowledge by showing me a glimpse of how important family meals in French Canadian families.
Kids in the kitchen
While talking with Tristan’s dad it seems both parents have found a very natural way of including their kids in the kitchen. As Tristan’s mom Helene, noticed his curiosity about food and the kitchen, she started to include him in her own cooking and let him help out.
Dad Derek explains that Tristan was always very interested in cooking but he became more passionate about it after watching a series of YouTube videos about baking when he was about 8 years old.
When I ask the family to tell me about the first thing that Tristan ever baked, they all start laughing. “The first thing I ever made was brownies,” says Tristan. “They didn’t turn out so well because I didn’t read the recipe properly. It required 1/4 tsp of salt but instead I used 1/4 cup!”
A family living in the kitchen
As we talk about salty brownies and all things baking, I notice that Tristan mentions his family a lot when he talks about his cooking. It soon becomes clear that his French-Canadian family have been formative in his wish to cook.
His aunt Marie from Quebec is a chef and when they meet she teaches Tristan the ropes. “One time we went to Quebec and she made angel cakes with me. I decorated them with different tastes like strawberry and maple syrup and rhubarb. All these sorts of combinations made the angel cakes different.” Tristan remembers.
He goes on to tell me why he likes cooking with her so much. “She gives me stuff to do and then she lets me do it. It’s fun!”
Derek explains that traditional French Canadian meals are big and that food is an important part of family life: “The family gets together during the day to help with the cooking and then sits down to enjoy the dinner, which can go on for hours.”
A word on fluffy pancakes
Tristan makes sure his parents and sibling get the same food experience at their home in Ontario, Canada by cooking for them or baking goodies and bringing them to family get togethers.
The whole family is in agreement that they all love Tristan’s pancakes the most. His secret? Fluffiness!
Tristan shares how: “Put milk and vinegar together and let it sit. Then mix your dry ingredients, the salt, baking powder, baking soda and sugar. It’s the baking powder and soda that makes it fluffy.”
Traditionally a pancake recipe would need eggs but because his dad keeps a vegan diet Tristan substitutes the eggs for flax seeds.
Tristan has an effortless knowledge of food and cooking and it really shows in the way he’s determined to keep an eye out for his dad’s diet. He has become well-versed in substituting ingredients. Apparently with Google by his side, instructing him where it can.
“He’s had to get into books and figure out new things. He’s determined to get it right and he learns from mistakes. He just keeps going so he can get a better recipe.” says Tristan’s dad.
With his family teaching and encouraging him, Tristan likes to try new ingredients and cuisines. Although he loves baking cupcakes, brownie and cookies (both eating and making them!) it doesn’t mean he sticks to making only sweet foods.
“I’ve made sushi rolls with cucumber, carrot and salmon or crab.” Tristan says. “At cooking camp, we learnt to make Czech food as well.”
As if rhubarb angel cake, fluffy vegan pancakes, veggie sushi and Czech food isn’t enough, he has even started developing his own creations. “I started making my recipe, muffins with brown sugar and butter in the middle. I call them cinnamon-roll muffins.”
I hope Tristan will share his cinnamon-roll muffin recipe with me when he’s perfected it!
Photos by Derek Farrell / Edited by Lottie Aldarwish