Building a Nutrition and Culinary Vocabulary

When cooking with children, it is important to introduce new words and concepts to children who may have never prepared food in the past. There is an entire culinary vocabulary out there to explore with young children.  Some of these words will relate to instructions within recipes (“fold in the cheese”), while other terms are related to food items and preparation methods.

Here is a sampling of words you could introduce to children as you explore food together:

  • Absorption – when flour mixes with and retains liquids.
  • Acid (or acidic) – the element in food that makes it taste sour, like lemons and other citrus fruits.
  • Aerate – to sift or beat quickly to add air to the ingredients.
  • Al dente – cooking an item (e.g., pasta) to the point that it is not too soft or too hard.
  • Antioxidants – substances in foods that combat aging.
  • Antipasto – a selection of meats, vegetables, and cheeses that are served as an appetizer.
  • Appetizer – small portions of food that are served before a meal.
  • Apple corer – a tool used to remove the apple core.
  • Arroz – the word for rice in Spanish.
  • Bake – to use an oven to cook a dish.
  • Baking pan – metal containers used to hold items placed in the oven for cooking. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and depths.
  • Batter – the result of mixing wet and dry ingredients in a recipe. It can be thin and pourable, like pancake batter, or thick like chocolate chip cookie dough, which you place on the pan with a spoon.
  • Beat – the act of mixing ingredients to a smooth texture using an electric mixer or a tool such as a whisk or a fork.
  • Blender – an electronic tool used to mix ingredients to a smooth consistency.
  • Boil – to heat a liquid to a temperature where bubbles form and rise to the surface.
  • Bread – to coat a piece of food in bread crumbs before cooking.

So, going through just two letters of the alphabet, you can see that there is a lot to talk about.  And there is so much more.

As you review recipes with children, ask children to find words that they don’t know. Use internet resources to find the definitions of any unfamiliar words.

Use these words as children are cooking in the dramatic play area. For example, “It looks like you are using the whisk to beat those eggs.”

Encourage children to demonstrate different preparation methods, even when they are not cooking, as in a game of culinary charades.

Look for other instances where these words can be reinforced.  For example, “This bread is yummy!  Who remembers another meaning for the word bread?”

Gather vocabulary words from families as well to ensure that you are representing a variety of cultures in your culinary vocabulary.

Most importantly, model the use of different words often and have fun!