My Secret Language With My Son

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Kristy Campbell 200x2
Kristy Campbell, Writer

By Kristy Campbell

My son and I share a secret language. Not the blue-bodied Avatar Na’vi type of secret language, but a mother-son language filled with words like “sauté” and “puree.”  My husband doesn’t cook, so the kitchen has become my domain for mother-son communication.

I started teaching my oldest son, Michael, to cook when he was a little boy. He was always curious, so I propped him up on a stool and let him watch me cook. When he was 8, I decided to introduce him to the tools of the kitchen. When I told him I’d show him how to chop an onion, he ran out of the kitchen and returned wearing swimming goggles. I knew then that nothing would ever be the same in my kitchen.

Michael wanted a boys-only cookbook, and since he couldn’t find one, he is writing one himself. Radical Recipes 4 Boys is his cookbook project. As we work on his book, we laugh and talk while simmering soups, roasting vegetables, and trying to figure out the many Kitchen Aid mixer attachments.

I like sports, but nothing like the boys in my family. I can’t name every college football player to turn professional, nor am I well versed in stats or batting averages. I have 3 boys, so I know I’ve got quite a few stat-laden years ahead of me. At age 9, Michael is entering the phase where sports reign supreme, and hugs and kisses are being replaced by high-fives or “knuckles.” I don’t feel sad, though, because I know I’ve got the kitchen.

It has been incredible to watch Michael take his cooking interest and relate it to the outside world. After seeing Mrs. Obama speak about her Let’s Move campaign, he had an idea and convinced his twin sister to help. Together, they started a project called Kids Cook USA. Their goal is to collect 1000 recipes from 1000 kids to send to The White House. They want to show other kids that cooking is fun and easy. They hope that Mrs. Obama will add the recipes to Let’s Move and make a huge, online kids’ cookbook. Michael says he likes to cook because it gives him control over what he eats. With Kids Cook USA, he wants to show other kids that they can make healthy choices and have control as well. I never thought that teaching him to cook would bring out the activist in him; I just wanted him to know how to make scrambled eggs.

Last night was taco night at our house. As he chopped tomatoes, he told me about his idea to stop the oil spill. I asked him to sauté the onions, and he asked me who grows the most onions. He stumped me with that one, so we went online and found out that China grows the most onions…and that June 22 is National Onion Ring Day. We finished putting the meal together and rambled with our conversation.

After dinner, as I played a game with my daughter, and Michael watched Sportscenter with his dad, I smiled at how much I love my kitchen connection with my son.


Michael cutting his first onion.
Michael cutting his first onion.


Kristy Campbell is a writer and actress. Her column, “Saving The World One Teen At A Time,” is at, and her thoughts on modern mid-life are offered in her blog, “My Cape Is At The Cleaners: Secrets of an ExSupermom.” You can find her work at

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