Would your kid peel a potato?
It’s amazing when kids surprise you by doing something useful, says Karin Schimke.
I am going to write about potatoes. If they do not interest you hugely, you may want to skip to something else, like the piece I once wrote about the rules of farting, which elicited huge response.

If, however, the peeling of potatoes has ever occupied you in any way, then you pull up a chair and bear with me for a quick brag: my daughter – who has just turned 7 – peeled 10 potatoes for dinner yesterday. Not often do children prove themselves to be useful time-saving devices, but on the odd occasion they distinguish themselves in unexpected ways.

I hardly ever cook potatoes. They’re a special occasion dish around here. Not because I don’t like them. I luuurrvvveee potatoes. It’s the peeling of them that bothers me. And they take a bit long to cook, however you do them. So they don’t feature much on the menu.

I spent my childhood peeling potatoes. Check out my surname: it has “potatoes-for-dinner” written all over it. We had them every night, in every conceivable way. Nifty little peelers – like the one I am now the proud owner of – didn’t exist in those days, and my mother has always had the greatest collection of blunt kitchen knives in the history of mothering, so I used to peel with a small dull instrument.

This was difficult enough, but then on the odd occasion in the beginning of my potato peeling career when my father happened upon the chips of peel I’d hacked off, he would fly into a tirade about wastage. He grew up and learnt to peel potatoes in post-war Europe. The peels were required to come off parchment thin. The children’s potato peeling efforts were inspected and he or she with the thinnest peels was probably given an extra potato or something.

So, with the challenge on to not waste any valuable potato flesh, I learnt to skin potatoes beautifully in spite of bad tools. To make the chore of my childhood more interesting, I would challenge myself to peel an entire skin off in one long ribbon. Yee-ha! And then off to the compost heap to get rid of them. Sheesh, we used to recycle and re-use like mad before the terms became fashionable, n’est ce pas?

So there I am last night, with four modest little potatoes, a lus for potatoes, my fabulous, sharp little peeling gadget and my daughter staring as my hands undressed the vegetable in expert flicks of the wrist.

“That looks like fun,” she says.

“Some work adults do always looks like fun until you have to do it yourself.”

She says: “Let me try.”

I think: “Cool. What chore can I fit into the minute it will take before she gets bored?”

I hand her the peeler and the potato, show her how to hold them and go out to fetch the post.

“How does this one look?” she asks when I return, showing me a perfect white thing pretty much the same size as when she started.

“Wow. That’s impressive,” I said, meaning it. She continued peeling, so I went and watered the tomatoes plants. When I came back inside she was on potato number ten.

“This is fun,” she said. “So I thought I’d do some more.”

Now we’re going to have potatoes for three nights in a row. And I am handing over the potato-peeling baton. Finally.

What chores are your kids especially good at? Are they the one's you hate to do?

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