Sarah: Soon to Be Six

The Doonan Family, of Fort Worth, Texas

DeAnn & Sarah Doonan

Sarah Doonan, 6, makes
shish kebabs with Mom.

I call Sarah my Eveready Bunny—she's a relentless thunderbolt of energy packaged in a child's body. This happy, active kid gives her parents, John and DeAnn Doonan, plenty of entertainment just by being Sarah. Sarah's slender frame and slightly almond-shaped eyes hint at her partial Asian roots, having a Korean grandmother on her daddy's side, while the golden highlights of Sarah's long, straight hair reflect her mother's Texas-settler heritage (DeAnn's relatives theoretically came over on the Mayflower, but as she says, "Doesn't everyone seem to have a relative on that boat—it must have been a pretty crowded boat!"). Sarah always dines at table with her parents, and frequent home-cooked meals with Grannie reinforce the bonds of these three generations.

Sarah and mom spend most of their time together at breakfast, and in the evening, when DeAnn comes home from work. While Sarah eats breakfast, DeAnn saves money and manages her morning wisely by making brown bag lunches for Sarah and herself. DeAnn always packs enough food to fuel Sarah's growing body, so she includes a lunch and a balanced snack: "Sarah takes two pieces of fruit, (one of which is usually melon or berries and the other is usually an apple or plum; for ease of eating, the apple is cut into wedges), a protein and juice or Gatorade. The protein, usually comes from boiled eggs, cheese and crackers, salami or pepperoni rolled into little tubes, or a peanut butter sandwich.

Right after breakfast, DeAnn leaves for work and John takes Sarah to her Montessori pre-school. Sarah is fortunate to have a daddy that works from home as an architect, so she and John spend their best quality time during the day. "Around 3:15, John picks Sarah up from school," explains De Ann. "He makes sure she's well fed and has plenty of nourishment, so they usually grab a quick snack or light lunch out and spend quality time together until I get home at 6:00 p.m."


Following in footsteps


Young Chef Sarah
proudly shows off her
Easy Bake Oven cake.

DeAnn brings Sarah into the kitchen as part of their quality time together. "Sarah has her own apron and an old chair to stand on. The chair works better for us—as opposed to a stool—because she can move around more," describes DeAnn, noting Sarah's wiggly energy. "Cooking with kids is really just a matter of taking the time to read the recipe and break the tasks down into small enough steps which will allow your little one to help."

Sarah is learning to cook just by being there and doing small tasks with her mom, just as young DeAnn did with her own mother.

"Mom taught me to cook when I was about 6, Sarah's age now. When I was a kid, all of my friends liked to come to my house for sleep-overs because mom would open the kitchen to me and tell me that we could cook whatever we wanted as long as the kitchen was clean by the time she got up the next morning. So boy did we cook. We made biscuits, cookies, cakes, we even attempted taffy (what a mess!). We had a great time!

Sarah & Dad

Sarah explains the technique to Dad

"Mom was not a gourmet cook, but she was a good cook. She loved large gatherings, so every birthday and holiday, she had their friends and family over to celebrate. These meals were big meals with usually two meats, several vegetables, a couple of starches, bread, and desserts. She would cook for days!"


Don't worry—be happy!

DeAnn explains that cooking with her kid is all about the experience—not the end result: "I usually let Sarah make or create her own recipes. I have a friend who is a chili cook and she always has samples of chile powder, onion salts, and other ingredients. I save them and when Sarah announces she wants to make a recipe, I provide her with these samples, plus whatever else I can think of. More than anything, I make what we do in the kitchen fun! It's more important that we share a fun time in the kitchen than to prepare a perfect meal."


Going to Grannie's

Sarah's Grannie

Granni fixes a home-cooked
Korean dinner (the kind her
own mom made!) for "the kids,"
John, DeAnn, and Sarah.

This book is dedicated to Sarah's Grannie—who just happens to be the author's mom (yes, Sarah Doonan is my niece!).

Grannie Alma was born with a perfect palate—she has that magic touch that makes all foods taste special. I think it's because she has a special seasoning called love—she pours it generously into every dish.

Sarah may not realize it yet, but when her Grannie cooks, she's making many of the Korean dishes her own mother made for her, and which Sarah's father (my brother) and I grew up eating (how lucky we were!). Bulkogi, a traditional beef dish, "glass noodles" or bean thread noodles, and a cold cucumber soup adorned with ice cubes, are some of her family recipes that I still make today.

DeAnn talks about dining with Grannie Alma, who lives in Dallas, a two-hour drive from their home in Fort Worth:

"Every time we visit Grannie we share a meal. When Sarah was a baby, Grannie always cooked. The meals were great—lots of food, savory seasonings, fresh vegetables and plenty of dishes. You could tell she really knocked herself out. But she was so tired from all the cooking that we really didn't get to visit much.

"However, now that Sarah is older we often dine out. Sarah sees Grannie about once a month, so the time she has to share is pretty valuable. Going out, usually for Chinese food, allows us more time to visit. Several times during the last year, we have packed a picnic and gone to the botanical gardens, which is a lot of fun for everyone. Grannie still cooks up magnificent meals on holidays and in between, but the main point is that dining together helps keep Sarah and us in touch with her Grannie. And even though she likes to cook, going out to eat is a treat for Grannie too!"

The Doonans and hundreds of other families offer more tips on teaching Young Chefs to cook, including safety tips, using knives, and how to read a recipe, in Cooking with Kids for Dummies.


Back to the main Families page.


Copyright © 1999, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

Sarah: Soon to Be Six
The Doonan Family of Fort Worth, Texas

Jordan: "King of the World"
The Talamon and Bates Family of Los Angeles, California

Sam, Kelli, and Adam: Lean, Mean Eating Machines
The Evers Family of Portland, Oregon

Michael, Sarah, Thomas, and Rachel: More Than a Mouthful
The Stouffer Family of Rochester, Michigan

Catherine and Victoria: Pizza Rules!
The Rodriguez and Rudd Family of Miami, Florida

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Table of Contents

Part I: Cooking Together:
The Wisdom of 400 Families

Part II: Putting the Meal Together—Together!

Part III: Cooking 101:
A Handbook for Parents
& Young Chefs

Part IV: Recipes

Part V: Tips In Tens