Michael, Sarah,
Thomas, and Rachel:
More Than a Mouthful

The Stouffer Family of Rochester, Michigan

Rachel and Mom

Young Chef Rachel
helps Mom cook, and
sneaks a snack from
the goodies too!

The Stouffer family kitchen has gotta be the busiest room in their house. With four kids ranging in age from 6 to 14, and two parents, the Stouffers have a lot of opinions about food, and the kids are actively involved in every step of dining, from growing the food to setting the table to cooking and cleaning up.

John Stouffer, the dad, works as a manager of business systems for a company in Detroit. Julie the mom, worked for years as a registered nurse, but after Sarah (their second child) was born, Julie stayed at home to raise the kids. Julie is an avid gardener with many flower beds and a vegetable garden. "We enjoy her tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, potatoes, strawberries, green beans, peas, etc. That is, when the rabbits and deer don't get them first," says John.

The kids are all very outgoing (and athletic—all but young Rachel are on soccer teams). So they need lots of food to fuel their growing bodies and to keep up with activities like these, which John describes:


Mike is a master
of the Super Sandwich.

  • Mike, age 14, plays sax in the high school band and piano. He's a caddy at a private golf club, and he makes some extra spending money by mowing the lawn. He likes to make his special "Super Sandwich"—a massive concoction that almost cleans out the fridge.
  • Sarah, age 11, likes drawing, sculpting, playing piano, singing, and dramatic playing. She is just beginning golf and saxophone. Sarah creates lengthy role playing games for the younger kids in the family and neighborhood. She loves to swim and just discovered jumping the really big waves at the beach.
  • Thomas, age 9, likes golf and is the one child that will stay with Dad through a 4-hour fix-it job. He likes to go up on the roof to do repairs, clean gutters, trim branches, and retrieve things that the kids toss up there. Thomas just got bike pegs for his birthday and has started learning some new tricks.
  • Rachel, age 6, likes to dance, act (play dress-up), draw, and play soccer. This year we took away the rule that the older kids couldn't take the soccer ball away from her (she's getting really good at it!) Rachel sings non-stop. Her various voices include "opera" and "frog voice." She learns a song from one of the older kid's CD's, then sings it until it is just right, then sings it some more. She is the one that helps mom with the most cooking.

Stouffer Family Traditions: Table Do's and Don'ts


John, the Dad, butters corn
by rolling it in buttered bread.

The Stouffers have certain rules of the table, and like all families, individual dining habits which go something like this...

  • Second drink at dinnertime is ice water instead of juice or milk.
  • Dad likes to run the corn on the cob under cold water to cool it down. He also butters the corn using a piece of buttered bread.
  • Everyone stays at the table until we are done.
  • No phone calls during dinner.
  • Everyone must ask to leave the table and must clear their place when they do.

The biggest problems are not sitting up over the plate (leads to spills), reaching for food (ditto), chewing with open mouth or talking with food in mouth, and rocking on chairs. Dad is the biggest chair rocker and still tells the kids not to rock.


You can please some of the family some of the time...

Think your family is hard to feed? Having trouble keeping track of likes and dislikes? Take a look at what John and the Stouffer family say about feeding their many mouths:

  • "Thomas doesn't like tomatoes, cooked carrots, cooked almonds, mushrooms, or any rice other than white rice with butter. He doesn't like lemon on his broccoli.
  • "Sarah doesn't like meatloaf, cooked carrots, and Brussels sprouts.
  • "John doesn't like anything with caraway seeds. Michael doesn't like almonds or canned corn.
  • "Rachel doesn't like any non-white rice, and she picks out any green flecks in food.
  • "Julie makes all of the food, so she only makes what she likes! She doesn't like lima beans so our children have never had them. The children don't like any kind of canned vegetables. Julie doesn't like to put syrup on anything so she eats waffles and pancakes with some butter. She looks forward to burgers or anything on the grill and is upset if they turn out too dry.
  • "We use as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible during the growing season. Julie is an avid gardener with many flower beds and a vegetable garden. We enjoy her tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, potatoes, strawberries, green beans, peas, and more. That is, when the rabbits and deer don't get them first.
  • "Most of the kids are not fish eaters other than fish sticks and tuna burgers (tuna salad with melted cheese). Many meals that we used to make when first married have not been made in years. Gone are the broiled Orange Roughy, Beef Stroganoff, Cod and Broccoli skillet—a delicious broccoli and fish over pasta dish."

Singing For One's Supper

Thomas & Sarah

Thomas and Sarah play
'Name that Tune' as they
wait for the meal to begin.

"Sometimes the family plays 'Name That Tune' at the table using songs from kids' movies and shows. It is a good game because all the kids, even the younger ones, can participate. We throw in all kinds of tunes-from the theme song for ESPN SportsCenter to the theme of Nickelodeon's Rugrats and Doug.

"We also do riddles and problems like the one about getting the fox, chicken, and the feed across the river using only a boat for two and not letting anything eat anything else. Thomas and Rachel like the word association games where everyone takes turns saying a word that is associated with the previous word. The result is often hilarious. We try to use the time to help the children take turns talking, having a good exchange of ideas, and explain things to others."

Jump-start creative conversations, play the Name Game, host a "Did You Know?" dinner and turn your dining room into a center for family fun, discoveries, and entertainment. Check out "Chapter 7: Dining Together," for these and other creative ideas in Cooking with Kids.


Back to the main Families page.


Copyright © 1999, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

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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