KALAHEO — When Jeffrey Orsatelli sees his four children busy in the kitchen making a meal, he jokes about what that means:
“They’re making a mess,” he says.
But Bridgette Orsatelli, wife and mom, smiles and responds.
“And they’re learning how to clean up the mess,” she says.
The Orsatelli family, Chad, 17, Storm, 9, Rayven, 7 and Chase, 5, are encouraged to be involved come breakfast, lunch or dinner and it’s time to whip up something everyone will want to eat.
They peel potatoes, chop carrots, wash vegetables and set the table, too.
It’s about healthy food, says Bridgette, but it’s also about quality time.
“We’re making memories as a family,” she says. “We’re all in the kitchen together. Everybody gets a little job and hopefully, it’s not too big of a mess at the end to clean up.”
“It’s a good thing,” she added.
Bridgette, who is involved in youth ministry, Scouts and 4-H, knows how important it is for kids to have fruits and vegetables, and not gobble down endless sweets and processed foods.
So in their Kalaheo home, nutritious meals are a chance to learn. There are lessons to be had on textures and tastes. There are lessons on math and fractions, too, as recipes are doubled or decreased. There are lessons on cleanliness during preparation, and storing food, too. They learn about slicing and chopping, baking and broiling — under adult supervision, of course.
“The younger they are, they don’t get the sharp knives. They get the graters and potato peelers,” she said.
They serve meals in an array of styles. Spaghetti is a favorite, and vegetable trays, believe it or not, are popular. Chicken and steak are more than welcome. Storm does quite well preparing the noodles for pasta dishes.
“They love to grill. My kids are real big on the grill,” Bridgette said.
Junk food is not banned, but it is limited, in the Orsatelli household. The way Bridgette and Jeff see it, if their children aren’t allowed cookies or candy now and then, they’ll make up for it later. And this way, they learn to monitor sugary snacks.
“They have a little bit, and then they’re done with it,” she said.
She notices a difference in her children depending on what they eat.
“For my children, the more processed foods I put into them, the more high sugar foods I put into them, they have a more difficult time being able to pay attention, being able to focus, to keep still versus putting a lot of fruit and vegetables in them,” she said.
Even if, at the end of the day the kitchen is a bit messier, well, the kids can always scrub it down later.
“They all like to help in the kitchen. It makes things go very smooth at times, and it makes things very chaotic at times because you have a bigger mess to clean up,” she says. “It’s all part of the learning process.”