For big holidays, the Aronian family has a favorite meal: salmon baked in a yeasted dough as the entrée and a bûche de Noël, also known as a Yule log, for dessert.
Dianne Aronian, 80, is the head chef, but she usually has four assistants — her grandchildren, ages 11 through 17. For most of their lives, Aronian's grandchildren have been her companions in the kitchen, helping to cook and bake during the holidays and prepare meals throughout the year.
"When we're preparing a dinner — especially a more formal dinner — I'll do most of the prep work,” says Aronian, who lives in Yorktown, New York. “But they help me finish and set up. It's really fun to have an activity to do together."
This year, the family is taking precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic. Two of Aronian's grandchildren live nearby, and their family is in the same “bubble” and has worked hard to shield her from the virus. But even with social distancing measures in place, Aronian sees the benefits of baking with grandchildren.
The activity teaches children a skill for life. It cements the bonds across generations. And it creates a social experience that families can share, whether during the holidays or their everyday lives.
"The best thing that comes out of it is that you connect,” says Ann McKitrick, an early childhood education expert who lives in Houston. “Food is the all-time connector."
A tradition that links generations
Even during the worldwide pandemic, it's possible to cook together through Zoom or to carefully plan in-person cooking sessions after quarantining, as recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.