When homeschooling mom Christy Whitlock prepares a meal, her main objective is to find something fun for not only her four children but also for herself.
While staples such as tacos or spaghetti do make it onto the family’s dinner table, it is more likely to see Rabbit Salad or a Cream Cheese Penguin.
Rather than considering her time in the kitchen as cooking, Whitlock, 33, calls it “fun with food.”
“I like to play with food,” said Whitlock, who lives in Bassett with her husband, Johnny, and her four children Hunter, 9, Fisher, 8, Carleigh-Grey, 6, and Ella-Lakelynn, 41/2 months. Whitlock says she is drawn to anything “cutesy and crafty.”
This may be in part because Whitlock tries to involve her children with food preparation in the house. “I cook quick stuff they (the children) can help with — party foods, cakes, little things,” said Whitlock.
She tries to incorporate learning into many of their daily activities, and many lessons come from cooking. “They (the children) are always in the kitchen with me to try to teach them how to do things. I do everything with them,” she said.
She likes creative expression in her cuisine, too. Whitlock attended a night class at Bassett High School on cake decorating and design. The skills she learned there are put to use at least four times a year when Whitlow plans and creates party themes to celebrate the children’s birthdays. Some themes the children requested in the past include Bob the Builder, Mario and Yogi the Bear.
Whitlock calls herself a party planner. Not only does she create elaborate cakes for the children, she also helps host showers at Valley Drive Baptist Church.
Whitlock “prefers creative cooking” and making food that looks like something other than food, such as banana snowmen or “crackerpillars.”
Another party-like event the Whitlocks plan is an annual fall festival. Whitlock and her husband started hosting the festival three years ago following the death of a family friend who regularly invited people to his home to share food, in particular, molasses.
The Whitlocks have continued the tradition, but in a modified form. In place of molasses, the Whitlocks make apple butter and New Brunswick stew. More than 100 people typically come to the all-day event. It all comes together through word of mouth.
Guests are invited to bring along a container so that they can take home apple butter. The whole family prepares the apple butter in big copper pots at their home for hours before and during the event. Passersby often volunteer to take turns stirring the apple butter.
Even though Whitlock prefers baking, she still cooks regularly. Whitlock was not instructed by just one person when it came to learning how to cook. Instead, she claims that she “learned a little bit from everyone.” She does say that she probably learned most of her cooking skills through demonstrations by Pampered Chef and Taste of Living. For a period, Whitlock worked with Pampered Chef and hosted several in-home cooking shows.
For her, visuals are a necessity when preparing the food. “I like photos with recipes,” said Whitlock. She and her sister also frequent the website Pinterest in search of fun recipes.
In general, recipes Whitlock selects are simple, with easy-to-find ingredients. Ideally, the ingredients already would be in her cabinet.
Whitlock most appreciates a handwritten recipe. When she married, her grandmother supplied her with multiple hand written recipes, which Whitlock considers heirlooms.
With a full house, the family seeks out money-saving options such as raising a garden, tending chickens and canning. The children have been highly active with gardening, which her husband often does with them. He also provides “any type (of wild game) you can think of,” said Whitlock.
Her husband, who is a carpenter for Fulcher and Whitlock Construction, grills meat for meals. In regards to cooking, Whitlock says her husband is a better cook than she is, especially when creating entire meals.
For Whitlock, supper is her favorite meal to prepare possibly because the Whitlocks make a point of sitting down and sharing dinner together every single night, no matter how “scattered around” everyone is. According to Whitlock, as a “very homebody and (part of a) very Christian family,” sitting down to supper in the home her husband built to have supper also is a special time because it is when the family shares devotionals together.