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Manage Expectations with Teenagers

Dear Kitchen Therapist, 

My teenage son is transforming my house into a total mess and refuses to clean anything up!  I’m used to tripping over his shoes and backpacks and pleading with him to return dirty dishes under his bed to the kitchen.  But with virtual schooling during Covid-19, every inch of my house now is cloaked in clutter.  Is there anything I could cook to gain perspective on this situation?  


Exasperated by teenage clutter

* * *

Dear Exasperated,

I would suggest that you cook some spaghetti squash.  As I’m sure you know, it’s important with teenagers to manage expectations.  

Spaghetti squash helps in managing expectations, because it tends to disappoint unless you constantly remind yourself that it is squash, not pasta.  The problem is that when roasted and pried into strands, the flesh looks like spaghetti, but still tastes like squash.  The confusion increases when the squash is smothered in typical pasta toppings, such as marinara sauce or butter, herbs and parmesan cheese.  

So a first step towards a cleaning regimen with your teenager may be to cook and eat some spaghetti squash.  Your goal would be to try and appreciate the squash for what it is (squash), rather than expect it to be something that it is not (pasta).  Then, each crunchy spoonful is more likely to please than offend.  As you become more adept at wrapping your mind around the true nature of spaghetti squash, you may be surprised at what both you and your son can accomplish together.  Please see a simple recipe below.  

 P.S.  You don’t have to try and feed the squash to your son.  We're looking for progress, not miracles.  

 My best regards,


1 spaghetti squash (about 2 pounds)
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons butter, sliced thin
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, parsley (or a combination)
2 Tablespoons roasted (shelled) sunflower seeds
1/2 lemon (juiced)  

Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Cut ends off squash and then cut in half lengthwise.  Scrape out seeds with a spoon.  Rub each half with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast each half upside down on baking sheet for 30-40 minutes, depending upon desired crunchiness.  Remove from oven and, holding squash with a potholder, pry flesh of squash into strips of “spaghetti” with a fork.  Place strands in bowl and toss with butter, parmesan cheese, herbs and sunflower seeds.  Sprinkle with lemon juice.