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Cookbooks for Kids


Jen Keenan
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In an ideal world, I'd be able to sit my nieces down to the eGCI course on cooking with children. Or make my sister-in-law do it. But that's not going to happen – she may be home with the kids all day, but she's not the food person in the family – my brother is. And since he's getting Tony Bourdain's cookbook for this year's present, I thought I might make it a theme year.

Six-and-a-half-year-old Jessica takes after her father, and loves to help him in the kitchen. Four-and-a-half-year-old Sydney has a much less adventurous palate but most definitely wants a part of whatever her big sister's doing. We're not considering my dear nephew this year as he's barely eating solid food, let alone cooking it!

I've been eyeing all sorts of cookbooks for a while now but my head always ends up swimming. Alice? Emeril? Rachael? Donna? Betty? Ideally, their gifts would hit the middle ground between boring and superficial. Useful but not dry. Fun but not totally devoid of educational content. Has anyone gotten good results from a children's cookbook? Or am I being overidealistic?

Thank you very much in advance!

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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I will recommend Marion Cunningham's "Cooking with Children".

Amazon clickie link thingie

The subtitle is "15 Lessons for Children, age 7 and up, who really want to learn to cook". I know you've said your neice and nephew are younger than that but the reading age for the book itself is 4-8 years.

The recipes are very simple but they do a fabulous job at teaching basic cooking techniques.

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Thanks very much, both of you! It really is staggering how much is out there and it's great to hear some real-world experiences. Sounds like Marion might be right for my elder niece, and the younger would really appreciate the plastic spoons etc.

This high-scoring xmas auntie brought to you by eGullet :biggrin:

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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One of the things I think it's really important to teach them is technique. How to use a knife. How to make vinagarette. How to make a roux.

My first cookbook was some Betty Crocker thing with stuff like a bizarre salad that used pineapple rings, a banana, probably a couple of raisins and a cherry to make a face, or a spaceship or something. But, it didn't really inspire.

What inspired was a farm journal cookbook that taught more technique (but not nearly enough) and gave me some tools to make an actual meal.

Diana wasn't but about 8 years old when I found her curled up in bed with Michael Field's Cooking school. Made me proud!

Edited to add: Check as many of these out from the library as possible and review them before purchasing.

Edited by snowangel (log)
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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My first cookbook was "The Charlie Brown Cookbook."

I'm sure it's long out of print, but the good thing about it was that it was simply a set of recipes that a kid could follow: no grand lesson plan, no pop sociology or psych, lots of pictures of Linus, Snoopy and the crew.

The most important thing for the kids to learn is that cooking is fun, and accessible. Once that lesson is learned, everything else will follow; I distrust any cooking for kids program that turns cooking into yet another self-improvement project. That's what music lessons are for.

For what it's worth, my kids (11and 15),have learned to cook by hanging out in the kitchen with me and mom, and their education is pretty haphazard: Dylan does pizza dough and spaghetti sauce, the Nora makes cookies. They both blanch vegetables and make sausage. They know their way around a kitchan, they come with me to the butcher and to the market, and have both cut and/or burned themselves in the course of preparing a meal, and lived (though Dylan had to get stitches). When the time comes to cook for themselves, they'll be fine, happy, and competent.

Though it's not written for children, the title that should spring to mind when contemplating putting a six-year-old in the kitchen, is "The Joy of Cooking."

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Jen, busboy has a point. When I think about it, by the time Diana was ready for cookbooks, she was well-versed in many kitchen things. Cutting, kneading, whipping.

Perhaps you should look at giving a cookbook, but maybe more important, assuming you live nearby, are some "coupons" for an afternoon cooking with Aunt Jen. Teach then to scramble eggs, watching for the butter to foam. Teaching them how to knead bread. Make mayo (science lesson in that one, as well). How to blanch and shock, and how different your green beans look when you boil them for a long time. How to make salad dressing. How to clean greens. They could make a meal of scrambled eggs and salad for mom and dad (basic, but never unappreciated).

So, if distance permits, give a gift of yourself. Memories in the making.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I'm building on snowangel's idea if you are too far away to actually cook with them.

What about buying them their own kitchen tools. You could get kid size bowls, plastic measuring spoons, wooden spoons. Not to sound like the Grinch, but remember getting books as presents? Much less fun then something you can use right then and there. You could throw in a small cookbook as well (I too like the Klutz Kid's Cooking) to get them started.

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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I think Alice Waters' "Fanny at Chez Panisse" is a sweet book (but maybe aimed at older kids). I would try to take a look at that if you can.

My first cookbook was Betty Crocker's Cookbook for Boys and Girls, and I adored it. It has been recently reissued, and while there are still a lot of easy recipes kids can make on their own, it does have some very dated, weird recipes in it. It's too bad there isn't an updated equivalent because I think giving a cookbook is a good idea. I completely agree with Busboy about cooking being fun and accessible first and foremost-I know every kid is different, but if someone had tried to teach me knife skills or roux when I was 6 I would have been bored stiff. I wanted to make stuff I thought was cool (and delicious).

Edited by kiliki (log)
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My first cookbook was "The Charlie Brown Cookbook."

Hey, me too! I bought it via Scholastic Books through my class/teacher (I wonder if she got a commission? :hmmm: ). I made my first Apple Brown Betty (or was it an Apple Brown Lucy?) thanks to that cookbook. There was no looking back after that...

edited to add...nothing, since I changed my mind. :laugh:

Edited by Toliver (log)

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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You guys are awesome! I don't know if we had a Charlie Brown cookbook (which wouldn't be surprising, since I was a fanatic) but one of my brother's schools put together a mimeo booklet of easy, cute recipes. I always fancied the dishes that involved turning canned peach and pear halves into animals but that never came into being – I was too busy prep-cheffing for my mom. My menu-planning / food re-using skills are terrible but thank goodness I'm at least comfortable with a knife :biggrin:

My dear brother was outside playing the whole time. My whole family always enjoyed tasty food but my brother's fondness for cooking didn't develop until college. Lots of table-waiting gigs and one summer as a grill man and he's convinced he's a master chef. His knowledge is sadly lacking in some important ways – I'm still not sure if he's over the "dissolved chicken bullion makes for great sauces!" phase. So the gifts of cookbooks this year are a semi-subtle effort by Aunt Jen to make sure they learn while they're helping / cooking for daddy as well as having fun. Which is what is so great about food and cooking!

My eldest niece was the first grandchild / baby for many, many relatives, which means they all get more toys and clothes than they could possibly ever need. I very cleverly established myself as the book- and video-giving auntie, which has as many downs as any other gift-giving proposition and way higher highs. Imagine my glee when at my nephew's birthday party one of my nieces exclaimed, "look, baby Jonathan has his very own Good Dog Carl book!" Shoot, I wish I had someone giving me books all the time when I was younger so I didn't have to read the same ten books over and over and over again.

So thank you all very much, this has been very interesting as well as helpful. I am quite looking forward to taking all your suggestions with me to the bookstore and checking things out this weekend. Oh, and if anyone wants to throw in a food-themed board-book idea for a one-and-a-half-year-old boy, I'm all ears :cool:

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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I was at a friend's house last night and was skimming through their Sur La Table catalog when I saw they had a Children's cookbook in it. It looks like it has a cool "retro" look to it thanks to the vintage illustrations. I haven't seen it first-hand so I can't say whether it's a good cookbook or not. It seems reasonablely priced. Plus, at the bottom of the page they have other kid-oriented items (e.g., a kid's apron).

Hope this helps...

edited to add: When you go to the web page linked above, click on "View Larger Picture" to get a slightly larger image of the book and its pages.

Edited by Toliver (log)

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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ha! my first cookbook was the charlie brown cookbook too!!! i remember making linus's (or maybe lucy's...) lemon lollipops with my mom once. oh, and red baron brownies. there was also a recipe for marshmallows, which i never knew you could make at home. i thought you had to buy them... i still have the book actually.

maybe you should track down a copy of this book, as it seems to have a lasting impression, haha.

"Things go better with cake." -Marcel Desaulniers

timoblog!

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I have two sisters. One is about to be 23, and the other is 7. The 23-year-old doesn't know how to cook much, is newly living on her own, and is very busy in law school without a lot of time to cook, so last year I gave her a mini food processor (she likes to make things like hummus and other legume purees) and wrote her a cookbook of simple and easy things that she would be able to make. Some of the recipes are my own and some I got from other sources. Mainly I just picked things that are simple and won't take her more than 30 minutes to make. It was a big hit.

The 7-year-old loves to cook -- she and my stepmother are taking a cooking class right now and she's always calling me with recipes to try -- and last year I gave her a few kids' cookbooks, including one by Arlette Braman called something like Kids Around the World Cook that featured a range of recipes from different areas of the world. Very cool book. This year I'm writing her a cookbook of her own (she was a bit jealous of the other sister's gift last year), again devising some recipes myself and taking some from other sources, and I'll probably give it to her with some of her own cooking utensils.

It's a bit time-consuming to put together, but it's really fun, and a nice way to add a personal touch if you live far away and can't spend as much time together as you'd like.

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The Mother's Almanac used to have fantastic recipes that were age appropriate - in the section on five year olds, they'd list recipes for fivers, six for sixers, etc. I don't know if it's current incarnation does this, but if not, it's worth seeking out earlier versions - I certainly enjoyed what we got to do when we were little thanks to its advice.

Sounds like there are some lucky kids out there, from this thread!

Emily Kaiser

www.emilykaiser.com

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The Moosewood folks have two great cookbooks for kids, Pretend Soup for young kids, and Honest Pretzels for age 8 and up. The recipes are very good, and the books have many helpful suggestions for the grownups helping them.

I will try to figure out the Amazon link and edit.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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I was at a friend's house last night and was skimming through their Sur La Table catalog when I saw they had a Children's cookbook in it.  It looks like it has a cool "retro" look to it thanks to the vintage illustrations.  I haven't seen it first-hand so I can't say whether it's a good cookbook or not. 

I flipped through this book a couple a weeks ago (they were selling it at the Museum of Fine Arts gift shop). It actually looks pretty worthwhile -- the recipes are written very clearly and simply. The book is done in an Art Deco style which some kids might find old-fashioned.

Last week I took a look at the Donna Hay'sCool Kids Cook (although this is amazon, not set up as an eg link). Some of the recipes titles are a bit twee. But I think kids would enjoy it.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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You guys are so helpful I'm all confused again :wacko: No, I'm writing this down and will run out before the list is two post-its long. Then I'll come back and y'all will have given me enough ideas to get them through to high school :smile:

I am grateful for the board book rec, all I know for babies is the Good Dog Carl series. I adore these books and buy them for every baby I know. No one's sued me yet...

Of course, I am grateful for all the recommendations, and totally envious of the time and talent it takes to write a personalized cookbook. One day I really will do something like that for my brothers, but it'll be more like xeroxes of our mother's favorites. If I ever figure out which chili recipe she used. I agree with those who were more into the actual cooking than flashy cookbooks. I was more serious than these kids are – with any luck (and your help) I'll find the right mix between entertainment and education. Whew!

p.s. Donna Hay rules. Unfortunately her kids' book is a tad too foreign for them. Aunt Jen needs a few more years to turn them into proper Anglophiles :cool:

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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Oh, and if anyone wants to throw in a food-themed board-book idea for a one-and-a-half-year-old boy, I'm all ears  :cool:

Now I Eat My ABC's by Pam Abrams is one of my two-year-old's favorites - it has pictures of food in the shapes of letters (e.g. "A is for Asparagus" is illustrated by a photo of three spears of asparagus arranged in the shape of an A.)

Sorry, don't know how to do the Amazon link thing.

"There is nothing like a good tomato sandwich now and then."

-Harriet M. Welsch

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Oh, and if anyone wants to throw in a food-themed board-book idea for a one-and-a-half-year-old boy, I'm all ears  :cool:

There's a series called World Snacks books, written by Amy Wilson Sanger, that includes First Book of Sushi, Yum Yum Dim Sum, Hola Jalapeno, and Let's Nosh. My daughter enjoys them and we've given them to lots of other kids. There's also Maisy Makes Gingerbread, which would be fun with a gingerbread man cookie cutter. Strega Nona (you know, with the pasta pot) is available in board/picture book.

Cookbooks: I like Mollie Katzen's Pretend Soup a lot. It has a text version and then a picture version of every recipe, and they're good recipes. I wouldn't get Cunningham's Cooking with Children for this age, mainly because it doesn't have many photos. It's a great introductory cooking class, though. For the age you're talking about, I'd definitely go for things with lots of colorful pictures. The Dorling Kindersley books have some of the silly recipes that snowangel mentioned, but they're really fun. The Williams-Sonoma books are well regarded by parents I've talked to.

Hungry Monkey May 2009
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  • 1 month later...

Hi all! I just wanted to take advantage of this day off (cough cough) to report on xmas. Wow, now that I'm re-reading this thread I'm thinking, "oh, so many more books I could have bought..." but then a present each for a family of five was quite enough for me this year. The results, relative by relative:

The Big brother: the Les Halles Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain, as reported. At first Jon was greatly pleased to see the book. When I pointed out that it had been signed specifically to him he was grinning from ear to ear, and might've even laughed. I'm not sure how he really felt about the cooking advice but the bloody knife AB drew really tickled him. My brother really does like Tony's style, so the best I can hope for is that he reads it and at least learns a little.

The baby nephew: special eGullet thanks here! Believe it or not, I don't think any of us had heard of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Jonathan especially enjoyed sitting on Grandad's lap and being read the book in my dad's mellifluous basso. (The best part of that, in my recollection, is leaning your head on his chest and listening to his voice resonate :)

Six-year-old niece: Williams-Sonoma's Kids Baking. I got this partially because I loved the style and breadth and how it didn't talk down to anyone, and partially because a lot of kids' cookbooks overlap. The jury's still out on this one, but it may just be that she just needs a little time to absorb it after the excitement of all her other gifts.

Four-year-old niece: the Moosewood Collective's Pretend Soup. Love was in the air! I was so excited I kept pointing out recipes and my SIL told me that the kids had been interested in food and she hadn't previously had any guides. Last I talked to her, they had already made one recipe together and she had just run out for ingredients to cook another one. We may just have two mini-chefs in the family.

The Sister-in-law: She hasn't been known as happiest, most willing cook, so I got her some little condiment dishes that match their current china. She liked them a lot and thought the food theme was a hoot.

The bonus: out of all this comes the information that because of the kids, Food Network In the Kitchen is often on TV in the background. Whatever you may think of Rachael Ray, it pleases me to no end that her easygoing approach and doable recipes have actually inspired my sister-in-law to cook something interesting on more than one occasion! Varying the recipes even! I almost envy the noisy lot.

Well, this year was enormously successful and I could never have done it without all your advice and help. I'll certainly never be able to repeat it, but it was worth it just to get this one perfect and I thank each and every one of you. Oh, and if anyone's curious, Santa brought Aunt Jen a Santoku knife. It may remind me a bit too much of Miss Perky, but it sure does make chopping veggies a breeze :biggrin:

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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