Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook was one of the first cookbooks I owned. I think it was given to me as a gift when I started to become interested in cooking at about 12 or 13. I was immediately charmed by its homeyness. I loved Mollie’s whimsical little doodles on every page and the hand-written appearance of the recipes. This book led me into my vegetarian phase in my late teenage years. I’m hardly a carrot-stick-crunching, tempeh-loving healthy person these days, what with my passion for all things sausagey and creamy, but I still have a fondness for Mollie’s books, as they were the first place I became excited about the process of cooking and the beauty of fresh ingredients.
And so, to offer another addition to my Raising a Foodie through Reading Project (which you will find in a list on my sidebar), I present Mollie’s fun and fantastic book, Salad People and More Real Recipes. This book is meant to be a kind of follow up to her hugely popular, classic kids’ cookbook, Pretend Soup. Both of these books are outstanding first cookbooks for children. Katzen says they are for pre-school and up, and that seems just right to me. There is so much to love about these books:
1. Mollie’s emphasis on more veg, more whole foods, less sugar and no processed junk.
2. Fun, simple recipes that let the kids be the cooks with as much independence as possible. In fact, each recipe in Salad People is four pages long. The first two pages offers conventional explanations for the supervising/assisting adult, and the next two pages give step-by-step process to the child, complete with illustrations and simple text. Katzen emphasizes that the more prepared the adult is for the cooking process, the more the child will be able to function as the leader. To get a sense of the instructions for the kids, take a look at a recipe on Mollie’s Website. Great, yes?
3. The recipes. How about some Miso-Almond Dipping Sauce with Cool-Cucumber Soup and a Mango-Honey Lassi? This is real food made with honest, healthy ingredients. I bet the little guys might be more willing to try unusual foods if they’ve made it themselves.
When I was working at The Flying Dragon, the cookbook section was a place in the store where little battles of will would often take place between parents and their children. These tiffs often went something like this:
Child: Please, please, please, puhleeeeeeeease can I have this cookbook?
Mom: (distracted because she’s looking at the delicious display of new fiction by the front cash) Whatever happened to that other cookbook we bought? You never use that one. It looked so great. We need to find that book.
Child: But I really, really, really want this one! (insert much book waving and arm-flapping) Please can I have it? Please!
Mom: (picking up the new Alice Sebold) Let’s find that other one we bought and maybe you can put this on your birthday list?
Child: (insert not-so-silent harumphing and stomping about)
I do think that quite a number of children’s cookbooks get bought on a whim and are rarely (if ever) used together by parent and child. This is unfortunate, and sadly, not that surprising, when grown ups themselves often don’t take the time in their “busy lives” to cook regularly, and when the little guys are so busy doing myriad activities after school and on weekends. My two cents? Cooking is for life. These skills will grow with your child, and be with them through adulthood. So buy a great cookbook and set aside one Saturday or Sunday a month to play around with it together, to the benefit of everyone’s tummies and your kid’s culinary future. Need more convincing? Check out the list of benefits that children gain through cooking in Mollie’s introduction to Salad People: food literacy, language skills, science awareness, endurance, patience, sense of community…
I’m off to make myself a Salad Person. Crunch!