Reading & Cooking With Kids

All of this extra time at home has been making me feel a little nostalgic for the days when our kids were younger, and my memory has tricked me into thinking things were easier.  I notice that others are feeling the same from what I see in social media posts, with people watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (available for WPL members to watch for free on Kanopy!), working on scrapbooks of family photos and listening to children’s books being read by celebrities like Taika Waititi.  It’s hard not to start thinking of the past and family memories when you have extra time on your hands – we are seeing so much more of the people we live with.

At our house we have spent more time together in the kitchen, with some results better than others, and this reminds me of school vacation days when school was over and a library visit could last until our stomachs told us it was time to go home for lunch.

Often we would take a cookbook home in our book bag, hoping that a new recipe or project would fill an hour or two of a long summer afternoon.  We had the greatest success with books from one publisher in particular, Dorling Kindersley, an international publishing firm that had a knack for creating colourful cookbooks with simple instructions and lots of photographs that showed the young cook how to correctly chop vegetables, use kitchen tools, prepare meat safely and set up the ingredients before you began so you wouldn’t be caught without the chopped garlic at the important moment in making a stir fry (it happened).

Quite a few of our weeknight staples came from these cookbooks including a ‘sticky chicken’ that heats up really well for lunch the next day, and a great Caesar salad recipe.  I also learned that you can put many things into a tortilla, heat it up on a pan, call it a quesadilla and feel like you have accomplished something after a bad day.  So much good information came from our friends at DK and I’m forever thankful for their easy-to-follow steps for “Kitchen Safety” – somehow having it written in a book made it more believable than listening to a nagging parent say it.

The Dorling Kindersley cookbook choices range from recipes to prepare for babies and toddlers, to books on specific themes like baking, to some that you could give to a school-aged kid who wants to start working on their own in the kitchen.  Each one shares that same tidy layout with bright images and text that is very easy to follow, making it easy for the young (or much older) cook to succeed.  DK is originally from the UK so many of the recipes have a flavour that will remind you of what you would hear on The Great British Baking show.  In fact, some of their cookbooks that we have on the shelf use the method of weighing your ingredients so you can add a touch of math to your cooking.  Sneaky.

We learned about fairy cakes from these cookbooks (we made and ate a lot of them) and also, flapjacks!  Flapjacks are not just another word for pancakes.  Oh, they are so much more.  Once we knew what this fabulous treat was it was impossible not to love them.  A combination of butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and oats (don’t you want one right now?) which you get to make by melting the first three ingredients and then adding the dry ingredients into the first.  It’s just too satisfying and all of this before you get to pop it into the oven and smell that gorgeous caramel smell.  I was thrilled to read an article summarizing 10 variations on the immensely satisfying flapjack in The Guardian (which you can read for free with PressReader, using your WPL card) recently.  Columnist Zoe Williams listed several fantastic-looking choices including the ‘classy’, the ‘vegan’, the ‘hipster’ and the ‘luxury’ flapjack but starts off by discussing the ‘nostalgic’ version of the flapjack that she remembers from the Winnie the Pooh Cookbook when she was a kid.  She too is thinking of her past.

We have one DK cookbook available through DownloadLibrary, the 2018 Cooking Step By Step, which has an excellent mix of snack recipes, main dishes and sweet treats.  They have included a cute one-serving brownie recipe that can be made in a mug which would be a highlight for any age – it takes two minutes to prepare and 1 minute to cook.  They also have two reasonable choices for making bread if you want to continue with (or get started on) your pandemic bread projects.

DK has started posting bonus web content on their Canadian and UK sites which is divided by age and interest.  You can look at their cooking content, activities aligned with the school curriculum, crafting and other projects that you can enjoy indoors and some that will take you outside.  I’ve seen different content in the pages created for kids and adults over the past few months so if you don’t find something that captures your heart this week maybe check back again in a few weeks to see if they have posted something new.

So, try one of these great cookbooks with your kids, whether they are young right now or you are pretending they are for just a little while.  If you are hanging out in this pool of cozy where appetites and chocolate chips have made the kitchen into neutral territory, there are so many simple recipes available for you to try using ingredients that aren’t difficult to find.  Are you also enjoying this sense of enjoying things from the past?  Spending time with photo albums, 90’s TV shows or John Hughes films?  Let us know, I’ll be right here, listening to old Disney movie soundtracks, starting with The Little Mermaid.

— Penny M.