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What I look for in a cookbook:
- Good photography – particularly since kids will use the photos to choose which recipe to make. it’s 2020, we have the technology. There is no excuse for crappy or missing photos.
- Food that isn’t already painfully obvious on how to cook. I don’t need a cokbook to teach my kids how to make canned soup and grilled cheese. What even is the point of that?
- Chemistry. The point of teaching kids to cook is so they can grasp the basics of chemistry. I don’t really understand why else we would go through the eventual disaster, piles of dishes, and burned, disgusing food they will force us to eat afterward.
- Math: A good cookbook will give kids a chance to experiment with ratios, fractions, volumes, and weights. A GREAT cookbook will encourage kids to make the same recipie with different ratios to test the difference. I have never seen a great cookbook for kids.
- Culture: Introducing staples from non-American cultures should be a given, particularly since everything Americans eat is garbage.
- Nutrition: Another point of cooking is to get kids invested in eating decent food. I don’t need my kids to get excited about french fries! They are already excited about french fries!
- Basics: A decent beginner cookbook should begin with food safety and knifework. Again, I have never found a decent beginner cookbook for kids.
- If we’re including photos of kids, I want normalized diversity. Hire disabled models, hire kids of color. For folks who are just using family and friends – gotta wonder why the only kids they know and think are worth photographing are thin, abled, and white.
- If it’s not clear yet, I am alarmed at the crap publishers will send to print. Writing a cookbook is apparently a super low bar.
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Quick & Messy Book List:
Very Awesome Cookbooks
Cook in a Book Series – Interactive cookbooks with real recipes. These are basically R2’s favorite books since he was 3 (he’s almost 6 now) and make perfect gifts. Interactive books are best purchased new, even though these ones are particularly sturdy. The library copies are beat up, and we’ve ordered used ones and the parts are missing. But these are totally worth it. They make a good companion to Cook it! (Birkett). Best for ages 1+
- Happy Nowruz – We originally got this to learn about Nowruz (Persian New Year), but it turns out it’s more of a cookbook with information on hte cultural significance of each dish. Which was utterly lovely. It reads like the hobby project of an empty nester with a lot of free time, a fantastic one, for kids. While it’s mostly recipies, there are just enough bits of history and reasons behind the symbollism of traditions that it’s interesting to read. wish i could make something like this, but it seems like something on,y a gandma would ahve time for (the author has adult children).
- Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts – Really cool way of tying together Chinese folktales and cuisine as a modern twist on a cookbook. Not for us since we don’t have time to cook together, but if I was a much better parent, we’d dig right in.
Cookbooks With Caveats
- Masterchef cookbook junior – fancy food that happens to be made by kids. Everything in this is a pain in the ass to make. If you’re up to these recipies, everyone in the house already knows how to cook. And if you want kids to cook at this level, you’d want more methodic training. Ages 10+
Little Bento – Looks decent as far as recipe books go, but uncoated pages made me nervous about bringing it into the kitchen and following a recipe. Printing is also subpar quality which was hard to get over and enjoy the book. Pictures would work for kids to pick out stuff they want packed for lunch, but it’s worthless in terms of teaching kids the actual principles of cooking.
- How Cooking Works -While not the most enticing, this was the most accessible cookbook for age 5 & 6. Recipies are simple, photos are good for helping pre-readers choose recipies. Unforunately, they assume level 2 staples (corn syrup, self-rising flour) that require a heavily American style kitchen, and you’re gonna have a bottle of corn syrup and a box of self-rising flour to age in the pantry for the next decade after kids try the recipie once and get bored of it. The blueberry muffins were tough and not great, but the fridge cake and strawberry cake were great. As per every cookbook that had a mix of sweets and regular food, the kids always choose the sweets to make. Almost exclusively white kids, with a couple token kids of color in there. Makes me want to photograph a cookbook or start a youtube channel, it looks so easy with those adorable little kids. It’s not as science-y as the title suggests, should be more like “how to cook.”
Worthless, Meh, and bleeaaghh Cookbooks
- The Grolier KidsCrafts Cooking book – regular american junk food. photos are unappealing. skip it.
- Kosher by design – kids in the kitchen – Bland ordinary recipes for junk food. If you already know how to eat kosher, there is no point in getting this.
- The forest feast for kids – I don’t think this was made to be an actual cookbook. I think it’s more of a printed vegetarian pinterest account. GORGEOUS watercolors and photography, but kind of a headache for actually teaching kids to cook. Healthiest food out of all the cookbooks we tested, and it makes food look super appealing, but it’s a little too tame compared to the more juvenlike poppy targeted ones Q preferred. It’s designed to be appealing to me as an adult, but not so much to kids.Apparently most of the recipies are just colorful ones cherry-picked from her adult cookbook. We tried the fried banana split and it was disgusting.
- Cooking class – Most poppy, engaging cover, but recipes aren’t very exciting. Unless you really like doing ornate knifework and creating individual boiled eggs that look like mice. Not only does it not help kids understand cooking – Who has the time for that?! More decoration than cooking. i like the premise of 3 levels of complexity, but the book isn’t sorted by complexity, which means lots of flipping back and forth and the coil binding is AGONIZING for my sensory issues.
- Healthy Lunchboxes for kids – This isn’t a cookbook. You’d think there would be cooking involved, but I guess the title is tchnically about lunchboxes. So it’s literally just ideas for stuff you can put in lunchboxes. Written as a guide for parents, but around 6-7 some of these are stuff kids can assemble, like sandwiches. All the food is super carb heavy (bread, pasta, puff pastry) and not particularly healthy. There’s not much food to ‘cook’ and it assumes everything just already comes as cooked meat, chutneys, etc. I guess it would be fine if kids needed to start packing their own lunches but how this translates from obtaining the ingrdients to cooking it to placig it in a luchbox.. I am just so confused as to how this is necessary. We have the internet now for when we’re completely at a loss on what to put inside a lunchbox. Also everyone is white, so that’s still a thing.