Somewhere around the 10-year mark, kids hit a phase where the sleepover is the end-all, be-all of social plans. I’m not sure if it’s this way with boys, but with Elena rarely does a weekend go by when we aren’t met with a request to schlep her to someone’s house or have a friend here for a sleepover.
I remember this being a thing when I was her age, too. Some of my fondest memories of these overnights involved the “cooking” my friends and I would do when we were together. I remember assembling quesadillas, making chocolate chip cookies that somehow never ended up in the oven, and sleepily throwing together Bisquick muffins or pancakes in the morning. Our mothers must’ve been saints, because I’m sure we were loud and incredibly messy.
We’ve got the loud and messy nailed down for this generation’s sleepovers, but you know where they’re not getting messy? In the kitchen. I’ve written before about my struggle to get my kids interested in cooking. The bug has finally bitten Elena, and while it hasn’t seemed to translate into kitchen sessions with her friends, I’m happy about it. I’m also willing to do whatever it takes to nurture that desire.
A book came my way the other day that I think has the potential to do just that for a new generation of cooks. Starting From Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking is a new book from author and journalist Sarah Elton. Sarah wanted to write a book that would empower kids with the knowledge they need in order to cook a meal. And empower it does. The book is a great bridge between books that could seem childish to a budding cook, such as Mollie Katzen’s Pretend Soup , and books that could overwhelm them, such as Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything . Both books are wonderful, and I recommend them for every kitchen. However Elton’s book is perfect for the beginning, older cook.
It’s not a cookbook, although there are a handful of recipes. Instead it is a resource for knowledge and inspiration. It explores the science of food and cooking. It teaches the important steps in cooking that go beyond the recipe: what tools you need, how to grocery shop, how to prep, measure and substitute ingredients, how to make sense of a recipe, and understand cooking terms. Instead of asking you to follow an exact recipe every time, she challenges readers to learn the building blocks of meals (base, protein and vegetable, plus toppings) and riff on it from there, with suggestions for tried and true flavor pairings.
I also love that she realizes how our paranoia about dangers in the kitchen are crippling our kids’ desires to learn the necessary skill of feeding themselves. She says,
“While we obsess about safety in North America, when I was on a research trip in France, I found that people there believed you just needed to teach kids how to be safe. I was at a chef’s school where they offered kids’ classes and saw a long line of sharp knives hanging on the wall. I commented to the man who ran the program about the risk of putting sharp instruments into small hands. He looked at me, perplexed, ‘Well, we wait until they are old enough!’ he said, ‘They have to be at least six-years-old!'”
I can see this book fitting just as well in the hands of a 10-year-old as I can in the hands of a high school or college graduate. Whether you’re looking to find a book that will satisfy a kid who is curious about the kitchen or a book that will gently and wisely educate someone completely new to the cooking experience, Starting from Scratch will be both a valuable resource and an inspiration to cook for yourself and those you love.
Would you like to see for yourself? I have a copy of the soon-to-be-published book to give away to one lucky reader. Here’s what you need to do to enter:
1. Leave a comment telling me the first thing you learned to cook as a child.
2. Earn an additional entry for following The Risky Kids on Pinterest. In order for your entry to count, please leave a comment below letting me know you follow us.
3. Earn an additional entry for being a subscriber. Not a subscriber yet? It’s easy! You can subscribe to get your Risky Kid updates via email or RSS. Leave a comment below letting me know you subscribed!
The giveaway will end Sunday, March 9 at 11:59 pm EST. Winner will be notified via email and have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. Remember, in order for your entries to count you must leave a separate comment for each entry. Thanks, and good luck!