Back to the Books

We check out a lot of library books in our family. It’s no surprise that even on a project like Family Meals, books are our default for information and exploration.

We started the month by looking at some cookbooks that were written specifically for kids. I definitely have a bias against children’s books (cookbook or otherwise) that talk down to children, or that rely too heavily on cuteness and novelty. If we want to truly see children as competent and capable people, we have to stop assuming that they’ll only be interested in dumb cartoons (not to be confused with smart cartoons and comics, which do exist!).

That doesn’t mean that we’re anti-pop-culture either. At our house, we do read books about Batman, Star Wars, Disney characters, and yes, even that poor vilified Sponge Bob, from time to time. But for the Family Meals project, I didn’t want to just rely on ‘kids’ cookbooks to engage the kids in the process.

We went to the library and got a stack of really cool photo-based cookbooks, that showed lots of gorgeous shots of food and chefs. It turns out that these books are the heaviest books made. It’s something about the paper they need for printing all of those glossy color photos. S. and I both got an extra arm workout that day, just walking from the library to the car. But the book about elBulli and Ferran Adria was totally worth it!

We also found some interesting photo-based titles in the children’s section. The two we liked best were Fast Food by Joost Elffers and Saxton Freymann, and The Secret Life of Food by Clare Crespo. I thought the DK (Dorling-Kindersley) books were going to be popular, but they almost had too much information, and the page layouts are really busy. It turned out to be food for thought for me – thinking about children’s book design…

It was fun to bring our finds home- we all ended up flipping through the pages and dreaming about amazing food. Library books are the ultimate, inexpensive ‘provocations’, that keep us inspired in our mission to cook and eat good food together. These were some of our favorites this week:

Colorado Organic by Mindy Sink

A Day at elBulli by Ferran Adria

Jamie’s Kitchen by Jamie Oliver

The One Block Feast by Margo True and Sunset Magazine Staff

Any titles you’d add?

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4 thoughts on “Back to the Books

  1. Amazingly, I have only one cookbook checked out from the library at the moment. It’s a heavy one. The Country Cooking of France (2007) by Anne Willan. In 1973, she started a cooking school in France with Julia Child and James Beard called La Varenne which she still runs. She’s written 30 cookbooks. This one is vast and informative. The images are good too.
    I agree about not talking down to kids in presenting recipes and cooking ideas. They grow up too fast for that and are usually ready for information beyond the level we think they can handle.
    Food is poetry and magic. It just happens that we have to put it in our bodies every day, so we might as well celebrate the fact and have fun planning, preparing and eating.

    • I always think of you as the supreme lover of cookbooks. You always have the best – that you own and from the library…

  2. I will have to look at some of those titles as I don’t know all of them. Another I would recommend would be the Omnivore’s Dilemma, Junior Edition. He did an adult version that I think was a best seller and, while not a picture book, really explains for approx. 9-10 years old and up what the food thing is about and why eating healthy really matters. I think you could read aloud some parts to younger elementary people. I checked it out of the library myself because I think it will be really interesting and I don’t always have the staying power for adult non fiction in the evening. 🙂
    PS There was a PBS special on different types of food and various in depth reporting of potatoes, flowers and a few others that is really interesting (based on his books). Happy reading!

    • I’ll definitely check that out Dawn. I’d heard about the Omnivore’s Dilemma, but I didn’t realize there was a junior edition. I haven’t seen the PBS special either, but I’d like to! Thanks for the recommendations!

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