For my contribution to this week’s Nonfiction Monday I’m reviewing a cookery book that M has been using recently: frame>by>frame quick and easy – the cookbook that shows you every step.
As a family we bake and cook a lot, but normally my kids’ involvement (unless it is something sweet) revolves around play cooking – a few pots and pans, bowls and spoons, water and a little bit of chopped up whatever that has fallen off my chopping board. It’s a great way to keep them happy whilst I’m getting supper ready, but the end result of their culinary endeavours is not usually terribly edible.
With the arrival of the new year I thought M was about ready to start learning how to cook food that we could actually enjoy as a family and so I started hunting for a good cookbook to use with her. I didn’t want recipes for puddings and desserts – I wanted to encourage cooking food for meals, not treats – and I found it quite hard to find a cookery book for kids that didn’t have a disproportionate number of sweet recipes. Eventually I gave up looking in the kids’ cookery section and tried my luck in the adults’ section instead, and there I found the perfect book for us.
I say the perfect book, but I have to admit frame>by>frame quick and easy – the cookbook that shows you every step is not at all the sort of cookery book I would usually buy. It has been “produced” by a whole team of people, not written by a chef or food writer (indeed, no author is actually listed in Amazon), and at first glance it looks like it might be all about the visuals of food, rather than recipes that work and that are delicious: every recipe in this book is shown (as it says in the title!) step by step through a series of photographs, starting first with a photo of all the ingredients, then 5-8 photos showing the various stages and finally a photo of the finished product.
The photos are very clear, but they don’t show people actually cooking – rather the ingredients at various stages of preparation beautifully present on clean, clutter free work tops. It looks like the good fairies have been at work rather than actual people (and certainly rather than a crazy mama and two eager-to-get-stuck-in kids).
However, I thought this book might work for us as the layout and use of photos would really help M make her own decisions about what to cook for us, and support her in reading the recipes. M has been learning to read for about 4-5 months now, and although she can’t manage to read a recipe on her own, I thought that recipes, with their limited vocabulary (“stir”, “boil”, “steam”, “teaspoon” etc) would provide her with some real life text to read, assisted by the images to help her when she met a new word. I also liked the fact that whilst this book contains some dessert recipes, more than three-quarters of the recipes are savoury main meal recipes, split into 3 sections, vegetarian, fish and meat.
And so it has come to pass that we now have a new little ritual in our house at the weekends – for the past couple of months M has been cooking for us on Saturday evenings! I’m at her side the whole time, but I really try to let her do as much as she can, and to encourage her when she thinks she can’t do a certain stage. She’s having to learn about safety (holding knives, pouring hot water) and she’s learning a lot about ingredients and how they feel and taste (two of her new favourites are coconut milk and limes).
I’m having to learn how to be relaxed and yet very alert – letting go (ie letting M do it herself) at the same time as making sure nobody is going to end up in A&E. It’s quite an experience! So far everything M has prepared and cooked has been delicious! All credit to the cookbook for including recipes that work, and that result in lovely food, (even) when made (mostly) by a 5 year old. So far we have stuck to vegetarian recipes (raw fish and meat are something we don’t need to deal with yet!), but as M’s (and my) confidence grows I’m sure we’ll move on to the other sections of this book.
As I’d hoped, M does indeed love the format. She really enjoys sitting down to choose the next recipe she’s going to cook, and she likes being able to check her own progress against the photos in the book.
frame>by>frame quick and easy – the cookbook that shows you every step: a rather unexpected *** (3 stars)!
Whilst we’ve been cooking we’ve been listening to:
Here are some of my favourite blogs about cooking with and for kids – hopefully you’ll find some inspiration:
What are your favourite cookery books for using with kids? What’s the most delicious thing you’ve eaten made by your children? What tips do you have for those wanting to try cooking with their kids for the first time?