Cookbooks for older children

Following my last post about cookbooks for young children, I wanted to follow up with some for older children. Except… we don’t have many. We have two “family” cookbooks and one aimed at teenagers, but in practice they’re used by adults more than children in this house; maybe that will change as the children get a bit older. I’ll tell you about them anyway, because I think they’re good books.

The River Cottage Family Cookbook claims that it’s for “anyone in the family” to use, and that children aged 10-12 and upwards (isn’t that the same as 10 and upwards?) should be able to cook from it without help. The recipes are divided onto rough groups by main ingredient – flour, milk, meat, sugar etc – and there are some useful basics in there like soda bread, pizza dough, Victoria sponge, to name just a few from the Flour chapter. Personally I think my children might be more inspired to cook from it if there were pictures for each recipe and a bit less chat in between, but as they get older they might be more inclined to sit down and read the whole thing until they find something that interests them.

The Family Cooks is aimed at parents, but I’m including it here because it’s all about food that children might realistically eat at normal mealtimes, and plenty of the recipes are extremely simple because they’re designed to be put on a weekday dinner table within ten minutes of walking in the door. Each recipe has one clear photo of the finished product, and a set of tips at the foot of the page on how you could vary the recipe and on which bits of the process are best for involving younger children. It’s very much focused on cooking from scratch using wholefood ingredients, and has been helpful for coming up with new ways to eat vegetables that we get tired of (cauliflower popcorn, kneaded kale, and sweet potato soup with miso are some recipes we’ve loved).

Cooking Up A Storm is endorsed by Jamie Oliver and has some of the same “wotcha, geezer” style to it, which grates a bit. The recipes themselves are good, though, clearly explained and realistically cookable and eatable by the target audience. There are plenty of pictures but, one of my bugbears in cookbooks, I’d rather see more photos of the finished dishes and fewer of the chef having a laugh with his mates, or juggling oranges, or dressing up for a party. Is it weird that I want all the pictures in a cookbook to at least have some food in them? Also I’m fighting the urge to go through the book with a permanent marker and cross out all the stupid banter about “girls’ food” and mums fussing about and all the rest, leaving only the perfectly serviceable recipes.

In practice, when my oldest daughter (nearly 12) wants to cook, one of three things happens. One, she decides what she wants to make and we find a recipe on the internet. Two, she wants to make one of the things that we regularly cook and eat at home, so she asks me to stay with her and give instructions, and makes me promise not to interfere. Three, she uses something from the collection of written-out recipes that she’s been collecting since she did her Cook badge at Brownies four years ago. I know there are many more high-tech ways of collecting recipes, but an A5 sized ringbinder of bits of paper with recipes handwritten on them works fine for her (and for me; I’ve got my own very similar folder, though the recipes in it are a bit different). It’s been really useful for her to have some basics written out in detail – white sauce, vegetable soup, even how to make a cup of tea. Her collection is the kind of things that I can now make without a recipe, and that I use all the time. Maybe she should compile them into a cookbook…

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