Finally – a book for kids about food and cooking that teaches them about food in a way that is interesting and relevant (and doesn’t dumb things down!). I was thrilled to have a chance to review Starting from Scratch by award-winning food journalist Sarah Elton recently and was overjoyed as I devoured her book in practically one sitting to have finally found a book teaching kids about food whose author “gets it”.
As someone who has taught cooking to kids for the past 4 years, I’ve learned that kids don’t actually need their own cookbooks and, in fact, can get a fabulous repertoire of recipes from well-written, real food recipes like Jamie Oliver’s. But more and more over the years, what I’ve found I have needed and haven’t always had to hand were answers. Answers to questions like
“Why does this cheese smell bad but taste so good?”
“Is it ok to eat food with chemicals in it?”
“Why is food from some countries spicier than others?”
“Why do deep fried foods taste so good, even though they are bad for us?”
“Why is dough so stretchy?”
… and I could go on and on….
Because little boys have questions when they are cooking and baking. Little boys have questions when they are tasting and eating… Questions that I don’t always know the answers to. Questions I need to Google after class! Because at the end of the day, cooking is science and there’s a lot more to cooking with kids that, well, cooking. The more I cook with kids, the more I see how much food education is such an important part of the big picture… Food education shouldn’t just be about eating, nor should it solely consist of cooking. No, food education should involve conversations about food, where it comes from, how it reacts when we cook it and why…. and so much more!
Starting from Scratch is the essential first book for the curious kid (and adult!) in the kitchen, providing guidance and information for budding chefs (whatever their age!). It’s not a cookbook, though – it’s exactly what I have been looking for – “a conversation-starter around the science, culture, and practices surrounding food.” More importantly the knowledge in this book will empower kids to cook a meal and really understand what they are doing.
The book covers a wide variety of information about food and will arm those adults teaching kids about food with all the answers they could possibly need (or nearly!) – biological, chemical, sociocultural, environmental and economical aspects are also covered. Elton breaks down the science of food and cooking into “bite-sized and accessible pieces of information”. I appreciated the large amount of space at the beginning of the book devoted to the topic of taste because that’s one of the big topics of discussion with the boys – what foods and ingredients taste like. I always make them taste and smell the various ingredients if possible before we get started cooking – as Elton says, it’s important to slow down and take the time to think about taste (and the different ways we “taste” our food).
It’s hard to choose a favorite part of the book but it’s hard not to love the Introduction, entitled “Why should you cook?” where Elton gives kids some great reasons why they should cook for themselves, from scratch. A few of the reasons, according to Sarah:
“Cooking can be fun!”
“Turning raw ingredients into a delicious meal is an art. It’s like painting a picture or writing a story or composing a song.”
“When you cook, you are figuring out how to look after yourself and the people you care about. “
“Knowing how to cook makes you independent…”
Starting from Scratch is a book to help kids make sense of recipes, measure (and substitute) ingredients (this is a very important part of cooking in my classes, dealing with various food allergies and working out substitute ingredients), stock their kitchen cupboards and their pantry with equipment and food, and be prepared for a trip to the grocery store (as a teacher who cooks with her students in their regular French classes as well as after school and who sometimes takes them shopping for the ingredients, I feel this is SO important – many of my students don’t really take part in the grocery shopping and it’s such a huge life skill!). Kids reading this book will also learn something I try to tell my students each and every week – that dinner can (and should) be so much more than a prepackaged meal, and that there are real (and delicious!) benefits to learning to cook for themselves!
Featuring appealing illustrations from Jeff Kulak, Starting from Scratch is the launch pad for inspiring kids everywhere to eat conscientiously, try new flavours and foods and, most importantly, understand what’s on their plate. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Check our Sarah’s recent article in the Globe and Mail: Why you should cook with kids and not just for them.
SARAH ELTON is a national bestselling author, journalist and speaker, who specializes in food writing. Her most recent book for adults Consumed: Sustainable Food for a Finite Planet was praised by food writer Naomi Duguid as “A must-have for anyone interested in food.” Her first book Locavore: From Farmers’ Fields to Rooftop Gardens – How Canadians Are Changing the Way We Eat is a national bestseller and won Gold at the Canadian Culinary Book Awards. It is also a David Suzuki Foundation Book Club pick. Sarah lives in Toronto. Starting from Scratch is her first book for children. Visit sarahelton.ca and find Sarah on Twitter @SarahAElton.
Starting from Scratch by Sarah Elton – a worldwide giveaway!
Thanks to the kind folks at Owl Kids Books, I have one copy of “Starting from Scratch” to giveaway to a lucky reader. And because I think everyone should have the chance to win a copy of this book, I’m opening up the giveaway to everyone, no matter where you live!
How to enter:
There are 2 ways to enter (maximum of two entries per person for the duration of the contest).
1. Leave me a comment on this post telling me why you think food education is important OR (edited to add on April 2nd), in the spirit of Food Revolution Day, tell me how you get kids excited about food/ cooking!
2. Tweet the following message: Enter to win @SarahAElton ‘s “Starting from Scratch” from @owlkids + @eatlivtravwrite (Worldwide!) Details: http://bit.ly/1rwQqlS then come back to leave a second comment letting me know you did.
Eligibility and contest rules:
- Open to anyone, anywhere.
- No purchase of any product necessary for entry.
- Winner will be chosen randomly (using www.random.org) from all qualified entries on Tuesday April 8th after 6pm EST.
- Winner will be notified via email Wednesday April 9th.
Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of “Starting from Scratch” for review purposes. I was not asked to write about this, nor am I being compensated for doing do. All opinions 100% my own.