Starting from Scratch by Sarah Elton (and a worldwide giveaway!)

StartingFromScratch_cover (2)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 KulakStarting 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 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:  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 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.

37 thoughts on “Starting from Scratch by Sarah Elton (and a worldwide giveaway!)”

  1. I don’t even know where to begin on the importance of food education. The most talked about factor at the moment is of course obesity, so naturally the more educated people are, particularly at a young age when they are just developing their food habits, the more likely they will be to make wiser food choices. With more food education, society as a whole could become healthier, and start supporting small businesses who provide quality food rather than relying on big companies who sell food full of preservatives and other nasties. Good for our bodies, and good for our economy! Win-win!

    Also, there could be the most inspiring chef stuck inside a child who never learnt anything about food and as a result never found their passion. I was never taught how to cook, however I was taught how to bake. Now I am cake obsessed! Perhaps if I’d been taught how to cook I might have been more talented in that area – who knows?!

    I could ramble on about this al night. I think I’ll leave it at that hehe 🙂

    Oh, and I tweeted too!

    – Taryn Elise xx

  2. I think food education is so important for so many reasons! I have four children, who love to eat, who I have have been sitting on the counter and standing on stools with me while I/we cook, now they are taller than me and they stand beside me in the kitchen. Kids/people need to know where their food comes from, and how to prepare it and share it! I don’t need to tell you that a whole generation(or more) of people have a disconnect with their food. It’s a travesty!! Whether I win this or not I’m buying this book. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. This is an awesome giveaway, I’d love to win it for my little brother! Food education is key as it sets the foundation for a lifetime of smart, nutritious eating habits!

  4. Great post and giveaway Mardi. I see no better way to improve the health and lives of Canadian families than to get back in to the kitchen and connect with wholesome food. Teaching children the value of real food and the art of cooking is step nuemero uno!

  5. I think food education is important because one these days those little children will be adults. They need to know how to eat, cook and enjoy their food. But it has to be good for you, real food. Educate them while they are young!! They are so eager to learn

  6. Awesome!

    I have four small grandchildren who love to spend time with Grandma in the kitchen.

    Have a joyful day :~D

  7. As a teacher I value all education, as an aunt I want my niece and nephew to grow up to be the perfect people that they are, which includes being healthy! Food education will teach them how to do that, how to take care of themselves and ultimately our environment. They will be smarter, feel better and know about the land they live on, the food they consume. That’s why food education is important!

  8. I think food education is important because it gives children an appreciation for the food they are consuming. Too many kids today think milk comes from the grocery store and do not realize that tuna is fish! Educating them about their food and teaching them to cook is also a great way to get them interested in trying different and perhaps healthier food.

  9. I think that good eating habits come from good and accurate food education. I would like to start my daughter young by teaching her about the basics of good eating and food.

  10. This sounds like a book that I would have loved as a child and I look forward to reading it! I think that food education and getting kids into the kitchen is important not only for practical reasons (learning cooking skills, for example), but also to prepare kids to make a lifetime of informed food choices.

  11. Mardi – you know I love your Petit Chef work and this is such a great summary of why that it’s so valuable to start them in young. I wish I had spent more time with my girlsin the kitchen at a younger age.

  12. Food education, particularly early on, is important because it empowers you. And will set you up for a life of healthy and delicious eating!

  13. What a lovely offer! Eating conscientiously is a focus of our generation. It’s important for us to teach our kids to be eat healthy and be responsible.
    Thanks for offering a chance to us in the States, Mardi.
    I’ll tweet, too! Cheers!

  14. Such a great article Mardi. I think that teaching kids to cook is the solution to so many of our society’s health woes. Plus, it will help families rediscover the joys of preparing food and sitting down to a meal together. I was so inspired by the Globe & Mail article that I referenced it in my newspaper column this week. Also, I tweeted it from my @bridgetsgreen account and my @CrosbysMolasses account.

  15. When I was a kid, I used to love to be in the kitchen. I will never forget my Granny telling me when I was 7 or 8 that I was so good at cracking eggs, soon I would be doing it one handed like the chefs on tv. I don’t know why that sticks out in my mind so well. We were just making a chocolate cake, probably even a boxed version. I think it was the encouragement, though. Up until that point, cooking seemed to me another chore you had to do to stay fed. People didn’t praise me on my ability to wash dishes or dust, other chores. I think that was the moment that I started to think of cooking as a hobby, something that could be fun. In later years I began to think of it as an art. When I started cooking for myself and my husband, that’s when I (we) learned all kinds of things about food. There were so many things that we thought we hated but ended up liking when they were made at home. Some things just needed to be explained. I always hated ______, but only because I had only had the frozen kind from the store. Now that I can make my own I realize that you’d be really hard pressed to find a food that I DON’T like. (Except raspberries, those things are awful.) And my husband, who has always described himself as having “food issues” now eats anything I put in front of him, and some things I don’t, to at least try it. Food education leads to smart decisions about food. It makes weird things okay, and gross stuff taste good. It lights a fire under young and old minds alike, to see where food comes from, to get out there, plant some seeds, get dirt under their fingernails, to pick an apple from the tree just to see how it might taste. Food educations opens door after door, and my only regret in life is that I did not educate myself sooner.

    My son is not even two, but he already has an inclination towards the kitchen. And you’d better believe that any and every time I can find a good project for him, he’ll be there. I can’t wait to get the gears turning for him.

    Bravo to you for flipping on little switches in the minds of these kids, and bravo to the author of this book!

  16. Wow…food education…In a country where kids are highly scheduled and there is often “no time to cook” if we teach kids about real food, they will ask for it and parents/adults are more likely to comply. The fun I had experimenting in the kitchen with world flavors was encouraged and supported by my parents…how great to bring that sense of exploration to a younger generation. Why is sugar liquid? 🙂 why does cheese melt and get icky/curdled? The answers encourage experimentation, creation and dialogue…..where gaming is set aside, and the TV/computer is a secondary event, or taught to be a tool to creation!

  17. As I am pregnant with my first little one, I am beginning to become more away of the north american norms for cooking. I was blown away by the stats in Sarah’s globe article.

    I am determined to raise a kid that can cook when they leave the house. As far as I concerned it is they key to healthy eating, and general happiness!

  18. Food education is important for so many reasons. Knowing how to to eat healthy, how to cook for yourself, and how to grow your own food — it’s all so important to a healthy lifestyle. My mom didn’t teach me much about food when I was growing up and it has taken me years to catch up to many of my friends.

  19. Too many people do not know where real food comes. I believe that his ignorance and the fact that many believe that the drive through provides them with fuel a body wants, has led to our current crisis with health and obesity.

  20. A lot of our society eats on the run. Grabbing something quick to eat… being uneducated about what we eat is a major cause of obesity and other health problems.

  21. I didn’t have to try hard to get my kids interested in cooking. Each time I’d start to make a meal, they’d pull up their chairs to the counter to help me. As they grew they continued to enjoy cooking, but then I started getting them to make recommendations. As a result, they’d find recipes online for us to make together.


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