Food Reads for Rugrats
I was at The Land of Nod a few days ago, shopping around with Lima. It's a great children's furniture, accessories, and toy store here in Chicago and I sometimes take Lima there just to look around. She is crazy about these monkeys. Every time she sees them, she just starts shrieking with delight. In addition to the wonder-monkeys, they also have a really nice selection of classic children's toys, like play stoves and refrigerators, Curious George paraphenalia, and wind-up toy radios.
While Lima was perusing a basket of pretend food next to the play refrigerator (and using all her willpower to resist biting into a piece of fake bread, tasty as it might have looked), another mom and her preschool age son came by. The son saw a cute children's apron hanging in the display and he asked his mom what it was. The mom said "Oh, yeah, you've probably never seen one of these. This is an apron. People used to use these in olden days when they actually cooked. I don't cook so you haven't seen one." Then the mom gave me a very self-satisfied look, either to convey pride in her non-cooking lifestyle or in her description of an apron...I'm not sure which.
Bummer. I hoped Lima didn't hear that explanation because I actually think people still do cook and some might even wear aprons. Call me crazy but I don't think this practice was confined to "olden times." Anyway, this got me thinking about the importance of introducing kids to cooking and eating together as a family. Now, I have no idea about this other woman's lifestyle, budget, time constraints, etc. She might have absolutely no time to cook and that's fine. I at least hope she and her son and whoever else is in their home sit down and eat together once in a while...whether it's takeout food or at a restaurant.
This got me thinking about 2 books that can inspire our littlest chefs' imaginations. The first is Baby Food by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers. Lima got this as a gift recently and she loves it. The whole book is photos of baby animals carved out of fruits and vegetables. It's so incredibly creative and absolutely adorable. Lima loves the baby lion (carved from a potato) because she loves to roar whenever given the chance. I have a soft spot for the whale calf because it reminds me of the legendary Fudgie the Whale cake from Carvel. This one's carved from an eggplant and quite charming in its own way. The animals are so creative and the book provides a neat way to introduce little kids to various kinds of animals and different types of fruit and vegetables, all in one.
The second book is Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers & Up by Mollie Katzen. Katzen, author of the Moosewood Cookbook, has put together a very charming and easy-to-follow cookbook for children. At 15 months, Lima is too young to be cooking so we don't have this book yet, but I have flipped through it and it has very cute, fun recipes for kids. It's real food that both parents and kids would enjoy, but twisted to be extra interesting and fun for the children, such as the recipe for Green Spaghetti.
I don't know whether Lima will enjoy cooking the way I do when she's older, but I at least want to introduce her to it and give her the chance to decide.