Well, the Spatulatta Cookbook arrived earlier this week and the kids are eating it up. This is not the first kid’s cookbook we’ve encountered; in fact, among the over one hundred cookbooks on my kitchen shelf, five are for children. We’ve got the classic, Mollie Katzen’s sweetly illustrated Pretend Soup; we’ve got Linda Collister’s beautifully photographed Cooking with Kids, plus the retro-looking Look and Cook, by Tina Davis. We’ve got my childhood favorite, Mud Pies and Other Recipes, which is full of recipes to make for your dolls and stuffed animals in the backyard. And then we’ve got a real treasure, Michel Oliver’s La Cuisine est un Jeu d’Enfants, with an introduction by Jean Cocteau. This was given to Tony by his grandmother, and is inscribed thus:
“This is to mark your very first birthday–and I hope you will emulate your Mamma and Papa in the preparation of gourmet foods–I will look forward to your first efforts–and I hope it will be a souffle–that’s my favorite.”
Nothing like setting a child’s sights high! (And in fact, with such familial encouragement, Tony embarked on a culinary career that included, as a kid, chicken kiev and lemon meringue pie, and now covers most of our family dinners). We don’t use this cookbook much — it weighs about ten pounds, for one thing — but I love a cookbook for kids that includes such basics as coq au vin, pain perdu and sauce bechamel.
We use all these cookbooks, but what sets Spatulatta apart is that it is written by kids, the two girls behind the Spatulatta website, Isabella and Olivia Gerasole. As a serious cookbook reader, I was worried that this might translate into some cutesy, written-by-adults-to-sound-like-kids tone, but that’s not the result at all. The recipes are peppered with little comments like “Pretty neat, huh?” and “This is the fun, slimy part…” and Ben, a brand new cookbook reader (let alone reader) was delighted at these remarks aimed at him. I like that each step in a recipe is explained clearly enough for a five year old to understand, with cooking terms marked in bold and keyed to a glossary in the back. It’s a smart cookbook, too, with its spiral-bound, coated pages that wipe clean, tabbed section dividers and plenty of room to write in notes. The people who designed it know what they’re doing.
In our first 3 days with this cookbook, we made Extra E-Z Fudge, Heart-in-Hand Cookies, and Berry Dip & Roll, which were all a tremendous success and are not at all a representative sampling of the recipes in the book, which are seasonally organized and include a nice section of vegetarian recipes. I let Ben call the shots, and he went for the sweets; we’ll get to the Bunny Salad, Black Bean Chili, and other healthier choices another day. The one surprising omission from the cookbook, I think, is breakfast! Pancakes, french toast, and muffins tend to be a staple of most kid’s cookbooks, for good reason: they’re simple and plenty good for you. Spatulatta leans more toward lunch and dinner foods, when I’m less inclined to think of involving the kids in the cooking in favor of getting a meal on the table promptly. But of course, the more I include the kids in the kitchen, the less of an art project cooking will be for them, so I like that Spatulatta will help nudge us this direction. My kids, at 5 and 2, are definitely younger than the target Spatulatta audience, but this cookbook will grow with them, and I’m looking forward to the meals along the way.