Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Resident Chefling and his Cookbook Collection

It's over two years since I wrote this post about my early forays into the kitchen. In my journey from culinary disaster to tolerable cook, Ayaan has been my constant, pint-sized companion.

I think it started with the kitchen being the centre of our existence in the days when it used to take me hours to cook meals and clean up after them. The kids and I literally spent most of our waking, non-school hours there. On any given day, you could have walked in to find the floor liberally cluttered with toys and my Bose Sound Dock (which had been relocated to the kitchen) pumping out nursery rhymes.

Since we were in the kitchen a lot, it was only natural that he wanted to help. He asked to stir whatever was in the cooking pot, helped me mix batter for cookies or cakes and even wanted to wash the dishes! But it has grown from there and mushroomed into a passion for everything culinary. He is often found poring over my recipe books and trying to convince me that something or the other must be attempted right away.

He now has a small collection of cookbooks of his own as well. The other day, I posted something on Facebook about his chefly pursuits and had a few people asking me which cookbooks he uses. I thought I might as well make a post out of it.

The cookbook that is his favourite by far is The Everything Kids Cookbook. Like any self-respecting cookbook, Ayaan's copy of this one shows its wear and tear with its well-thumbed pages and random food stains. It is a neat little book, with relatively simple recipes (with difficulty levels clearly specified) and straightforward directions. Everything that we have cooked together from this book has come out well. There are some recipes with ingredients not easily available in India but most of the stuff is procurable or substitutable. It is designed with kids in mind, with a bunch of fun facts and puzzles thrown in. What one really misses in this book is photographs of the food to be cooked, but I find that to be a common thread across most kids' cookbooks. I guess they think cartoons are more likely to hit the mark with the younger set, but good food pictures are an integral part of a recipe book, irrespective of its target audience. Overall though, it is a great starter cookbook for the under-10 set.

This book - Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cook Book - was presented to him along with the one above by his aunt (my brother's wife) for his seventh birthday. But somehow, this has not been his go-to cookbook when he wants to convince me to help him whip up something. Unlike the black-and-white aesthetic of the previous book, this one is bursting with colour. But I personally find it graphic style very cluttered and loud. However, it ticks all the boxes in terms of providing all the essential information for a young, novice cook and easy-to-follow directions. The dish names - Deep Sea Subs and Eye Popping Popcorn, for example - are corny but cute. I can't remember when we last tried cooking something from this one, so I cannot vouch for the quality of the recipes.

If you were to ask Ayaan to name his favourite authors, he will rattle off the names of Roald Dahl, E. Nesbit and Enid Blyton - in that very order. The other day, he was telling me that he wished Dahl was still alive because then he could have written some more books. So when I came across a book titled Roald Dahl's Completely Revolting Recipes, I knew I had to get it for him. Technically, Dahl did not write this book - the recipes were compiled by his wife after this death - but the recipes link back to the food mentioned in his books and the trademark Quentin Blake illustrations make it Dahlian like nothing else possibly could. Many of the recipes could sound appetising only to a hard-core Dahl fan - Hot Frogs, A Plate of Soil with Engine Oil and Hornets Stewed in Tar, to name our few. On the downside, our success with the recipes in this book has been mixed. Overall, this is less of a must-have cookbook for kids and more of a must-have addition to Ayaan's comprehensive Roald Dahl library. 

Of course, he considers my cookbook collection to be an extension of his. It is not uncommon for me to search high and low for a particular cookbook, only to find it nestled comfortably in his bookshelf. He has also called eternal dibs on the Good Food magazine we get every month - he has to be the first one to read it and he often marks out recipes for me to try...

20 comments:

  1. This is so cute! And now I know what to gift him.

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    1. Cee, he still has carefully preserved the Martha Stewart cookies calendar you gave us when we met.

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    2. :) That is so good to know. Did you guys use any of the recipes? Recommend any?

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    3. We cut out the recipe cards and then lost them :-( But the calendar is still a prized possession

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    4. Ha ha! Issokay. Gives me another opportunity to find more books/calendars :)

      S has a few very good recipes for cookies. Want me to ask her to send them to you (or Ayaan, if he has an email ID)?

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  2. How adorable! Its nice to see little men starting off in the kitchen so early in life :) Kudos to you for picking up on his interest and doing what you can to fuel it!

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    1. It's not like he has given me a lot of choice in the matter :-)

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  3. Wow!

    Really nice that your son is so interested in cooking at such a young age!

    His future wife should be so grateful to u!;)

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    1. Or she will curse me. Because I cannot even begin to describe the mess he creates in the kitchen.

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  4. oh thats lovely! I should try getting them for the brat, she shows interest in mixing and stuff..thanks for the recos

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    1. Try the first one. It's a perfect cookbook for kids to start with.

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  5. Phew. Can i just say how nice it is to come back today and actually see comments. I haven't written for so long, I was terrified that no one would read :-)

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  6. Lovely post. Do write more about your and Ayaan's forays into the kitche

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  7. Happy to see an update here :)

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    1. Another one of my umpteen efforts to revive the blog :-)

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  8. Awesome. Forwarded post to all friends with kids in this age group

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  9. Ro, I came to you blog after a long time, and am pleasantly surprised to see so much activity. It is always so good to read about Ayaan.. Pari has also shown a reasonable amount of interest in cooking, and I have been dismissing it as a childhood fancy that will wear off with age. But your post has got me thinking.. I think I will buy her the first book. Do keep us updated on Ayaan's progress.

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    1. Hi Violet. Good to see you :-)

      Let me know what Pari thinks of the book.

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