Packed Pockets

My mother collects cookbooks. In the last several years she has amassed over 500 of them. Why? I don't know, and it doesn't matter. She likes them!

I believe cookbooks are a great way to reach kids of all ages. Am I proposing that you not only encourage the hobby of collecting cookbooks, but actually take the time to share a project with them? Absolutely! It is infinitely easier to chat with children if you can keep them distracted, than if you sit them down and request them to talk to you. And, as an added bonus, by developing a collection of cookbooks you get to eat well! Oh, I know you're thinking of the mess. You may be surprised how much more willing kids are to help clean up the mess when they have joint ownership in the end results, and they are so busy telling you about their latest endeavors they haven't noticed they were tidying up. Aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents, baby-sitters, etc., no longer wonder what to "do" with the kids when there's a cookbook around.

No matter how old a child is, input from them can be included when cooking. Everything a child does is a learning experience. Important lessons of reading, following directions, and cleanliness, combined with mathematic fractions in a fun atmosphere. Even babies can learn hot/cold, sweet/bitter, and hard/soft. Teenagers love cooking once they get started. Ah ha, you say, so tell me how to get them started? Let them pick the recipe. Afraid to do that? Then let them pick a recipe from the several you've previously approved. Next, send the teens to the store by themselves with an exact list. Making it exact teaches them that if they need 1 cup and the can says 16 oz. they have 2 cups in the can. If your teens aren't old enough to drive take them to the store, but stay away from them by. Do your shopping on the other side of the store, or at another store nearby. The object here is trust, and if they forget an ingredient the lessons will be remaining calm and "substitution" can still yield a yummy result.

Critiquing children's cookbooks is much more difficult that assigning one wooden spoon for poor and five wooden spoons for excellent, because of their wide spread ages and abilities. I have found three books that are suitable for different skill levels and instead of "rating" each one I will offer you a description of the book and its intended use.

Garfield Learns About Cooking: Any Cat Can Cook
Created by Jim Davis, Story by Mark Acey. Published by Western Publishing Company, Inc, Racine, Wisconsin. 1992, A Golden Book.

My children love this book. It comes as a story with recipes included. It is on a grade two school reading level. Reading this to smaller children is a cinch, because the pictures are large a bright. The story has a moral, as once again, Garfield leads the less then brilliant Odie into trouble again. In the center of the book there are two pages of cardstock separated into eight tear out recipes clearly marked, "From Garfield's Kitchen" with a cute picture of Garfield in a Chef's hat holding a spoon and fork. These recipes are easy and only two involve using the stove, two involve the toaster and the rest require no actual "cooking". And, they all sound pretty yummy! Examples of recipes: Purrfect Mini Pizzas, Odie's Mush, and Nermal's Cinnamon Strips. The last two pages of the book, after the story ends, yield a surprise of directions on how to decorate cupcakes to resemble butterflies, clowns, and flowerpots.

KidsCooking: A Very Slightly Messy Manual
Written by the Editors of Klutz Press. Published by Klutz Press, Palo Alto, CA 1987

This book come with a set of primary colored measuring spoons and an explanation of the spoons usage on page four to kick things off. This is obviously made for the young chef. There are warnings about sharp knives, being clean and reading directions, but each has a very cute picture attached to it and is written in a friendly, fun tone. These recipes do require actual use of kitchen appliances, so if your children are too young to handle them appropriately you'll have to be on hand to help. But, that is the great part of cooking anyway...togetherness! Each recipe has its own set of pictures depicting necessary tools, ingredients, or directions. For example, dressed in a top hat and tie, holding a cane, Mr. Rooster points to a white gloved hand using a glass to remove the middle of a piece of bread for which an egg will be fried. Also, on this page is a picture of the ingredients and tools: Bread, two pats of butter, one egg, a spatula and frying pan. This book in made out of card stock and has a large metal binding like a notebook, which allows it to be laid flat (something I wish more cookbooks would have). Examples of recipes: Ready Spaghetti, Not-So-Sloppy Joes, Put-Back Potatos, and Darrell's "Forget-the-Cookies-Just-Give-Me-That-Batter" Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.

Passport on a Plate: A Round-The-World Cookbook for Children
Written by Diane Simone Vezza and Susan Greenstein. Published by Simon & Schuster, 1197

This is a nice book for older kids. Although this book is geared toward the 9 to 12 yr. old reader a responsible adult will have to oversee most of these creations. Teenagers who want to challenge their taste buds will enjoy this trip to 12 different countries spanning the world. The author's rated each recipe according to the type of kitchen appliance needed. Two utensils for blenders, up to four utensils for deep frying, however I found most of the recipes three and four utensil levels. Examples of recipes are: Black Eyed Pea Balls from Nigeria, Rolled Sushi from Japan, and Beet Soup from Russia. This is obviously not your everyday cookbook. There no colored pictures and few, but nice illustrations.

As you can see, there is quite a bit of opportunity for spanning the proverbial generation gap in the collectable area of cookbooks, not just for adults, but for children as well. These books can springboard into other areas such as, sampling recipes from the era your child's heirloom china tea set dates back to, discovering the similarities or differences in foods that humans and the child's collectable bears might share, and whether the Indians used other types of rock to cook with, as they used arrowheads to hunt. Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

Now for: What's Hot & What's Not In Kid's Collectables

What's Hot?

Hot wheels vehicles are very hot right now. Apparently, all those father's who grew up playing with them on the dirt piles of their back yards are searching the toy store shelves for additions to their collections.

What's Not? Old puzzles. Thrift stores are full of them. Unless, you have a truly antique puzzle, or a puzzle featuring advertising, don't bother hanging on to it.