2, 3 Cook! My First Cookbook. By the
Editors of Good Housekeeping. Hearst
Home Kids. $22.
The Hearst Home Kids line of books contains a number of kitchen-focused
titles intended for varying ages and varying levels of cooking and baking
expertise. But it has not previously had an offering for kids who are barely
old enough to read in the first place. Now it does: 1, 2, 3 Cook! My First Cookbook is for ages 4-8, and it is a
deliciously appropriate (and, truth to tell, just plain delicious) helping of
50 easy-to-do recipes that certainly require adult supervision but that really
are, in the main, easy enough for young children to try on their own.
The most important material here may not be the recipes, although they
are the reason kids and adults will want the book. What may matter most is the
introductory material, which shows how to prepare to cook, what tools are
commonly used (each of them with a hyper-clear photo illustration), how to
measure liquids and dry ingredients, even how to crack eggs – and more.
Sprinkled throughout the book are folksy bits of wisdom from Good Housekeeping folks who are shown as
cartoon drawings with actual photos of their heads. “Taste as you go,” “peek
under the pancake with a pancake turner to make sure it is golden brown before
you flip it,” “freeze fresh fruits and veggies overnight to make your smoothies
extra chilly,” and many more ideas and recommendations are found in these
little marginal notes. There are also full-page, photographically illustrated
instructions on greasing pans, rolling dough, spreading frosting and more. The
book really does serve up a heaping helping of practical, pragmatic
food-related wisdom that will be easy for young readers/cooks/bakers to
understand, absorb and put to use.
The “how” of putting the information to use appears in five chapters
called “Rise & Shine Breakfasts,” “Tasty Lunches & Dinners,” “Super
Snacks,” “Sweet!” and “Fun Foods & Holiday Treats.” That covers all the
usual meal-and-snack times and types pretty doggone well. All the foods in a
section are shown in photos at the start of the chapter, and some (but not all)
are also shown adjacent to the recipes themselves – and this may actually be a
bit confusing: a layout putting a picture of each recipe with the recipe would have been clearer. However, the recipe pages
are, as they should be, super-clear – not only in listing ingredients and
giving step-by-step instructions, but also in stating at each recipe’s start
just how much is made and how long it will be before the food is ready to eat.
This time element gives adult supervisors a very good way to use 1, 2, 3 Cook! My First Cookbook as kids
get older: given the generally shorter attention span of younger cooks/bakers,
“Chocolate Chip Pump-kid Bread” (“ready to eat in 1 hour, 10 minutes”) may be
reserved for older children, while “Super-Simple Smoothies” (“ready to eat in 5
minutes”) may be better for younger ones.
Each recipe starts with “Prepare Your Ingredients,” providing a list of
everything needed, and a separate “Gather Your Kitchen Tools” list that makes
it easy to be sure, before starting preparation, that all needed implements are
within easy reach. Adults will need to evaluate their own kitchens and
ingredient availability before turning young cooks loose on the recipes: one
calls for garlic cloves and a garlic press, another for a can of refried beans,
another for cold heavy cream, another for both strawberries and blueberries,
and so on – items and utensils not already on hand should be bought beforehand,
and some recipes should be skipped altogether if they require items the family
does not own (an electric mixer and silicone spatula, for example, really are
Just about every recipe contains steps that kids can do on their own, plus slightly more difficult or risky steps that are preceded by a hand in a green stop-sign-shaped icon to indicate that adult help is needed – the hand is there for pretty much anything requiring heat, electricity, sharp implements, etc. As for the recipes themselves, many are for suitably straightforward foods (pancakes, macaroni and cheese, pizza), but some are a bit on the offbeat or more-complex side (broccoli-cheddar blankies, ooey-gooey cinnamon rolls, chocolate-caramel mud cake). The recipes are presented pretty much in a random sequence – nothing suggests trying certain ones before undertaking others – so adults will want to go through the book before kids get started with foods that may be a bit too difficult for younger or less-adept children to make. Actually, though, that is a good thing: 1, 2, 3 Cook! My First Cookbook encourages adult involvement in various ways, and grown-ups will actually learn a few things by exploring the book with kids as well as before everyone starts making things – for instance, marginal notes explain that it takes 400 cocoa beans to make a pound of chocolate, Greek yogurt is thicker than the regular type because it has more water strained out of it, April 24 is National Pigs in a Blanket Day, and so forth. Kitchen skills last a lifetime, and the earlier and more enjoyably they are established, the better – which means that 1, 2, 3 Cook! My First Cookbook is a great way to get young people going with activities that are as useful as they are delicious.