I know it can be disappointing for my daughter when packages of cookbooks arrive and they’re not for her. While we do cook from many of the cookbooks I receive to review, not many are geared specifically towards children. Which is why when I opened a box a few weeks ago and pulled out a copy of Pierre Lamielle’s The Munchy Munchy Cookbook for Kids that my daughter got excited. “Wait a second Mummie,” she exclaimed with wide eyes as she reached for the book, “I think they sent this one for me.” She then took her new book over to the couch and started to flip through it.
Looking through it with her I could see the appeal — the illustrations are wonderful! They remind me of the delightfully funny David Shannon books that were so popular with my students when I used to teach primary school once upon a time. And, I think the cast of characters in Lamielle’s “The Munchy Munchy Bunch” (Ragu, Ziti, Sage, Rose, and Bean) really explain and show the different tastes in the kitchen from salty to sweet and the stuff in between. The other characters, Sal and Pepper, offer how different personalities function in the kitchen. Since I am the epitome of a recipe follower, I am definitely a “Sal”. When I asked my daughter who she thought she was like, she said both! While she likes to follow a recipe and get good results like Sal, she also likes to have fun and experiment like Pepper.
The illustrations are great for my 5-year-old because she can follow along and interpret some the ingredients and instructions on her own. I appreciate the thought that went into making this cookbook accessible to children. When I first looked through the book on my own I wasn’t really into some of the safety illustrations depicting cuts, burns, and upset stomachs (all of the things that can happen if kitchen rules aren’t observed) but as I read through it with my daughter she thought they were hilarious! I came to realize that these graphics really appealed to her in a way that would help the safety lessons to stick in her mind. There are important lessons about proper knife handling and use that are key to learning how to cook and I think Lamielle does a great job showing kids all the important skills required to cook.
The 28 different recipes are organized into four main chapters: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Sweets. And, I found that the recipes were carefully chosen to showcase different techniques and/or tastes. This is a cookbook for kids to use with their parents. Unlike traditional recipes, the recipes are organized differently — no ingredient list is provided so it’s important to read through the recipe and make a list of what you’ll need. I prefer to have the ingredients listed but I think the skill of reading through a recipe is crucial to be a successful cook. And, again, the recipes explain each step through words and graphics so that even young cooks (like my daughter) can be involved. None of the recipes are complicated or have many ingredients — simplicity is important for young cooks.
With many recipes that caught my daughter’s eye we settled on trying the Simple Mini Cornbread Muffins and the Veggie Chili to start with. Reading through the cornbread recipe with Katie, I noticed that there was no mention of what size of mini muffin pan should be used and my daughter suggested counting the number of “holes” in the illustrated muffin pan. We did and found that it held 24 mini muffins — she was pleased her strategy worked! We made the recipe twice because we found that baking the mini cornbread for 20 minutes at 375F was a bit long, so we baked them for 10 minutes and found it was perfect. This is where we talked about how recipes act as a guide, but home cooks still need to keep their eyes peeled and trust their intuition. She was so excited to make the muffins herself but by the time we started the chili she was ready to go play. I’ve learned that when cooking/baking with kids their attention spans usually dictate the activity. So I continued with the chili and the resulting meal was one the whole family enjoyed! My daughter was so pleased with her cornbread that she decided she wanted to take them to school in her lunch.
For parents of reluctant eaters, I find a good way to get kids to expand their palates is to get them to help with prep and the cooking of food. As I chopped ingredients for the chili, Katie would walk by every so often to steal bits of carrot or red pepper. And, then when we were making the Breakfast Nachos, she kept trying the different components of the fruit salsa and bananamole, eager to see how all the ingredients would fit together. She really enjoyed this sweet nacho/fruit salad hybrid. I think recipes like this show young cooks how to be creative and think outside of the box with ingredients and recipes. The recipes throughout The Munchy Munchy Cookbook offer an outline of the essential, basic recipes everyone should know how to make — from eggs, pancakes, and sandwiches (both grilled cheese and B.L.T.) to pizza, salad, and cookies. There’s even a recipe for ketchup, to which my daughter was shocked! “Kids can make ketchup???” I really appreciated how enticing this book is with possibilities. As young cooks become more practised, they can begin to experiment with the ingredients and flavours in these basic recipes.
Not your parent’s cookbook, Lamielle’s The Munchy Munchy Cookbook is definitely a cookbook that appeals to young home cooks with it’s delicious-looking recipes and sense of humor. After trying this cookbook with my daughter, I found that the playful tone Lamielle sets within the book really promotes enjoyment of cooking for kids — not to mention how fun it is for my daughter and I to cook and learn together! This is one cookbook that I think will make a good gift for some of the other young cooks in my life! If you’re curious to see what my daughter and I were munching on, then checkout the custom Facebook post or dedicated Instagram hashtag #eatworthymunchymunchy.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Familius LLC and Raincoast Books for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.