I was very curious about How to Eat With One Hand by Christine Flynn and Emma Knight. While I reviewed and enjoyed Knight’s earlier The Greenhouse Cookbook, I wondered if, at this point in my journey as a parent, since I am neither new nor expectant, if this book was for me. It wasn’t until I saw Knight in conversation @thelabourdept on Instagram live that I was convinced I needed to take a look at this cookbook.
You are wondering what sparked my interest? One of the things that Knight talked about during this live conversation and bake-along (Knight demonstrated the 2 AM Cookie recipe from the book), was how she prepared for the birth of her first child and how her co-author Christine Flynn helped her get some freezer meals ready ahead of time. Knight discussed tangible ways to help new parents in those weeks before and after birth – so often, and with good intentions, we say the words without the follow through. “Let me know what I can do!” – while well-meaning, it isn’t very helpful and, I found that her advice (make concrete offers “I’m making ‘X’ and will drop some off”) helpful as well as applicable in other instances. In that delicate dance people do when they don’t want to bother someone – the “call me if you need anything/I’ll be sure to call you if I need anything” dance – that no one feels helpful or helped. So that when a friend was going through a difficult time, I remembered Knight’s advice and made extra food to share. All it took was a text telling them that I had their Saturday supper taken care of and I’d drop it off.
This is how I feel about Flynn and Knight’s book – it’s applicable to lots of different situations (not just those involving new parents). If you’re starting out anything new or challenging, it is all relevant. I’m reminded of the scene in the movie Rushmore: when making small talk, Max Fisher (Jason Schwartzman) asks about Herman Blume’s (Bill Murray) involvement in the war by asking: “Were you in the sh*t?” And Herman replies, “Yeah. I was in the sh*t.” And sometimes this is the way it is when you find yourself in a situation – you find yourself smack in the middle of the sh*t (although if your situation has to do with new parenthood, this might be a bit more literal).When this happens, and you’re busy and don’t know which way is up, it is good to know where you next meal is coming from, which is why Flynn and Knight’s book is full of easy, comforting, and delicious recipes.
What I like best are the essays interspersed throughout the book. I love how Flynn and Knight discuss the different elements of what parenthood has been like for them and what it’s meant to them. I know that people say they take well-written cookbooks to bed to read like novels but, in this case, you truly could do just that. As I read through the book, I felt the warm camaraderie they share, the feeling like, even when things are challenging, there are ways to work through it. I felt it in the recipes too – the food that nourishes and comforts. Recipes that provide a solid framework, a genuine repertoire to help keep home life in motion. While there are recipes to suit different dietary needs or preferences, none of the meals are indexed as vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc. My vegetarian family and I found many recipes to enjoy – and after trying almost a dozen recipes, there are still many more that I’ve bookmarked.
The recipes in the book are organized into six chapters: Cravings, The Big Chill, One Hand, One Love, A Full Plate, Home Economics, and Building Blocks. One chapter that will be of particular interest to parents is Home Economics because the recipes are centered around being resourceful. Looking at what you have within your home that you can use to make it function smoothly by feeling empowered to tackle tantrums, playtime, and self-care. Is there such a thing as a recipe for instant, immense joy? Just ask the child who you are making play dough, bath paint or potato stamps for. Flynn and Knight encourage the reader towards mindful consumption with ways to make beeswax wraps, bath bombs, basic all-purpose cleaner, or A Calming Face Mask. All these feats of ingenuity are shared with the reader.
Sometimes I feel like a bit of a crank because my daughter enjoys banana bread but at some fundamental level, I can’t seem to make myself want to bake it. It was one summer we took the train from Ottawa to Toronto, and she had the opportunity to have some banana bread from the food cart as it was passing our seats. She explained to me how delicious it was and wondered why I never made it at home. So, when I saw the recipe in the book for Chocolate Chip Banana Cake, I took it as an opportunity to bake a little some thing that I knew my daughter would enjoy. Since the cake is baked in a 9 x 13” pan there is enough to enjoy warm from the oven and to freeze a little bit for later. Is there any better combination than chocolate chips and banana bread? Needless to say, my daughter loved this cake. There were other delightful treats from the book that we adored – the Peanut Butter Marshmallow Squares and the Ginger Cake were perfection. (As a side note, for anyone unable to eat gelatin, I bought some lovely gelatin-free marshmallows online to use in the squares recipe).
The authors do a great job of offering some recipes that can be prepped ahead of time, with little fuss. Being able to make a meal before you need it (the Cashew Cream Overnight Oats for instance) or prepare components to be assembled later (as is the case with the Fried Halloumi Plate with Green Beans, Potatoes and Jammy Egg, Lemon Vinaigrette, or Pizza Dough) is so helpful. Other recipes such as the Flakey Biscuits w/ Sausage Gravy take a bit more time but are worth every moment spent making them. I used veggie sausage to make the gravy and this little substitution worked well. The gravy was thick and rich, and paired so well with the buttery, flakey biscuits. While I made this recipe for my family one cool, late spring evening I’m looking to make it again once fall rolls around.
Maybe it’s a little early in the year to be saying this but, I’ve enjoyed reading and cooking from How to Eat With One Hand so much that I’ll definitely add it to my list of favourite books of 2021. Christine Flynn and Emma Knight do such a wonderful job offering timeless recipes for busy people while their stories work to remind us with their honest conversations that parenthood is challenging and that’s okay. Some of this knowledge is not innate but it’s about helping each other find our way. And while the book is aimed at expectant and new parents, I found so much of the book to be applicable to lots of other situations. When Knight talks about using automatic taps in public washrooms that won’t turn on in the introduction: “You try going closer to the faucet, further from the faucet, waving your hands in front of the sensor and under neighbouring taps – to no avail. Maybe someone a few taps down is washing her hands successfully as if there’s nothing to it. A lot of early motherhood can feel like that.”(2) I feel like this is as true of life in general as it is for motherhood but having people like Flynn and Knight looking to help people find their footing is a kindness we all need.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Penguin Canada 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.
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