I’ve been cooking with Silas a lot more lately. He’s enjoying it, and I’m … trying to.
He got lots of kitchen stuff for Christmas–real tools, not playthings. Katie got him a little whisk, some spatulas, and a rolling pin, as well as making him an apron.
Mom got him a cookbook I had placed on his wishlist. She told me she was a little disappointed when it came, because it was “thin.” Well, thin it may be, but it is packed, and we love it. I thought I would write a review here.
The book is Kids in the Kitchen, by Sara E. Cotner and Kylie D’Alton. I read their blogs (Feeding the Soil and How We Montessori, respectively), and was excited to get their book. I believe the proceeds are going to help start a public Montessori school in Austin.
Mom was right–it’s a slender volume. However, compared to the many other cookbooks for kids that I have seen, it doesn’t have much filler. The margins are tight. The font is readable, but not huge. It opens with an overview of Montessori and the role of practical life activities. It describes the various kinds of tools you might want to have for your little chef, including ideas on storage and acquisition. Before getting into the recipes, the authors take time to detail the skills necessary for the recipes–stirring, chopping, rolling, etc.
This skills section, and the recipes themselves, exemplifies what is hard about Montessori and great about this book. One of the challenges I have in trying to have a Montessori mindset in teaching Silas is that you have to break every task into its tiniest steps and think through each one. It reminds me of the classic computer programmer interview question: “Tell me how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
I sat in on a few of these interviews. This is the way that portion usually goes:
“Well, you get some bread and–”
“Uh, okay well, it’s a baked product made from flour–”
“Right, so I take some flour, toss it in the oven at 350 and that’s going to be bread?”
This book has done the work of breaking that down, and that’s why I love it. With photos for each tiny little step, they lay out all of the skills and the recipes. Practically every recipe begins with “wash the vegetables,” and there is a photograph of a child’s hands washing vegetables. They’re oriented and cropped so that it’s easy to see exactly what the hands are doing. A non-reader could easily follow all of the recipes.
The recipes themselves aren’t groundbreaking, but there were a few in there that I hadn’t ever thought of, like a salad of grated apple and grated carrot. It sounds good and would be good practice for introducing the box grater.
So far, most of what I’ve gotten from the book is a reminder that there is a lot Silas can already do to help in the kitchen and some guidance as to how to help him help me. At this point, that is all we need.