The Nourishing Traditions Cookbook for Children
Suzanne Gross and Sally Fallon Morell
Illustrated by Angela Eisenbart
The Nourishing Traditions Cookbook for Children is a beautifully illustrated picture book, healthy recipe cookbook and traditional food adventure guide all in one. Parents and teachers who have been frustrated working around the canned foods, microwaves, nutritionally poor recipes, and sugar-laden treats in other kids’ cookbooks will be thrilled to use this book instead.
Why teach children traditional cooking? The authors state in the introduction, “Children are more likely to eat food they’ve helped prepare. … Knowing how to cook is just as valuable (in life) as knowing how to read or write. Food is one of our basic needs. And the quality of our food has a profound impact on our health and ultimately, the quality of our life. If we don’t teach our children how to cook nourishing foods, who will?”
Keep her words in mind as we take a tour through the lie-flat-on-the-counter, spiral-bound, full-color, charmingly illustrated book.
First stop: the table of contents. Simple enough, it fits on one page yet boasts the most interesting and nutritionally balanced chapter titles your children may ever see in a cookbook — Incredible Eggs!, Mighty Milk!, Butter is Better, The Secret’s in the Soup (ooh, a treasure hunt!), Friendly Ferments, and Meet Your Meat are just a few samples. Also note that instead of naming the cooking chapters as most recipe books do with types of dishes such as main dishes, side dishes, breads, etc., the authors opted instead to name most after food groups such as eggs, milk, butter or vegetables. I believe this move will help our children bond more deeply with the real food they cook and serve; I applaud this choice.
Before we talk about the cooking chapters, let’s review the introduction, kitchen tools and measuring guide sections that start the book off on the right foot. They are helpful for parents and children alike.
In the introduction, the authors address the importance of teaching children to cook and appreciate healthy traditional foods, while warning parents and teachers to be prepared up front for the mess that cooking with children brings. She says the mess and extra time spent is worth the investment so we can raise radiantly healthy children who know how to cook healthy foods themselves. Wise words.
The introduction’s “Tips for Cooking with Children” is especially valuable, as the authors share common sense advice around re-organizing your kitchen with your children in mind. (I particularly enjoyed reading this because my co-teacher Jami Delgado and I say the same thing to parents in our online Real Food Kids class at Traditional Cooking School.) Other recommendations cover routines, how to include baby in the cooking, and a fun way to do meal planning with pictures.
The kitchen tools chapter is the first place you (and your children) will really benefit from Angela Eisenbart’s lovely illustrations. As the authors list and explain the simple tools needed to prepare the traditional food recipes in the cookbook, Eisenbart adds the drawings that bring them to life. And I’m very glad the authors tell us we won’t be needing a microwave to prepare anything in this book!
Our last stop before getting into the food chapters is the measuring guide section. Knowing how to measure food is an important skill. The book explains the differences between volume, weight and number with clear terms and examples that I’m sure kids will pick right up as parents read these pages with them. Eisenbart adds illustrations for every equivalent, as well as every principle, such as the importance of evaluating measured liquids at eye level for accuracy. The latter is depicted by a young girl eyeing a glass measuring cup.
Shall we dive into a cooking chapter now? Let’s choose “Incredible Eggs!” by way of example. The chapter begins by explaining why eggs are a very healthy food and asks the children where their eggs come from. Then the authors introduce the idea that healthy eggs come from healthy chickens who enjoy the same things as healthy children: sunlight, fresh air, exercise, and healthy food. (All beautifully illustrated by Eisenbart.) Other food chapters begin similarly—introducing the children to the food, explaining why it’s a healthy food group, and giving suggestions of what to look for to get the best quality.
The egg chapter rounds out with delightfully illustrated recipes laid out in simple numbered steps. (I find the simple, illustrated recipe layout to be the best feature of this book—children will be able to follow along easily and with much enjoyment.) Recipes in the Incredible Eggs! chapter include Mexican scrambled eggs, hard and soft boiled eggs, deviled eggs, egg-dipped French toast, pizza omelet and eggnog. The authors chose the recipes well. Think of your children grown up. If they know how to cook eggs in all the ways this book teaches, they’ll be perfectly ready to prepare any essential egg dish for their own future families.
This review can’t cover every cooking chapter, so I will choose two more favorites. First, Vibrant Vegetables!. Glancing through the recipes—after reviewing the “why” behind vegetables’ color and nutrition—you can’t help but notice the appealing titles, bound to make kids super interested in eating what they prepare: Carrot Coins, Bright Broccoli, or Asparagus Brushes, for example. The chapter includes recipes for dressings and sauces.
Last, I want to show you inside the Super Snacks! chapter. The authors point out that growing bodies need lots of vitamins, minerals, healthy fat, protein and other nutrients. Besides healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in-between meal hunger should be satisfied with healthy snacks—and this chapter provides many delicious and nutritious snack recipes for nuts and seeds, vegetables, dips, homemade chips, popcorn, crackers, fruits and even Popsicles. Parents who bemoan the lack of healthy snacks that appeal to children need look no further.
Though we won’t go in-depth, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the amazing traditional cooking education that’s contained within the pages of The Nourishing Traditions Cookbook for Children. If you want to introduce your children to nutrient-dense staples of the traditional food lifestyle such as raw milk and cultured dairy; ferments; broth-based soups; pastured meats; traditional grain preparation methods such as soaking, sprouting, and sourdough; and naturally- and low-sweetened desserts, this book is the perfect vehicle to help kids discover traditional cooking—and to begin a life-long devotion to the delicious, healthy food they’ll create.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2015