I spent the better part of my formative years with my nose in a book, and in my case, many of them had some relation to food or cooking. My mother was the book buyer for my parents' toy store (yes, I grew up in a toy store!), and she had a knack for picking out the best titles to spark my imagination.
Here are five of my childhood favorites, all of which may inspire little ones to get curious in the kitchen!
Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola
Oodles of noodles, a charming story of grandmotherly love, and captivating illustrations are more than enough to recommend Strega Nona. It still amazes me how, with such apt storytelling, Tomie de Paola is able to tell this sweet tale while weaving in subtle details of life in a small Calabrian town.
A read-through will spark philosophical discussions about patience, the follies of mob mentality, and how to metedole out justice, and it'll give your kids a craving for a big pot of pasta, too. Like Strega Nona herself, this book is magic.
Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin
Husband and wife team Wende and Harry Devlin wrote and illustrated this story back in 1971, and its lessons of inclusiveness and forgiveness still ring true today. The descriptions of classic New England Thanksgiving dishes will get everyone excited for the holiday, and the famous cranberry bread recipe at the end of the book is fantastic. I've made it many times over the years, each time thinking fondly of Mr. Whiskers and the other vibrantly-depicted characters in this wonderful book.
Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak
Short, sweet, and fantastical, Chicken Soup with Rice has a rhyming poem for every month of the year. Younger readers will have fun imagining all of the silly situations our unnamed protagonist experiences on his year-long journey, all the while enjoying his favorite dish.
Kids Cooking by the editors of Klutz and Jim M'Guinness
Kids Cooking is spiral-bound to make it easy for small hands to flip through both in casual reading and in the kitchen. It's also illustrated every step of the way, from ingredients to finished dishes, and even includes a colorful set of measuring spoons to make the dishes contained within. I learned to cook from the 1987 edition of this book, which is no longer in print but still widely available in used condition.
The helpful "Kitchen Rules" section refers to a "grown up assistant" — you'll see them return later in recipes requiring chopping, taking things out of a hot oven, and other potentially dangerous activities. Oh, and there's even a section at the end for non-food recipes like Giant Soap Bubbles and Finger Paints. Cover-to-cover fun, it's a great one for getting everyone involved in cooking.
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
I've talked about my amazing babysitter Jeanette here before — in addition to whipping up a mean Orange Julius, she always had the most engrossing activities planned for me and my brother. One afternoon, she read Stone Soup to us, and then took us to the grocery store, where we got to choose a whole bunch of crazy ingredients to go into our very own Stone Soup.
Did this list take you on a trip down memory lane? I'd love to hear about your favorite kids' cookbooks!