"If you're a parent, you don't have time to read cookbooks. That's why we wrote this one." That's how Hugh Garvey and Matthew Yeomans start their new book. It's a pretty good way to sum up this slim, well-designed, and highly entertaining book for parents fed up with feeding their youngsters.
It is, after all, not really a cookbook. The recipes are more ideas than real recipes (we'll show you one later to demonstrate) but that doesn't mean they're not enormously helpful. It's great to have a bit of inspiration for a quick meal, when parents' creativity and energy flag. The authors have a wry, clipped tone to their writing (honed by their work on the blog Gastrokid and their own day jobs; Yeomans is a professional writer, and Garvey is features editor for Bon Appétit.)
Title & Publisher: Gastrokid, by Hugh Garvey and Matthew Yeomans. Published by Wiley, 2009.
First impressions: This is a small, nearly square book, and with its chalkboard photo cover and bright, primary-colored illustrations and photos, it looks and feels like a kids' book. The photos are bright and vivid and refreshing in their simplicity. We really loved the photos in this book.
Number of recipes: About 85.
The angle: The authors start out with their 10 Gastrokid Rules, including: "Never Call a Kid a Picky Eater." (It just gives him an excuse to refuse stuff.) "Don't Take It Personally That Your Kids Despise Your Cooking." (Hmm.) "When In Doubt, Add Salt, Fat, and Acid." (We agree.) The authors take a very freehand approach to cooking (measuring spoons are just an extra thing to wash). So their recipes are very, very short and simple sketches of quick dishes to make on short notice, like quick pasta dishes, crispy cod, grilled Japanese eggplant, and Tuscan steak for toddlers.
The other stuff: Not too much else; the above-mentioned rules, though, are entertaining and a good way to open the book.
Strengths: The authors' no-nonsense, sensible yet fresh approach to cooking for kids in a way that will still feed you pretty well too.
Recipes for right now: Fierce Potatoes, The-Please-the-Entire-Family Three-Zone Pizza, Herby the Love Omelet, Fast Fish Cakes, and Violet's Crumble.
Recommended? Yes. Cooking for toddlers isn't so different from cooking for ourselves, on a busy weeknight, so we wholeheartedly recommend this inspiring and bracing little book of ideas for feeding people (big ones and little ones) really fast and really well.
• Buy the book: Gastrokid, $15.61 at Amazon
More Books for Gift-Giving
• Early Stocking Stuffer: Cookie Craft Christmas
• For the Pasta Lover: Pasta Sfoglia
More 2009 Book Reviews
• The New Portuguese Table by David Leite
• Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen
• Clean Food by Terry Walters
• On Food & Cooking by Harold McGee
• Secrets from My Tuscan Kitchen by Judy Witts Francini
• The Perfect Fruit by Chip Brantley
• Heard it Through the Grapevine by Matt Skinner
• Big Food by Elissa Altman
• Edible Schoolyard by Alice Waters
• The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
• Milk by Anne Mendelson
• The New Steak by Cree LeFavour
• A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
• Fresh Food From Small Places by R. J. Ruppenthal
• Eat Feed Autumn Winter by Anne Bramley
• Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo