Cookbook: Picture: Cook. See. Make. Eat. by Katie Shelly
Overall Impression: An unusual, quirky book, with adorable illustrations, and solid, well tested recipes. Though this book is marketed as a general cookbook, I found that it was perfect for cooking with children, even very young ones.
I love and adore my daughter. However, trying to cook with her, especially when I am in a hurry, can be a challenge. I want to spend time with her and we both love cooking, but she can be a picky eater. The majority of the time, I make simple recipes that I know she will eat without a fuss. But sometimes, just sometimes, I'd love to play with a recipe from a cookbook and know she's going to eat it. This does not happen easily.
So when I received Picture Cook: See. Make. Eat., I was delighted. Because even if this book isn't targeted at cooking with kids, I just knew that this would be the book Adz and I would cook from all the time.
Recipes We Tried
- Avocado Toast, p.18
- North African Stew, p.33
- Sweet Potato Fries, p.73
- Ginger Tea, p.88
- Candied Ginger, p.102
What We Loved
This book is a delight. The recipes are simple, easy and fast enough to throw together after a crazy day at work and school. Many recipes come together in under an hour, and don't call for fancy or expensive ingredients.
The book is funny. You can't help but chuckle at some of the little jokes that Katie Shelly peppers (pun intended) throughout the book. The little asides are kid friendly too; I caught Adz giggling at quite a few.
Adz really liked the pictures. Like I mentioned earlier, this book is not specifically targeted towards kids, but there is an element of fun in it. Adz responded well to that. She loved flipping through the recipes, trying to identify ingredients, telling me what the methods were, and even managing to read out a few instructions.
So, not only did I find it useful as a cookbook, I also enjoyed that my daughter was engaged with the act of cooking, and it made her feel useful and important in the kitchen. We even managed to get rid of all those deathly 'suicide hour' whines (if you're a parent, you'll know this hour — the time between getting back from school and getting dinner on the table... everybody is cranky, tired and miserable) and any book that does that is worth its weight in gold.
One of the best ways to get kids to try new foods is to cook with them. We also know that in our increasingly busy lives, we rarely have the time to do this. Any book that encourages this engagement with food, therefore, is a winner. That's exactly what Picture Cook: See. Make. Eat does. It encourages me to get my daughter in the kitchen and not feel rushed. It encourages her to watch, make, understand and feel like she's genuinely helping. And the end result is a happy mom and child, and a healthier family all around.
We have tried many recipes from Picture Cook, and we have our favorites. These sweet potato fries, for example, are simple and delicious, and really quick, as promised. The book also offers us some unusual combinations of flavors like avocado and feta and strawberry and basil.
Adz and I also enjoyed how easy most of the recipes were, and we keep going back to the simpler ones. The recipes definitely feel like they have been tested and tried, so we haven't really had any duds. And the flavours are delicious. Simple, elegant enough to make me feel like I am actually accomplishing something, but also quirky in keeping with the style and theme of the book. It certainly helps that Adz wants to try out all of the dishes we cooked. This has exposed her to dishes that she would have never tried otherwise. Avocado toast, for example, was such a simple idea, but the flavours were really zingy and fresh. And it was a doddle to put together, especially first thing in the morning (when I am certainly not at my best).
It took me a while to get used to cooking from a picture book, as opposed to a traditional cookbook, but I actually got used to it very quickly. The book does have instructions along the end, so in many ways it was just a matter of getting used to the way the images were structured. Think of it as a step-by-step book, just without the photographs and you will get used to cooking from it very quickly. Just like you would with a traditional cookbook, it does help to go over the whole recipe, especially with the slightly more complicated ones like the North African Stew we tried.
I love the cute little color coded index buttons. I could tell at a glance what recipes had what kinds of ingredients; it was an easier way to handle those "what do I cook today?" dilemmas. Most of the recipes in this book are also easily adaptable and can be customized to suit whatever is in your pantry at any given time.
One of the unique sections of this book is the "Thoughts on..." section. These are a set of illustrations on adapting recipes to suit you. For example, "Thoughts on Hummus" offers up several variations on hummus, all using cute little pictures. And 'Thoughts on Pizza' was inspired, with some toppings I wouldn't have thought of.
The book has a good balance between healthy and indulgent dishes, with the majority leaning towards the healthier spectrum. It also has plenty of tips and tricks throughout, including visuals of techniques and little notes on adapting ingredients. I liked how it used various recipes and added instructions on how to use them in other ways.
The candied ginger recipe, was example, was delicious, and made with ginger that I had steeped for my tea.
What could be better
To be completely honest, I don't have a lot of quibbles about this book. Adz and I both enjoyed the idea of using pictures to cook, instead of traditional recipes. However, it still an unique concept in the cookbook world and I don't know how many people will like it or want to to try it out. A lot of us can be traditionalists when it comes to our cookbooks, and this cookbook is new and unusual in its approach.
The book also works perfectly for our family because it is very vegetarian heavy. My partner and Adz are both vegetarian. However, there are very few meat recipes in the book and that may be a problem for other families.
People might miss looking at photographs of the finished dishes. But then again, a lot of my cookbooks don't have photographs, so it's not something that I really care about too much.
I just enjoyed being able to cook with my little girl, show her techniques, and encourage her to get her hands messy and really get a feel for the food that we were cooking together. And once we saw and made... we ate. Which was the best part, really.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Picture Cook: See. Make. Eat. by Katie Shelly
• Visit the author's website: Katie Shelly
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Image credits: Michelle Peters-Jones)