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Kids and books in the kitchen

By Claudia Broman

Food For Thought column

Last month I sent my husband to the library with my daughter to return a stack of books. Among the books was one written by Clyde Watson, “Valentine Foxes,” which we obtained through the Pioneerland Library System.

I was enamored with the book. It tells the tale of a child-full house managed by Mama Fox and all the antics the little foxes get into on Valentine’s Day, including taking over the kitchen and making a cake.

Well, my daughter would have nothing to do with the Watson book being returned, telling my husband, “No! Mom has to make this cake for Valentine’s Day.”

So my own foxes came back home with the book with hope that the holiday would roll around and the cake would be made.

I ran into a few challenges while making the cake — one, the recipe does not say when to add all of the ingredients, so I improvised a bit, making sure wet ingredients went with wet and dry went with dry.

The other thing is, the recipe says it’s good for one 6-cup loaf of pound cake. Well, folks, after I mixed this cake up there was enough batter for two 5-cup loaves.

And, finally, the cake was to bake for 40 minutes or so at 325 degrees.

Not so, my friends, not so.

The cake was still jiggling in the middle after an hour, so my guess is I baked the loaves for more like 75 minutes, after being gently reassured by my mother-in-law that pound cakes take a dastardly long time to bake and after opening the oven door (gasp!) too many times to check on how the cakes were doing.

Despite these minor hurdles, the cakes turned out, as did the glaze included in the book’s recipe, and by the time Feb. 18 came and went, there was no cake to be seen anywhere in our house as it had all been eaten right up.

During the course of the pound cake recipe reading, batter mixing and cake baking, I started reminiscing about all of the kids’ books we’ve read in our home that include recipes.

As messy as it can be to have kids in the kitchen, I love it when my daughter takes the initiative to whisk dry ingredients or appreciates the privilege of stirring the eggs into some sugar when we make cookies.

These are memories I will cherish, and I hope she does too.

There are plenty of resources for parents and other adults to use while cooking with kids.

Take for instance Eric Carle’s “Pancakes, Pancakes!,” which tracks all the ingredients for a batch of pancakes from soil to table through the adventures of Jack, who gathers the ingredients for his mother to make a giant pancake.

And, if you’re going to the trouble of making a giant pancake with your little ones using Carle’s book, you’ll of course have to wait for the pancake to cook, and while you’re waiting you can read “Pancakes for Breakfast,” illustrated by Tomie dePaola, who takes pancakes to a whole new level.

An ESL teacher friend of mine from college uses Lois Ehlert’s “Growing Vegetable Soup” as a primer for English language learning. It apparently works great, though my kids and I love Ehlert’s book for its bold and brightly colored depictions of all the steps it takes to nudge springtime seeds into a late summer pot of yummy soup.

The recipe Ehlert provides is simple enough for young kids to understand, too.

Finally, the kids’ cookbook that started it all for me, way back when — “Kids Cooking: A Very Slightly Messy Manual,” which to this day includes one of the best recipes for chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever encountered.

I recently bought one of these cookbooks online for $4, which included $3.99 of shipping charges. Hard to believe people will sell a book for a penny, but it is the postmodern era.

Claudia Broman lives and writes in Litchfield.

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