Starting from Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking by Sarah Elton and illustrator Jeff Kulak (Owl Kids 2013) is just the book for a budding young chef. It’s not a cookbook – but a book about cooking and responsibility in the kitchen. So, if your child is graduating from stirring a bowl of brownies to wanting to get breakfast or dinner on the table for the rest of the family – Starting from Scratch will guide them carefully to safely taking control.
The book starts with science – what taste is, why there are different cuisines around the world. Sarah goes over the introduction of corn, tomatoes, and potatoes to Europe following Columbus’ discovery of the New World, and peoples in the New World began to eat Old World grains and foods. She introduces terms like “locavore”:
They believe that it’s better to support family farmers who grow food sustainably in their local areas rather than investing all the energy and resources needed to grow food on big, faraway farms and ship it to the supermarket. (p. 31)
The next chapters go over the science and the math that is behind recipes. Finally, Sarah goes over pantry items, tools, diet and health. Each chapter is broken up with illustrations, short, bolded summaries, and questions directed at kids. Adults may already know how to read a recipe, but Sarah teaches kids how to understand one – what a substitution is – how to increase the yield proportionally, and so on.
Are there recipes? Sarah includes a few recipes for Quick and Simple Pasta Sauce and Yummy Lentil Soup (p. 90) and two sweeter recipes: Never-Buy-Cereal-Again Granola and Outside-the-Box Oatmeal Cookies (p. 91). The point is not how to cook these particular recipes, but how to approach any cookbook – and how to be safe and happy in the kitchen. Starting from Scratch is a very good place to start.