The Gastrokid Cookbook: Feeding A Foodie Family In A Fast Food World
by Hugh Garvey, Matthew Yeomans
Publisher: Wiley, Country: US
ISBN: 9780470286456, Edition: First, Year: 2009
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

Hugh Garvey and Matthew Yeomans are the creators of the popular gastrokid.com website. The book, like the website, is focussed on cooking for families. While there is an emphasis on simplicity and the use of fresh ingredients, the authors strongly encourage their readers to try new foods. They believe that parents should not prejudge what their children will or will not eat, and that finicky tastes are something to be expected. As a parent of two children, it is an attitude that I agree with. The book’s recipes cover the day’s three main meals, snacks, and picnic food. Many of the recipes are designed to allow children to be involved in the preparation, with the pleasing consequence that techniques are often simple and quick. The book is littered with bits of trivia and tips, and overall, it is a package that many families will find very useful.

Full review

Structure of the book

The book is a 160 page hardback. It is divided into eleven sections; acknowledgements, introduction, vegetables (25 recipes), meat (11 recipes), chicken (9 recipes), fish (11 recipes), pasta and grains (13 recipes), pizza (11 recipes), breakfast (5 recipes), a few more (6 recipes), and the index.

The introduction explains the philosophy of being a gastrokid, suggests ten rules for a harmonious dinner table, and an explanation on their approach to recipes.

Each of the recipe chapters begins with an introductory comment. The recipes are set out with one per page. The recipe title is at the top of the page, ingredients listed on the left hand side in a red box with the instructions on the right hand side. All the recipes have an introduction where the authors may discuss anything from selecting ingredients to a personal anecdote about the recipe. Many recipes also have additional comments, written in red at the bottom of the page, where they may explain a term, technique, or variation. The randomness of these comments provides the reader with a pleasing sense of discovering something new.

About the author

Hugh Garvey is the features editor at Bon Appetit and Matthew Yeomans runs the social media agency, DDB UK. Both are parents and created the gastrokid.com website as a place to help parents find ideas to feed their children in a quick and healthy manner.

How is this book interesting/special/new/useful?

There was once a time when I thought nothing of spending an afternoon preparing dinner. Even on weeknights, an hour preparing and cooking food was an easy way to release the stresses of the working day. But life changed when I started a family. Time becomes precious, and the hours the used to be spent preparing a sophisticated dinner were transferred to paying attention to the children. Minimal ingredients, fast preparation, and tasty for everyone became the focus of cooking.

As many parents know, trying to predict what a child might eat can be an exercise in frustration. Many parents can fall into the trap of preparing separate meals for their kids or continually providing new options as the child rejects each thing that is put on their plate. But Garvey and Yeomans have developed the philosophy of the gastrokid. Briefly, children are curious, parents should encourage them to try things, and allow their child the option to say, “I don’t like this”. They present ten rules for a harmonious dinner table, and I agree with everything they say. Their words are simple common sense, but as any parent knows, common sense can fly out the window when a child frustrates your attempts to feed them.

In so many ways, this book achieves the same aims as the “Take 4 Ingredients” series, but does it with a more healthy approach. By not having an artificial limit of four ingredients, a far wider range of flavours, and ultimately, a far healthier diet is achieved. In a world where fat free and salt reduced is seen as good, Garvey and Yeomans make it clear that you need these two elements for a tasty and healthy diet.

A strong point of this book is their emphasis that if adults can eat something, then so can kids. So beyond the usual child favourites like chicken, meatballs, and pizzas, you’ll find ingredients like baby octopus, prosciutto, and smoked paprika making an appearance.

Some of the recipes have as little as four ingredients (eggs de la vera for one) to as many as a baker’s dozen (Shepherd’s pie). But the techniques are kept simple, which apart from keeping time starved parents happy, also provides the option to get children involved. The authors say that they deliberately kept the recipes imprecise. This allows for a margin for error in preparation and gives the cook an option to modify the recipes as they see fit. However, they do encourage the reader to expand on their cooking abilities by including a basic pizza dough, a gnudi, and a basic curry. Another pleasing aspect of their choice of recipes is their selection of slow cooked recipes. Even the most accomplished chefs would be hard pressed not to give their easy sauerkraut pork ribs or the picnic shoulder of pork, Puerto Rican style a try. If anyone doubts their recipes, it should be noted that their recipe for roast chicken follows the same high temperature technique championed by Judy Rodgers (Zuni Cafe Cookbook) and Thomas Keller (Bouchon cookbook).

What problems/flaws are there?

The main flaw in the book is that the measurements are in imperial and there are no conversion tables in the book. A random search on the gastrokid.com website showed that the book recipes are online. It begs the question, why buy the book? The photography is fairly uninspiring, and probably doesn’t do justice to the recipes. It was also disappointing that there was no dessert section. Surely even kids have a sweet tooth.

Who might enjoy/use this book most?

It’s a shame that the book is titled “The Gastrokid Cookbook” because I believe this book has an audience that is wider than families with young kids. Students and people who are learning how to cook will find this book useful.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 4. Recommended – good
Visual appeal: Okay
Suitability as a gift: If the person is really interested
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