The Silver Spoon for Children: Favourite Italian Recipes
by Amanda Grant, Harriet Russell (illustrations)
Publisher: Phaidon, Country: UK
ISBN: 9780714857466, Year: 2009
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

Over the past few years publishers Phaidon have been establishing a presence in the cookbook market. “The Silver Spoon For Children” is their first move into the area of cooking with children. Often, books in this area of cooking, like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “The River Cottage Family Cookbook”, are written for adults as a guide to teaching children how to cook. This book’s approach involves having a child read it, and then prepare the recipes with the aid of an adult. By simplifying the recipes to their essence, and using large pictures and bright colours to grab attention, this book is one that has a great chance of engaging young minds.

The book takes its recipes from “The Silver Spoon”, and is aimed at children aged at least nine years old. The recipes have been tested by children, so parents can be reasonably confident that the recipes will work. As someone who has not been impressed by Phaidon’s cookbooks, this one has been surprisingly good.

Full review

Structure of the book

The book is a 102 page hardback. It opens with essays titled, “Cooking The Italian Way”, “Cooking Safely”, “Equipment and Utensils”, and “Techniques”. The cooking chapters are then divided into sections titled, “Lunches And Snacks” (10 recipes), “Pasta and Pizza” (13 recipes), “Main Courses” (12 recipes), and “Desserts and Baking” (7 recipes).

Each recipe is set out over 2 pages. There is a photo of the final dish, a list of ingredients, and a box with a few comments on the dish. The method is set out in point form, going from left to right across the pages. Each instruction is numbered and accompanied by a drawing. Every page is very colourful and all the words are in a larger than normal font size.

About the author

The recipes are based on those from the classic Italian cookbook, “The Silver Spoon”. They have been adapted by Amanda Grant, a cookbook author who has a column on cooking with kids for “Delicious” magazine.

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

Italian food is possibly the best starting point in teaching children how to cook. There are three key aspects of Italian food that support this. Firstly, children inevitably love Italian food. From pasta to pizza, salads to their pastries, the colours, flavours, and textures appeal to young palates. Secondly, it is a food culture rooted in a tradition of using the best ingredients available and keeping things simple. Finally, the preparation of Italian food is bound to appeal to children. Whether it’s rolling meat into meatballs to flattening dough for a pizza base, bashing basil and pine nuts to make pesto or dusting icing sugar on a cake, the tactile nature of preparing Italian food is one that kids recognise from their own playtime activities.

The book is a very good starting point for parents who want to introduce their children to cooking. The recipes are challenging enough to keep children interested, and with enough allowance for a margin for error if things go a little bit astray in the preparation. The variety of recipes ensures that children will learn about a variety of foods and techniques, and that the book can be used at any time of year.

There are important little details that make The Silver Spoon for Children good. Firstly, the use of drawings and bright colours not only encourages a sense of fun in cooking, but will tempt kids to re-read the book. Secondly, each recipe states the time it should take to make. As any parent knows, kids have surprisingly busy lives, so knowing how much time to set aside for cooking is essential to making the activity worthwhile. Finally, the information on how to cook safely is kept simple. There is no overload of information to confuse young minds.

Many of the dishes will be very familiar, with standards like tomato bruschetta, spaghetti with tomato sauce, and beef stew amongst many others. Parents and children will thoroughly enjoy making the pizza and pasta doughs. The colours of the ingredients in the minestrone soup will make it a favourite, and the fish kebab recipe is so simple that kids could do it after school. It’s not hard to imagine that a particularly keen child could do a three course dinner party for their friends based on the recipes in this book.

What problems/flaws are there?

There are some recipes that could test a child’s enthusiasm. I’m not sure that kids will be that thrilled by having to stir a risotto for twenty minutes. There are risks of disappointment in recipes like potato gnocchi – gnocchi can be tricky for many people at the best of times, and the recipe has the other disadvantage of offering no guide on what potatoes should be used. I am also wary of children preparing recipes that require the handling of raw chicken.

Who might enjoy/use this book most?

While this book is aimed at parents who want to involve their children in cooking, I think that adults who want to learn how to cook will also find this book worthwhile. There are also enough quick and simple recipes that parents might find themselves using the book on a regular basis.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 4. Recommended – good
Visual appeal: Attractive
Suitability as a gift: Quite nice
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The Silver Spoon for Children, Amanda Grant | 2009 | UK, 2.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating

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