The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes (Phaidon 2009) by Amanda Grant with illustrations by Harriet Russell aims at eight to ten year olds who are ready to try to cook healthy, tasty dishes that are perfect for the whole family to eat.
This isn’t kiddie food, and most of it is not sweet and overly caloric. The step-by-step recipes don’t talk down to kids, and the illustrations are clear and fun. Each recipe also has a photo, as if the book was a diary of recipes.
Amanda borrowed from The Silver Spoon, a popular standard for Italian households, first published in 1950, and available in English from Phaidon as well.
The books starts with a chapter on Lunch and Snacks and works up through Pasta and Pizza, Main Courses and Desserts and Baking. If children are just learning to cook, it’s best to start at the beginning and have them work their way through each chapter, getting more adventurous and confident as the recipes become more complex.
After a few introductory pages, the first recipe is for a simple plate of Prosciutto and Melon (pp. 12-13). It may seem simple, and yet the drawings and steps show how to cut the melon, scoop out seeds, and drape Prosciutto on each plate. Amanda explains that the dish works because it combines salty with sweet so well.
Most kids will jump forward to the recipes for Pizza Dough (pp. 34-35). There is no food processor or honey to speed along the proofing process – it’s all about kneading by hand and watching the dough rise. But they might want to try an Italian version of a quintessential home cooked dish, Baked Macaroni Parmesan (pp. 52-53). The most challenging main course is Roast Leg of Lamb in an Herb Crust with Stuffed Tomatoes (pp.82-83). There is even a drawing of the different herbs so kids can identify them better.
The only thing missing from this wonderful book are photographs of children in the kitchen. Most kids won’t miss them. They will be happy to find recipes that work, and they will be able to cook dishes their friends, siblings, and parents want to eat.
(Photo of Amanda Grant from Northmoor Trust)