Have you ever read a book that just made you feel good? One that you couldn’t wait to pick back up because you knew you’d be grinning with each turn of the page? Too Many Cooks is one of those books.
I recently joined a group called the Bloggers’ Book Club, figuring that anything that combines my love of reading with my love of blogging must be a good thing. This month the book club provided me with this lovely little gem called Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes, by Emily Franklin.
Although this book contains recipes, to call it a cookbook would be a huge understatement. It is, as Franklin herself describes it, an “eating book,” or a “narrative of family eating.” The premise is simple: Franklin dedicates a year to expanding her family’s culinary horizons; she wants to show her children that sampling new foods and exploring new cuisines can be one of life’s purest joys.
But even though the focus is on the unknown, both the stories and the recipes are extremely accessible. Franklin shows how basic ingredients can be combined quickly and easily to produce a myriad of different flavors and textures. She illustrates how children (and husbands!) can learn to love new foods by combining them with familiar ones. And most of all, Franklin demonstrates the fact that good cooking need not be burdensome; indeed, keeping a carefree attitude in the kitchen often produces the most delicious results.
I’ve made two of her recipes and bookmarked at least a dozen others. This Cheesy Turkey Pie (referred to as “Culver Pie” in the book, after the town where Franklin acquired the recipe) is an easy but hearty meal that would certainly leave even the pickiest eaters satisfied.
And these Molasses Muffins, with a touch of brown sugar on top, have just the right amount of sweetness.
Franklin’s stories have encouraged me to rely less on exact recipes and more on the intuition of my taste buds. Fittingly, I served the molasses muffins as a side to an impromptu meal of white hominy topped with baked beans and sweet potatoes. No recipe, no formula – just a great meal off the top of my head.
I only wish the text was accompanied by photos of the food! Although honestly, I was already drooling all over the pages without them.
I will admit, however, that on a few pages I felt a twinge of frustration; it seemed that Franklin was occasionally forgetting that her readers might not have her level of experience in the kitchen. The writer has both a personal and professional background in cooking, and the ease at which she maneuvers large holiday meals can certainly spark some envy. I strive for Franklin’s degree of calm amidst two burners, the oven, and the food processor all going at once.
Cooking aside, perhaps the best part of Too Many Cooks is the way it seamlessly switches from baking to parenting, from making dinner to teaching children important life lessons. Franklin eloquently writes that “cooking, like parenting, is sometimes a leap of faith – that the dough will rise, that the tenderloin won’t be too rare or too brown, that the wobbly Jell-O will set…That babbles and drool and mumbling baby sounds will form, one day, all of a sudden, into a single word that will alert you to all that lies ahead.”
I am not yet a parent (although it is no secret that I cannot wait to become one!), but this book got my wheels turning about how I will teach my future children about food, about the pleasure of eating, about the excitement of new dishes and new restaurants. It also has me on a mission to discover more interesting, tasty ways of preparing vegetables, so that no one at the table – be they age 5 or age 35 – can turn them down.
All-in-all, Too Many Cooks is a fast, enjoyable read for anyone who loves food and wants to share that love with their families.
Are you familiar with this book? Does it sound like one you’d like to read?
If you have children or work with them, what is your strategy for getting them to try new foods? If you want children in the future, how do you think you’ll approach the subject of food with them?