Molasses Muffins and Cheesy Turkey Pie: My Review of Too Many Cooks

By Katie, 5:55 am

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?

AND

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?

32 Responses to “Molasses Muffins and Cheesy Turkey Pie: My Review of Too Many Cooks

  1. Lauren says:

    Sounds like a great cookbook, but I do have to admit. I really can’t look at cookbooks without pictures. I wonder why they even bother with them. Recipes just don’t do anything for me unless I can see them.

    • Katie says:

      I agree. But since this book is part-cookbook, part-memoir, it didn’t seem quite so bad.

  2. Tina says:

    Okay. This book sounds about perfect for me. :D

  3. It sounds like a pretty cool book!
    I strive for calm while multitasking in the kitchen as well, it’s a work in progress!

  4. Jessica says:

    i love it! i cook with my little guy all of the time. not only does it teach him his way around the kitchen but he is also more inclined to try food that he had a hand in making.

    also, with little boys they are BIG fans of being “big and strong” and jake will eat any foods that will help him get there : )

  5. sounds awesome. i can’t wait to read all of these books. it seems like there are so many cooking memoirs coming out and i was kind of confused as to how these authors are combining recipes with their life stories but i am looking forward to reading them for myself.

    • Katie says:

      In this book, each chapter goes through a different story, and it ends with the recipe(s) discussed in that story. It actually works really well, I think!

  6. This sounds like a really interesting book. I’ve heard of a few like this – ones that combine narrative with recipes – and I’m curious as to how the authors manage to weave those together. I am working toward the trusting my cooking intuition. I still rely heavily on recipes due to the trauma of several bad cooking incidents that my family will not let me live down. But as I get more confident, I’ve been trying new twists on things!

  7. Suzy says:

    That sounds like a really cool (and relatable-2 kids here) book!
    Somehow I REALLY lucked out with my toddler…she loves veggies. She’ll raid the fridge looking for lettuce!

  8. I’ve never heard of this, but it sounds like something I would love. I, too, am working off intuition lately and am quite impressed with myself :smile: Cooking shouldn’t be difficult. It should be fun!

  9. runblondie26 says:

    That sounds like a great cook book. My daughter went from being a really good eater to being quite picky in the past few months. I stir pureed fresh baby spinach, steamed cauliflower, or canned pumpkin into most of her foods now, so she gets a serving of veggies at each meal (It’s very easy to do with eggs, yogurt, baked goods, pasta, potatoes, and of course casseroles). I hope one day I’ll be able to get her to appreciate veggies without having to sneaking them to her.

  10. i’ve heard of this book before but haven’t read it…i feel like i should probably not read books about raising families until we start having kids because otherwise i want kids immediately! is that weird? hope not… ;)

    • Katie says:

      Haha that’s exactly what happened to me while reading this book! I was talking to Dave about kids/babies CONSTANTLY! ;)

  11. Mo says:

    Hmmm I might have to check it out! It sounds educational haha. I agree though – I’m so jealous of cooks who don’t break a sweat when they’ve got 10 different things going at once. I freak out a little when I’ve got two going at once. ;)

  12. This book sounds awesome, I agree with following your taste buds. I hardly measure anything. My 4 yr. old has been in the kitchen with me from the beginning, she wasn’t picky up until she was 3 yrs. old and then all her old favorites (vegetables and even oatmeal) became “yucky.” have to get creative and incorporate the vegetables into her food for example, Mac N’ Trees (broccoli) also, I let her pick out the fruits and veggies for the week and she helps me search for a recipe online for them. She really enjoys cooking and to see the outcome of the recipe.

  13. McKella says:

    I’m adding this to my reading list.
    I’ve worked with kids for a few years and I’m currently a nanny for my six cousins. The two youngest are 3 and 7 and though their family eats incredibly clean food (my uncle owns a few health food stores and grows/raises a lot of their food) they aren’t the most adventurous eaters. They’re allowed to eat whenever they’re hungry and we don’t force them to eat at mealtimes. We give them the chance to try new foods, but they mostly choose what they eat and they usually pick nutritious foods. Sometimes they try new things, sometimes they don’t. We let they’re palates develop naturally.

  14. OMG combining two my loves; reading books and blogs! That is a pretty amazing blog. Thank you for posting about it, and about what sounds like an amazing book. I feel that I can trust bloggers reviews of books over the ones that I read on Amazon. I may have to look into joining the bloggersbookclub :)
    This book sounds like one I would read. I have this fear that when I have kids, they are going to hate and refuse to eat the foods that my husband and I eat. Me being me, I want to start early and learn as much as I can on how to address these thoughts and ways to improve kids eating habits.
    One thing that I want to teach to my kids, that I am proud to say my parents taught me; you must try a food at least once. If you don’t like it then you don’t have to eat it. But how will you know if you like it unless you try it. This mentality has carried over to others areas of my life, I hope it does for my future kids :)

  15. I have not read or heard of this cookbook but it greatly interests me! I have similar views about expanding my future families tastebuds and opening their minds to try all types of cuisines! Thanks for the review!

  16. homecookedem says:

    I have an autographed copy of this book!!!!! I won it the summer before last from a giveaway on KathEats’ blog! I loved it. It really made me excited about cooking and feeding my future children. I hope I get my kids to be foodies like me!! :)

  17. Liz @ Blog is the New Black says:

    Cheesy turkey pie sounds so good!

  18. This book sounds good! I wish I had more time to read for pleasure during the semester!

    I really hope I’ll be able to raise my future kids to enjoy and appreciate food. I want to be the kind of mom who cooks and bakes with her kids, and hopefully this will give them an interest and curiosity about food. And I suppose I can always lure them with baked goods if I have to. ;)

  19. Sarah says:

    The Cheesy Turkey pie looks delicious :) I want my mom to make it for me now!

    I remember growing up and helping my mother in the kitchen especially during the Holidays. And I’d always want to eat whatever I helped make even if it had ingredients that I didn’t like just because I helped create it. I might have to pick up this book at the library to store away some ideas for my future children!!

  20. This book sounds like it’s right up my alley.

  21. Shawnee says:

    I definitely want my kids to be good eaters when it comes to trying new foods. I will pick this book up when I get closer to that time in my life. :)

  22. Sarah says:

    That book sounds right up my alley. I don’t have kids, but I want them!

  23. [...] the book I recently reviewed, Too Many Cooks, the author shares that her husband has an utter disdain for cooked fruit, in any form. A life [...]

  24. I’ve never heard of this book but it sounds fun. And anything with recipes never hurts. I love that there’s a blogger book club.

  25. Katie, So fun to read how inspired you were by Emily Franklin’s book. I can really tell how much you enjoyed reading her book through your post.
    I agree. Her perfection did get frustrating at times, but what an inspiration, right? I mean, it made making anything nearly doable.
    I am SO going to try Culver Pie next week.

  26. [...] at Health for the Whole Self , asks “have you ever read a book that just made you feel good? One that you couldn’t wait [...]

  27. jaime says:

    i hope when i try out some of these recipes they end up looking as good as your version. sadly, my last attempt in the kitchen ranked a “mommy! this is yuck” from my son…

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