Cooking From Kids’ Books

Books Crosspost Entertainment Geek Culture Parenting

Mallowmelt, from the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, is a thin, blondie-esque cookie topped with a stunningly sweet blanket of marshmallows, butterscotch, chocolate, and sweetened condensed milk. Unicorn Poop cookies, as suggested by Dana Simpson in one of her Phoebe and Her Unicorn books, are sugar cookies with food coloring and crunchy rainbow sprinkles. The spanokopita recipe in Thrones and Bones: Skyborn is written as if it’s written by the dwarf king in the book, so includes steps such as “finely slice the spinach with your axe” and “now go off and do kingly things for 10-15 minutes.” And, of course, Edward sells out his brother and sisters to the White Witch for some Turkish Delight in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Food in children’s books is just as evocative as in adult books. But for whatever reason, I tend to find more recipes in kid’s books than in their adult equivalents. Maybe I’m just reading the wrong books!

I love to cook, but I’ve long avoided cookbooks themed around some imaginary world. You won’t find a Star Wars or Harry Potter cookbook on my shelves. However, stick a recipe in the appendix of a children’s book (or on the author’s website), and I’ll happily make it with my daughter. I guess I feel like it’s a stronger connection to that particular book and those characters.

We’ve found some fun recipes this way, and when they’re cooked, the whole family gets to enjoy them and discuss the book. Our daughter enjoys the process, the dessert-y items, and reliving moments from the books. As a bonus, the published recipes usually make more than our family of 3 could eat in a reasonable time, so we get to practice fraction math when cooking.

Here’s a quick look at some of the food we’ve cooked from the books she’s read

  • There are lots of middle-grade books about magical bakeries, but one with a special place in our hearts is the Love Sugar Magic series, starring a family of Texas brujas with diverse powers. It’s a good thing there are recipes in the book, because the books talk about the bakery’s wares a lot. We made the pan de muertos from the back of the first one, and it was a fluffy treat.
  • As noted above, the “Unicorn Poop” cookies from Phoebe and her Unicorn are just sugar cookies with food coloring and glittery sugar. They’re labor intensive, as you have to roll out logs of each color of dough and wind them together. I thought about doing an icebox cookie version, but I realized the, uh, organic nature of the hand-rolled cookies was a part of the charm.
  • Midsummer’s Mayhem stars another magical baker, but her magic is partly about her palate for unusual flavor combinations, and the recipes follow suit. We made the orange-thyme-chocolate cookies and shared them with family members. Given how protagonist Mimi’s food-critic dad is, by virtue of a spell, reduced to describing all the food he eats with a single word, it seems only natural to say that the cookies were scrumptious.
  • If you, like me, wondered what on earth “squashed fly biscuits” could be when reading about Daisy Wells’ favorite bunbreak treat in the Murder Most Unladylike series, find a copy of Cream Buns and Crime (UK only at the moment), which contains recipes not just for these shortbread-y cookies with currants pressed into the dough but other meaningful treats from the series.
  • In addition to mallowmelt, we’ve made chocolate-mint ripplefluffs and lushberry juice from Keeper of the Lost Cities. Over-the-top sweetness continues in the ripplefluffs, but the lushberry juice was a nice, kid-friendly drink.
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