Claudine Pepin, daughter of famous chef Jacques Pepin, has created a cookbook designed to encourage kids to cook with their parents. According to her father, “The moment for a child to be in the kitchen is from the moment they are born.” Kids Cook French by Claudine Pepin with illustrations by Jacques Pepin is a delightful primer in French cooking created by a home chef who began her culinary exposure at a very early age.
The Book Contains
The contents of this cookbook are divided into four sections.
- “To Start” contains four appetizers
- “To Continue” offers 10 main dishes
- “On the Side” includes nine side dishes
- “To Finish” contains seven desserts
Pepin offers a page of menu plans for each season of the year and a double page spread for writing notes that supports the theme found that cooking should be a learning experience.
I prepared the Clafoutis on page 72 for dessert. The authenticity was challenged a bit by substituting fresh raspberries for fresh cherries, but in Colorado in April, one often needs to make substitutions for fresh fruit and vegetables. The recipe was easy to make, accurate to the directions, and delightful for all who partook.
The Book Teaches
Every recipe is organized on a double page spread with the left page written in English and the right page written in French. The directions are clear, the ingredient list is easy to follow, and the tips on each page will guide the cooks into becoming more kitchen proficient.
Although there are no photographs, every page offers a painted illustration of some ingredient related to the recipe by Jacques Pepin. Claudine’s young daughter, Shorey, also contributed drawings.
The tip on page 60 reads: “If you are having guests, try to do as much in advance as possible. Set the table, choose your plates for each course, and decide if the meal will be served family style or individual plates carried to the table for each course. Also, clean up as much as you can before your guests arrive. You’ll be able to spend more time with your guests and less time later cleaning the kitchen.”
Each page containing a recipe is scattered with handwritten English/French translations: beef=bœuf, egg noodles= pates aux œufs, mushrooms = champignons. It provides a nice way to brush up on French.
Kids Cook French is the only cookbook I’ve reviewed without photos. It’s very unusual for our visual society. When enticing children’s enthusiasm about reading, photos are usually the first draw. The lack of photographs doesn’t prevent a child from using this cookbook with her parent, but I don’t think kids would voluntarily flip through the pages to choose a recipe to try and photos would have made a big difference.
The teaching potential of this cookbook is huge. Having the identical translation from English to French side-by-side offers the perfect opportunity to cook bi-lingually. However, there are no pronunciation guides. Without a background in French, the reader is left on her own to introduce the menu at the table.
Claudine Pepin has created Kids Cook French for parents who:
-want their children to join them in the kitchen
-have English children who are learning to speak French or visa versa
-refuse to cook ‘kid meals’ that are low in nutrition and flavor
-want to brush up on their French vocabulary skills
-desire to bring some international dishes to the table
She writes a note to parents saying, “As a society, we have tried to encourage kids to eat healthy foods by hiding them, disguising them as something else, or pouring processed cheese sauce on them, and I think we do a disservice to children by doing so.”
In her introduction to kids opening the book, she writes, “As you wander the pages of this little book, I hope you get excited and inspired to cook for your family, friends, and yourself. Family mealtimes are essential to communicate, to bond together, to laugh, to argue, to share, and to enjoy life.”
The recipes I prepared were tasty and presented nicely, which makes them ideal for a family meal. Parents with sophisticated palates might find the recipes a bit bland, but a child will be more likely to eat sautéed white fish and secret sauce (page 46) if the white wine flavor is more subtle and less pronounced.
Claudine Pepin’s Kids Cook French provides a platform for creating your own special family meals prepared with love by many hands. — by Lisa George, RFT Cookbook Editor, Latigo Ranch, Kremmling, Colorado. Photo by Hannah George