Recently I’ve been revisiting old cookbooks that have been collecting dust on my shelves. I found the Strawberry Shortcake cookbook my grandmother gave me in 1980 when I was four years old. When I was a toddler I adored anything Strawberry Shortcake, especially the Lemon Meringue and Blueberry Muffin dolls. I would spend hours setting them up in miniature scenes and creating fairytales about their latest adventures in Strawberryland. I was thrilled when my grandmother gave me the cookbook. Yes, I loved all things Strawberry Shortcake. But, I was truly delighted that my grandmother thought I was old enough and ready to cook with her in kitchen.
I can vividly remember watching her prepare dinner at our family cabin on Whitefish Lake. I would sit and play with my Strawberry Shortcake dolls and watch my grandmother whip up all sorts of things from scratch. She always wore an apron and would quietly hum a 1920s swing tune. Watching her in the kitchen was magical. My grandmother was completely content in the kitchen. It was her domain.
What I love most about this cookbook is that it encourages kids to get in the kitchen, make a mess, and start experimenting with flavors. There aren't any complicated directions that need to be followed. Truly, the whole goal is to engage kids in new and unusual smells, textures, tastes and sights; and to be proud of something they created with their own two hands.
Last weekend we went up to my parent's lake place and I decided it would be fun to re-create the monster sandwich recipe featured in my 1980 copy of Strawberry Shortcakes's Cooking Fun. I gathered vegetables, fruit, deli meats, different types of breads and sandwich spreads and asked them to get creative. At first there was a little bit of hesitancy, but once they let go of their inhibitions their imagination ran wild. It was very interesting to watch my parents, Jeff, Jack and Grace use the different shapes and textures found in the fresh food to create monster hair with roast beef, long stubby carrot noses and peach slice incisors.
My 11-year-old daughter, Grace, just graduated from fifth grade and what she wanted most for graduation was cake decorating tools . Grace uses up all of her screen time to watch shows like Cupcake Wars on the Food Network. Before graduation I was discussing Grace's passion with a work colleague. She suggested that I purchase the cookbook, Cake Bible, to go along with the icing spatulas, piping tips and frosting bags. Grace opened her present the night before her graduation and read the Cake Bible cover to cover. It was fascinating to watch her become engrossed in this cookbook. It hardly has any pictures and there aren't any food star celebrity endorsements. The Cake Bible is just old-fashioned cake recipes. I gave Grace a pack of 100 sticky notes to mark her favorite recipes. She used all 100 notes!
This weekend after making the monster sandwiches Grace embarked on her first solo baking adventure. After four solid hours spent in the cabin's kitchen Grace had made a chocolate buttercream cake with the cocoa espresso whipped cream frosting. I was shocked! It was decadent. It looked and tasted like something I would buy at our local bakery. To go along with the cake Grace also created white buttercream cupcakes. When the cupcakes were cool she cut out the middle of each cupcake and piped in a raspberry coulis. By the way how does she know what a coulis is and how to make one? The Food Network! To finish off the cupcakes Grace made the most heavenly lemon butter cream frosting. Simply divine!
Just like my Strawberry Shortcake recipe book, the Cake Bible encourages us all, big or small, to get in the kitchen, try different flavors and create things with our own two hands.