I love this book. How’s that for a review? Let’s forget the contents for a moment, and judge it by its cover. Solidly constructed, with a thick “wipe clean” matt finish (even the pages wipe clean), ring-bound (as all cookbooks ought to be), retro coloured light green and pink with a rich plaid binder, and a great cartoon cover, Deceptively Delicious’ enticing, well designed look promises fun and encourages you to put down everything else and dive in straightaway, giving a wee hint that this is a fast, very light book written by a celebrity wife and just presented in a pretty package.
But there you’d be wrong. This is no ordinary cookbook. If you’re a parent, this book will provide you with an extremely clever way of tricking your children into eating better. The basic premise is that you create a series of healthy purees, based mainly on vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, beetroot, spinach, and butternut squash, and then you put them in just about everything you cook. That includes desserts. It’s ingenious, and your children not only won’t care that you tricked them when you allow them to have seconds of chocolate cake, they’ll positively emulate you and come to appreciate, eventually, that avocado, broccoli, beetroot and chocolate are all symbiotic part of life’s food treats.
But even the fact that Deceptively Delicious is all about making your family healthier without a hint of coercion isn’t the reason why I love it. I love it because the recipes are sensational. What Seinfeld doesn’t tell you is that the vegetables actually add significant, subtle flavour, depth, and richness to your food. The chocolate cupcakes with avocado and cauliflower were the best tasting cupcakes I’ve ever made. That’s my fussy son Oliver’s assessment. He knew they had avocado in them too because he saw me making them and nearly had a fit when I added sugar and chocolate to the avocado. The chocolate cake with beetroot was amazingly moist, light and tasty. The lasagne was superb. The burgers tender and sweet. The chicken nuggets were more moist and crisp with the puree than they are without it. And today, packed in my children’s lunchboxes, is the best tasting gingerbread you’ll ever have, made with with broccoli and carrots. It’s the addition of vegetables that make the food taste so good. And suddenly my children are singing my praises to their jealous friends, and their praise feels almost as good as knowing that my children’s treats are at least as healthy as their sandwiches. Go figure.
The book is very nicely set up, and Jessica writes in intimate, conspiratorial prose that is animated by her sense that all children deserve to eat well, and all parents deserve to enjoy mealtime without having to shout or whine. Joy Bauer is the nutritional guru who has been employed to ensure that all of the meals are balanced and really healthy, and she also provides a fair amount of information on things like what kinds of nutrients each type of fruit or veg provides, how much children need to have a day (more than you might think), and how to prepare foods so as to retain the most nutrients. Seinfeld provides information on how to pre-prepare purees so that they are always ready when you need to make a quick meal, how to stock your pantry, and where you can substitute. The recipes include breakfast dishes, main courses, and desserts, all of which are commented upon by often humorous (as you’d expect) quotes from Jessica’s children and husband.
In between the recipes are parenting, and time-saving tips from Jessica, and a recurring section titled “(other) Mothers Know Best”, full of other healthy suggestions for making mealtime more healthy and easier. Nearly all of the tips are useful and innovative. All in all, between the perfect presentation, the easy to swallow prose, and the superb, simple, but unbelievably healthy recipes, this book is a winner. I can’t see it leaving my benchtop in the foreseeable future.