I’m not much of a crafty person, but I do love cooking with the kids. It isn’t just that the food you make is so much healthier and cheaper than anything you could buy. Nor is is solely the fact that cooking is an excellent way to teach maths, literacy, science and nutrition all in one yummy hit. Of course, children benefit from cooking for all those reasons, but for me, the real reason I love cooking with my children is because it’s such an elemental moment of closeness as we work together towards shared nourishment: a form of rich and mutual care. I love the mingled look of pride and nurturing as my daughter presents a plate of cookies to her dad and brothers. I love the way my son juts out his chin and stands tall when he’s complimented on the smoothness of his mashed potatoes. I know they’re learning about the joy of good food and the way in which you can create and care all at once. That’s why shows like Junior MasterChef are so good for kids: encouraging them to think about cooking as something that is cool, kid-friendly, fun and creative.
The first cookbook in the Junior MasterChef series is designed to appeal to children. It’s a solid, stitched book that sits open for use next to the stove or kitchen bench, and has flaps on the front and back cover to hold the recipe page. The pages inside are thick, reasonably waterproof, and full of colourful pictures. Each recipe is neatly laid out with ingredients, steps, chef’s tips, and "mix & match" to encourage a little variation. The book contains 90 recipes and is set up in chapters around occasions such as Mother’s Day Brunch (in case my children are reading this, I’d quite like the hotcakes with rhubarb & pear compote, although the home-made toasted muesli with yoghurt and berries would also do nicely), Pasta Night, Cupcake party, Sunday Roast, Ultimate Chocolate, Footy Night, Afternoon Tea, Father’s Day Feast, Pizza Night, Mum’s Away (as if…), Edible Gifts, and Pool Party. Although the recipes are easily taken out of the context they’re set up in, this kind of grouping will encourage children to think creatively and do some event planning around their meals.