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cookbook/kiddo question

My youngest daughter is turning 12. She likes to cook(and eat) a good deal. I'd like to get her a really nice cookbook, but not one that is made for kids. I want one that she can use into adulthood. Problem is I know next to nothing about cookbooks. I get the feeling from the posts I see here that the Joy of Cooking is reputable.

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  1. Joy of Cooking is great, but I think a more modern alternative is Mark Bittman's _How to Cook Everything_. It's a great reference cookbook and a fantastic way to start her collection. I also happen to like the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook for this purpose - although I'd say it's not as comprehensive or useful as a reference as Bittman's book.

    1. I think that either the brand new 75th anniversary edition of The Joy of Cooking or the 100th anniversary edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (by Marion Cunningham) would cover more of the things that a 12 year-old wants to cook than would Mark Bittman's book and both of these books also contain enough sophisticated recipes to be useful as she grows older. They are available at http://www.ecookbooks.com at a 40% discount.

      1. Mark Bittman's "How To Cook Everything." I think this is a no-brainer, given your parameters.

        1. I'd recommend a book that will actually teach her proper, professional cooking techniques in a basic, easy-to-use format. Knife skills and prep and cooking techniques form the basis for cooking enjoyment. My choice would be Maran Illustrated Cooking Basics http://www.maran.com/cooking.htm . It's available at Barnes and Noble, amazon.com, indigo.ca., and others.

          1. I thought of the Fannie Farmer book as soon as I read your post, then saw that poster Nancy Berry had already mentioned it!

            1. What does she like to cook? Don't worry about how long she's going to use it, worry about grabbing her attention now. Or for that matter, technique. Unless you're planning to apprentice her off in the next year or 2, nothing will turn a kid off faster than insisting they do something "the right way."

              I was digging through my mother's cookbooks since I was a little kid, but if I'd been given one, I wouldn't have been very excited about it. On the other hand, I was widly enthusiastic about the Chinese cookbook I got when I was around 25 (that particular book is now very outdated, but I still have 25+ years later.) 10 years from now, she's no longer going to "need" what she was learning through the past decade, but if all works out right, she will have a soft spot for the book, whatever it is.

              Since she's a bit younger and less experienced than that, something a bit "different" than your usual, but that you would enjoy, too, is probably the best bet. That way you can "learn" together and she won't feel like she's being given homework away from school....

              1. Ack: When I was 15. Given the book at 15, not 25!

                1. It occurs to me that one of Marcella Hazan's books might be good. They have a range of recipes from the downright inanely simple (like tomato sauce with onion and butter) to much more complex dishes. She'll get positive feedback quickly (from cooking something that is actually really good instead of "OK for the first try at 12", and she can work her way up as the mood strikes. However she feels now and will feel later in life, I can say with assurance cooking is going to take a backseat to everything else once she hits high school. ;)

                  As for technique, at her age, she'll learn it a lot better if you teach her, as you cook together. Basic stuff like using a knife properly and little "tricks" like cross-slicing an onion to chop it. The rest will come with interest, time and practice. Jacques Pepin's Techniques book and videos is great, but would bore the pants off most 12 year olds unless some thing or 2 happens to grab her attention...

                  1. I want to commend you for encouraging your child to do what she's passionate about! I'm 23, and I've been cooking for as long as I can remember, and I've just always loved doing it. I've used a variety of different cookbooks as a child, but I seemed to use the simple ones with the pictures the most, at age 12 you couldn't pay me to use some of those boring encyclopedia-like cookbooks which are geared toward adults. The one I seemed to like using the most is "The Betty Crocker Cookbook." It's really good for kids and novice chefs of all ages because it's very easy to understand and there are lots of pictures to make complicated techniques seem easier and less intimidating. It might not be the "finest" cookbook in the eyes of a chef, but it's definitely way more appealing to a beginner (especially a kid) than most other cookbooks out there, and it makes cooking fun!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: zen_grace

                      I want to ditto this. My mother isn't much of a chef or foodie, and Betty Crocker was her go-to cookbook as I was growing up. I remember that old orange binder getting pulled off the shelf for pretty much whatever she was going to make. As a result, it was MY first cookbook too, and I have to say it served me really well. Very straight forward, simple recipes with easy to find ingredients; the directions are clear and well illustrated. I never once read it and felt overwhelmed or confused. And while nothing in it is knock your socks off great, quite a bit of it is tasty. I still use the sugar cookie recipe from it for my Christmas cookies every year and get rave reviews.

                      ... Though as I type this, I think the real point here though is buy her a cookbook YOU can to use to cook WITH her. That's how she'll learn the most, and it is certainly how she'll make those memories about cooking with mom that'll last.

                      1. re: zen_grace

                        I used the Betty Crocker cookbook for baking from age 8 up, and I agreee it had handy pictures and good basic recipes for butter cake, etc. But JOC will grow with her (it was the cookbook I bought for myself and took to university). It totally depends on her personality whether she would prefer pictures, stylish presentation, or might actually enjoy an encyclopedic approach (I always loved that kind of thing and still read JOC for fun).
                        A twelve-year old girl, again depending on her personality, is not necessarily going to be a "kid" for much longer.

                      2. My vote is for Fannie Farmer. I used this as a teenager alot. It has lots of good basic recipes for basic foods.

                        1. I was trying to recommend Lora Brody's Kitchen Survival Guide whe this new system wanted to put it into the wrong board.

                          Anyway she wrothe this boo for her sons as they were fleeing the nest. Many good recipes and kitche survival tips. As a Realtor I often give is as a closing gifyt to new and unexperienced buyers who can no longer afford meal out or take out.

                          1. This one is sort of teen-oriented, but it's wide-ranging and interesting enough that I think it would take a long time to grow out of it. Bayless's enthusiasm about cooking really comes through and so does his daughter's. http://www.amazon.com/Rick-Lanies-Exc...

                            Most general cookbooks are so dry that I'd be concerned about them diminishing a kid's interest in cooking.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Chimayo Joe

                              I'm not the orig. poster but love this idea and just decided to order it for my daughter (13) who has lately been "narrowing" what she will eat, not based on fat or calories or anything, just getting fussy. Maybe if I can involve her in the planning..... one can dream anyway :) And just for my two cents, I agree with everyone that it is best to avoid stressing "technique" at this stage; the way one starts to cook is to see a recipe that sounds tasty, and they making it. One doesn't start out wanting to know the right way to hold the knife. My earliest cooking (many years ago) was when cooking chinese food at home was "novel" for some of us Americans and my mom got an illustrated "Wok" cookbook. It was new, intriquing, and fun.

                              1. re: Chimayo Joe

                                I think this is a good one for a 12-year-old as well. Lots of color, interesting recipes, but not so "dumbed down" as to be childish.

                              2. Clueless in the Kitchen by Evelyn Raab. Specifically for teens - definitely not dry.

                                1. I think a good suggestion for a twelve year old is The Good-housekeping Step by Step Cookbook. While I find myself more frequently consulting Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, two editions of the Joy, and Fanny Farmer, as well as several other suggested books, the Good-housekeeping book has many inspiring but realistic photographs as well as, as the title suggests, very clear step by step directions for many kitchen techniques. The recipes are also quite good.

                                  1. Thanks everyone for all your ideas- yous' guys always come thru with inspiration.

                                    1. I'm late here, but I really recommend Nigella Lawson's How to Eat. It's a great reference, really well organized, and more about love of food than very precious about technique. I have Bittman's book too, and I think it's good, but I like the food better in How to Eat, and it tends to be my go-to book, whether I need either inspiration or concrete info on how to do something.

                                      1. What about getting her a cook book that doesn't teach her how to cook?

                                        Instead of getting her a book that will teach techniques, fire her imagination with one that'll give her a glimpse of the infinite variety and wonder that makes up mankind's culinary opportunities. Maybe a book based upon an exotic regional cuisine she has expressed interest in (Indonesian, French, Colonial American, etc). Maybe a book about bread yeast/sourdough culturing. Or the magic of yogurt making. I don't know, but something that is as far from a textbook as you can imagine! ;-)

                                        Someone had a good point up there when they mentioned that you should spend time teaching the techniques youself. Give her wonderment instead.

                                        1. The cookbook I use most is one I got when I was nine from my grandmother.It was blank fill in your recipes type.She wrote the recipes she taught me in it then I have added to it over the years.It always tickles me to see my child handwriting next to my adult version and it always reminds me of why I love to cook.

                                          1. My nephew is a budding chef and I went the opposite route. I got him a subscription to Everyday Food. 1) Lots of pictures help him envision and "plate" the dish. (He loves fancy technical terms). 2) The recipes fit his skill set and are clearly written. 3) The recipes call for foodstuffs not processed goop and nothing particularly exotic. 4) All new content arriving all the time keeps his interest.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: JudiAU

                                              And some of their recipes are quite delicious. Nothing too exciting, but I keep this in the car in case I need to shop and produce a quick, decent dinner.

                                            2. Check this site. It is a Bittman article in the NYT about cookbooks for kids. I think you have to hurry, because they take things off after a couple of weeks, or something.


                                              1. My vote would be for the new edition of the JOY OF COOKING as a good starter, then she can get more "focused" books.

                                                There are also videos that show technique online.

                                                1. At 12, mom was dropping me off at the library and would return to find me knee deep in Betty Crocker, Fannie Farmer and Time Life Books. Photos definately got my attention, five ingredients or less recipes got me started and encouragement from family and friends secured the rest of my food journey.

                                                  By the time I was 14, I was asking for one of those recipe files (remember those CH's) where a set of recipes arrived in the mail just for ME each month until I had a full collection of recipes fit for a king!

                                                  Of course I never made all those recipes but it had an impact on how I learned to prepare food, shopped as a adult and most certainly made the "big world" of food preparation far less mysterious and far more intriguing.

                                                  Take your daughter to the library!!

                                                  1. I just gave the Rick Bayless book (written with his daughter) to my 13 year old for Christmas, hoping to get her more interested in food. I think it's a great choice. Today I asked her to plan the menu; she chose the "France" section (we went there this summer) and with the promise of profiteroles for desert we also are making the potato leek soup. It's a great book for beginners; I never really thought about the difference, since I'm a comfortable cook for with 20 years experience, but this book lays out in a special box the things to do ahead (essentially your mise en place), and even tells you how to chop a potato (rather than "diced"), and the recipes are not at all complicated. Lots of ethnic variety that I think would appeal to teens (though in my case we have to cross out all those with the dreaded "cheese", oh well)

                                                    1. My favorite cookbook as a child was a Good Housekeeping Illustrated cookbook. This would have been around 1977-1979, roughly. The best part was that there were color photographs of many of the recipe (if not all of them). I remember making chicken cordon bleu, homemade fortune cookies, cream puffs and baked Alaska (which absolutely amazed me) in the 6th or 7th grade on Sundays (the only day my mom would let me have the kitchen to myself). Really good memories and the visual aspect of the cookbook was especially important to me (I guess, so I could see what it was SUPPOSED to look like since my mom never made food like that).