My mother, Judy (short for “Judith”), loved to cook. Her mother, Gert (short for “Gertrude”) did not love to cook, so as soon as Judy was tall enough to stir ingredients in a pot, she began making things that tasted good to her.
Judy had a best friend named Barb (they were close buddies their whole lives, until my mother passed away a few years back). Barb’s father, Bill Knapp, started a restaurant in Battle Creek, Michigan, that grew to become quite a famous chain of family restaurants in the Midwest and in Florida. (My favorites were their scalloped potatoes and, hands down, the Bill Knapp’s chocolate cake, which they provided for free on your birthday if you joined their birthday club.) Judy and Barb loved to cook together, and I (and many others) loved to eat what they made.
As soon as I could stir a wooden spoon in a bowl (sometimes while standing on a chair), my mother had me helping in the kitchen. She would measure all of the ingredients and set them on the counter, and then tell me when it was time for each (a 2-cup measure of flour, a teaspoon of baking soda, etc.). At one point when I was in elementary school, she asked me if I thought I could cook. She told me that my response was, “If you can read, you can cook.”
Now, my husband comes from Italian stock, and he is very good at adding a pinch of this, or a pinch of that to make things taste just right. I, on the other hand, am a true cookbook cook. I tend to use the exact measurements that the recipe specifies. But I love to cook. And I realized that both Dessert First and The Year the Swallows Came Early feature true food-lovers and chefs-in-the-making. Dessert First even gives you the recipe for Double-Decker Chocolate Bars on the back of the book’s dust jacket. (That's author Hallie Durand, at left.)
Often, books inspire us to take action, and if we read a book about good food, why not take our youngsters into the kitchen and get cookin’?