Friday, May 16, 2008

Cookbooks and Kids

The New York Times has a lovely article in yesterday's paper about cookbooks for kids.  Why is this important?

Great solace can be found in a cookbook, whether one cooks or not.  There was a certain 9-year-old redhead who, while her father was worlds away, spents hours--actually, probably, weeks and months--poring over Betty Crocker's NEW Boys and Girls Cookbook.  

Could Ice Cream Flower Pots and Kookie Kat Sundaes keep the guerillas in black pajamas from hurting her dad?  Of course not.  Would the Enchanted Castle Cake ever, in her lifetime, be created, no matter how many times she studied the instructions?  Doubtful.  Would, once I really truly had grown up, I be adept at Crisp Relishes ("Fancy little extras like these always look tricky.  But they're really easy and fun to make."!).  Nope.  Didn't happen.

But Betty, and the kids within, and the Flopsy Mopsy Carrots were soothing, a blissful relief in a mad mad world where Daddy was sent to a place of fierce, whirring helicopters, and bandaged men on stretchers, a place that we used to watch on the evening news (but suddenly stopped, once he left). Now, Mom passed the long night hours typing article after article for the local papers, typing letters--with an APO address--to be sent to Vietnam.  How many evenings did my sister and I fall asleep to the clacking of the Remington typewriter...visions of Clown Cupcakes dancing in my head, a book clutched in one hand, a soft blanket in the other, my sister a whisper away?  

Somewhere around 365 nights, until the day Dad was waiting in the living room for us, after we ran home from swim practice, and we knew he was safe and sound and we were back in his arms and his helicopter wouldn't go down, forever, into a dark and far away jungle, like Uncle Lon's did.

Perhaps the key was on page 141.  If I read the book hard enough, and well enough, and learned all of it's secrets, page one forty one would come true.  It was a cure, magic words and pictures in a dark forest: the light that only a loved and trusted treatise can provide.  

Page 141, "Feast for Father":

"Dad will be so very pleased and proud if his Father's Day or birthday dinner is cooked by you! Switch jobs with Mother and let her be your assistant for such a special occasion.  She'll be happy to set the table, make the coffee, and give any other help needed with these recipes for a family of four."

We were a family of four, and it was my job to bring Daddy home, safely: all I had to do was read the NEW Boys and Girls Cookbook, and study it, and plan, and--when the time arrived--have a feast for father waiting when he got home.

Cookbooks are good for kids.