Recently, I had the outrageous fortune of receiving one of the best resources I’ve come across since having children (pregnancy calendars notwithstanding), and that is ChopChop: The Kids’ Guide to Cooking Real Food with Your Family by Sally Sampson.
Why is this one of the best resources I’ve encountered since I’ve become a parent? Because it teaches kids the basics about food, and empowers them to learn and experiment with new tastes, textures, and seasonings. And why is that important? Because it will ultimately assist your kids in steering completely clear of Doritos Locos Tacos and Mountain Dew.
I adore this book so much, in fact, I sincerely with it were available to me when I was younger, at the advent of the fast-food generation. Granted, there may have been more real beef in my Happy Meal burger back in the early ’80’s, but if we’d had the foresight and utilized the resources available to us to help stop the ever-growing mass of lemmings off the processed food cliff, I would have been more educated, more grateful, and much healthier.
This book could not exist at a better time. Our food is more adulterated than it’s ever been, and I believe there is infinite value in a resource that gives young children the basis to learn and explore with fresh, readily available food. Also, in consideration of my own gluten allergy, the guide will assist my children in learning what fresh, unprocessed food looks like, how it tastes, and all the great meals it can become.
The guide is written in large print, on glossy pages (helps with spills!), and each recipe and process is both age-appropriately explained and well-illustrated. One of my favorite parts of this book is the salad dressing section. Not only did I not know how to make my own salad dressing besides the old standby, ‘oil and vinegar’ (shame on me!), but I also didn’t know it was easy enough for my son to try. This guide provides recipes for Caesar, three vinaigrettes, avocado, pesto, Asian, blue cheese, and ranch dressings. That’s eight more dressings than I ever learned to make.
The guide also provides an extensive list of add-ins and toppings, with written descriptions of taste and texture. Another favorite section of mine is the ‘Soups’ section. The guide provides recipes for basic soup bases, and builds from there, recommending add-ins and toppings, and allows kids free rein to get creative with spice, flavor, and consistency.
The book, overall, is extremely easy to read, provides facts (via ‘Did You Know?’ boxes throughout), preparation recommendations, and serving suggestions that, had I had during my childhood, I would have definitely donned a chef’s hat and far outdone the burgers and fries of my day.
The guide covers breakfast to dessert, beverages, and snacks in between. It is truly a comprehensive guide that doesn’t talk down to children or assume they will not be willing to try new tastes.
I like this book, first and foremost, because it provided me, the parent, with a background and basic food preparation skills I may have never learned (ahem), and I love this book because it will, without doubt, help my children to do the same, but at a much younger age.
When you give children the awesome responsibility of being in charge of what they eat, coupled with this fantastic, user-friendly, and very thoughtfully-created guide, anything is possible. And that’s what I love about this book. This guide gives children the keys to cooking fresh, healthy food, and the courage and information to experiment with flavors and seasonings, so you can say goodbye – permanently – to that dreaded blue box of mac and cheese.
And if that doesn’t make you feel good, I don’t know what will.
Sally Sampson is the founder of ChopChopKids and the author and coauthor of numerous cookbooks, including The $50 Dinner Party, Throw Me a Bone (with Cooper Gillespie), and The Olives Table (with Todd English). She has contributed to Self, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, The Atlantic, the Boston Globe, and the Boston Phoenix.
I was provided a copy of ChopChop by Simon & Schuster in exchange for this review. All opinions provided here are my own. .