Cook the Book: Let My Children Cook
Don’t worry if you are too tired to cook again after the Seders this Passover. Thanks to a new cookbook by Tamar Ansh, you can let the kids take over the kitchen for the rest of the weeklong holiday. They won’t necessarily prepare fancy dishes made with organic and locally sourced ingredients, but with the guidance of “Let My Children Cook!,” they’ll be able to put together some substantial meals that they — and maybe you too — will want to eat.
“As a mother, I know what kids like to eat,” Ansh, cooking instructor and author of several cookbooks, including “A Taste of Challah,” told the Jew and the Carrot from her home in Jerusalem. “It doesn’t have to be a full-blown recipe. Chicken cacciatore braised in wine sauce is not for kids.” Although she had never written a cookbook for kids before, she knew she had to keep the recipes clear and short, with as few ingredients and steps as possible.
Officially, “Let My Children Cook!” (Judaica Press, 2014) is for children 8-years-old and up, but kids even younger can easily tackle these recipes with the help of a parent or older sibling.
Kids and adults alike will recognize many traditional Passover kid-friendly foods, like Matzah Brie, Matzah Balls and Matzah Pizza, but there are also many outside-the-matzah-box dishes like Moroccan Gefilte Fish, Nova Finger Treats and Butternut Squash Kugel.
Ansh’s simple, straightforward approach (for each recipe, she lists ingredients in a “Let’s get to it!” section, and preparation steps in a “And here’s how you do it!” one) helps kids tackle everything from fish, to meat and chicken, to vegetables and side dishes. She also includes sections on brunch items, soups, and latkes and kugels.
Knowing how much kids of all ages like finger foods, the author included a whole section devoted to them. Kabobs figure prominently here, be they composed of cold cuts, dried fruit, or candy.
When asked about the Candy-Stick Kabobs, as well as the three dessert chapters in the book, Ansh defended her decision to include so many sweet treats. “We eat desserts more on holidays than on regular days, and we look forward to them,” she explained. “It’s okay to eat dessert on Pesach, but of course in moderation. In general I try to cut down on sugar where possible in all the recipes.”
Unlike many cookbooks these days, which feature highly stylized photographs, “Let My Children Cook!” is illustrated with charming color drawings by Evgeniy Ognarov. Without photographs, young cooks will not know exactly how the dishes they are making should look. However, this has its benefits, allowing the kids to just have fun making the food without worrying that it should come out appearing one way or another.
It is clear that Ansh put a lot of thought in to the user’s experience of this cookbook. It begins with a chapter on safety and friendly cooking tips (including easy-to-understand kosher for Passover guidelines). It ends with a chapter on arts and crafts projects for making the seder table look special—with the instructions for the aprons, placemats, seder table pillows and wine bottle labels laid out in the same format as the recipes throughout the book.
“Kids can really enjoy the kitchen on Pesach. They see the kitchen turned over, enjoy the different smells, enjoy the yearly traditions and have fun coming up with new ideas,” said Ansh. “There is nothing like food to bond you to a holiday.”
"This holiday we take for ourselves, no longer silent servers behind the curtain, but singers of the seder, with voices of gladness, creating our own convocation, and leaving ‘The Narrow Place’ together."— E.M. Broner
"The idea of opening the door is that we hope Elijah might actually be there this year – that we might actually have done enough to change the world to have had him arrive. And, if we don’t have even the tiniest bit in us that thinks he might be there, that thinks we have tried our hardest to bring around a messianic time, with no hunger, no war, no conflict, no pain – if we don’t believe that we have tried to end those broken parts in the world – well, then I tell my students – don’t do any of it."— Rabbi Leora Kaye
"The whole seder, for me, is the tension between two statements: We say, 'We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and now we’re free,' but before that, we pick up the matzoh, we invite the hungry in and we say, 'This year we are slaves, next year may we be free.' We are the most fortunate, liberated Jews in history. But on the other hand, there are lots of things that enslave us."— Rabbi Arthur Green