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Starting from Scratch: What You Should Know About Food and Cooking

by Sarah Elton; Jeff Kulak, illus.

Author, journalist, and CBC Radio food columnist Sarah Elton’s Starting from Scratch is an engaging and informative introduction to food and cooking. Although aimed at kids, this guide provides basic, easy-to-­follow instructions that would be helpful to newbie chefs of any age.

The book covers a wide range of topics, including the history of various cuisines and food traditions, the science of cooking, and tips on how to read a recipe, organize and stock your kitchen, and, of course, begin cooking. Although jam-packed with information, the text, organized into easily digestible blocks of print and colourful sidebars, never seems too dense. Jeff Kulak’s fun, bright illustrations add a whimsical touch.

While the book’s early chapters deal mainly with the science, history, and culture of food, Elton encourages readers to start rolling up their sleeves almost immediately. Curious foodies will delight in the book’s interactive elements such as the “no-smell challenge,” which asks readers to try tasting the difference between an apple and an onion with their noses plugged by clothespins. Simple recipes (including pasta sauce, granola, and oatmeal cookies) are sprinkled throughout, with more included in the appendices, along with a guide to pairing flavours and several handy measurement-conversion charts.

Starting from Scratch stands out because of its friendly, accessible approach to teaching kids about the importance of healthy eating and preparing your own food. Elton’s previous non-fiction titles for adults (2010’s Locavore and last year’s Consumed) give her the breadth of knowledge to set this book apart: brief sections on food security and labels like organic, cage-free, and free-range give older readers some food for thought. Daring and picky eaters alike will feel encouraged to diversify their food choices by taking pride in their own cooking adventures.