Charity Mathews is a local cookbook author living in Hillsborough. Her most recent work ‘Kid Chef Junior Bakes, was released on the week beginning Oct. 21. Some of the recipes included in the book include hot fudge lava cakes, easy peasy peach cobbler, and more. We talked with Mathews last week to discuss her second children’s cookbook.
News of Orange County: Can you just tell me a little bit about the book?
Mathews: Well this is my second cookbook for kids and its with the same publishing company. My first one was called Super Simple Baking for Kids. This one is of course Kid Chef Junior Bakes, and this one is more of a, like the subtitle is my first kids’ baking cookbook, and it’s for ages 4 and up. Of course it’s meant to be done with an adult, but there are 25 recipes, every single one of them has a picture and several of them have lots of how-to pictures as well. It’s really meant to be part keepsake part cookbook. All the recipes have really been simplified so that there’s not a million ingredients, the clean up is pretty minimal, and also the steps and the outcome is pretty forgiving, so if somebody makes a little mistake, the results usually turn out deliciously no matter what the steps were to get to the end, and this one also has little spaces to write down what date you made something and who you baked it with. There’s jokes and fun facts and there’s even some coloring pages in the very back. There’s also lots of information about how to measure things and what yeast is, it’s alive and how does it come to life, and that kind of thing, how to bake safely and there’s notes for parents, for adults and then there’s lots of information for kids and it’s big type and pretty simplified and like I said there’s lots of pictures and icons. there’s a scale of one-to-three oven mitts telling you how difficult each item is to bake and we tried to do a pretty good spectrum.
NOC: What made you decide which recipes that you chose for the book?
Mathews: I worked with my publisher to figure out the different sections, so there’s cookies and bars, there’s savory sections and then I was really just mining, so I write a website called Foodlets, and it’s about trying to raise mini Foodies, or at the very least kids who care about real, fresh food and so obviously I have a lot of recipes, but I also have a lot of essays and tips about parenting and how hard it is to feed kids well. None of my recipes on the site are for children, and so what I really tried to do was simplify the things that I already know that kids like, and then make them. Like I said, if it was something that just couldn’t happen in a simplified version, I would just skip it and move on to something else. Stuff needed to be kind of fun, like there’s the dirt cup-style cupcake, where it’s a chocolate cupcake and you sprinkle crushed oreos and put a candy worm on top and kids are delighted by that and it’s shockingly easy to pull off, so it was a lot of ‘What kind of easy wins are there,’ because the whole point of it is to inspire kids to start cooking real food and you want them to develop a little confidence.
NOC: How long did it take you to go through the whole process of outlining the recipes that you were going to take and then writing the book, publishing it?
Mathews: Well the publishing company that I’ve worked with for these two books is very fast. They’re really proficient in this. I would say, it’s like a six-month process. I think in other publishing companies it’s much longer, but this is very fast, it was very quick. I was surprised the first time and then the second time I was like ‘Yes, of course.’
NOC: What else would you like people to know about either this book or your process, or how the experience has been cooking with your children?
Mathews: I did a poll a while ago about cooking with kids and the main two reasons why people don’t do it more often is that it’s messy and time consuming and that sort of just speaks to what’s hard about being a parent right now. You don’t have a ton of time, so making something harder seems less appealing. But I would say, sort of like I mentioned earlier, I feel like teaching them to cook is exactly like every other thing that you teach them how to do. Once you teach them how to make their beds, they can make their beds every day. Initially, it takes longer because you have to show them how and you probably have to show them many more times than you expected to but after you get that handled, they know how to do that forever.
Also, it takes fewer times than you would think. It’s not like once you bake a cake with your child, now you have to cook every meal together. It’s pretty easy to fall into a nice little routine and rhythm where they can figure out the value of fresh food and they’ll also really notice a whole lot of differences between something that’s fresh and things that you usually find at a store, and you may even find that their palette changes for the better.