Clotted cream and scones, warm toasted crumpets, cucumbers dipped in vinegar, ham and lettuce sandwiches, ginger beer and mint humbugs — for generations that grew up on a steady dose of Enid Blyton books, the picnic hampers and tuck boxes of the Famous Fives or the girls at Malory Towers were as much a part of their childhood as their adventures in the British countryside or in boarding school. Like all good things in life — and that would include an appetite for independence — there is also no bar on learning to rustle up simple culinary delights early in life.
Here’s a selection of cookbooks for children based on enduring food memories from children’s classics:
Ranjini Rao and Ruchira Ramanujam’s Bookworms and Jelly Bellies (2017, Hachette India, appropriate for: 3+ years) has over 50 recipes gleaned from children’s favourites such as AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry caterpillar, Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Johanna Spyri’s Heidi. Apron up for a go at making pretty pink lemonade (Peppa Pink), sesame carrot fries (The Tale of Peter Rabbit) or for the sweet avalakki pavalakki (An Identity Card for Krishna). The good thing about the book, produced by the two food bloggers, is that the recipes are graded according to simplicity and age appropriateness and include recipes from books by Indian authors as well. The list of ingredients, too, border on things that are easily available in most Indian pantries.
If it’s food, it must include a surfeit of Enid Blyton’s mouthwatering list of “scrumptious” goodies. In Jolly Good Food (2017, Hodder, appropriate for 8+ years), Allegra McEvedy presents a range of dishes both for the unadventurous and for those eager for newer tastes. Take your pick from smashing potato salad, clementine treacle tart, Silky’s pop cakes (from The Enchanted Wood series) or the chicken, pea and parmesan quiche from the Famous Five’s goody bag. Illustrated by Mark Beech, this rather pricey collection of over 40 recipes comes with excerpts from Blyton’s books to liven up the feast.
Another just-released book, Five Go Feasting: Famously Good Recipes (2018, Hachette, appropriate for 15+ years) by food and travel writer Josh Sutton concentrates solely on Blyton’s 21-part Famous Five series. The book, a throwback to the black-n-white editions of the Famous Five series, comes with monochromatic images and includes more complex recipes such as a roast chicken, stewed rhubarb, sticky gingerbread and trifles. A keepsake, with commentary, historical references and extracts, the book also contains recipes for (the now thankfully obsolete) boiled tongue and veal-and-ham pie, things quite impossible to adapt to the Indian context.
Felicity Dahl, author Roald Dahl’s wife, rustled up a feast of awful and yummy dishes in Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes (1996, Red Fox, appropriate for 7+ years) after the author’s death. From “scrambled dregs” to “hair” toffee to eatable marshmallow pillows, this book of mostly sweet somethings is a quirky fix for Dahl fans and has sketches by the author’s long-time collaborator, Quentin Blake.