Anyone who’s a fan of great Italian cooking is probably a fan of Lidia Bastianich. And I say that as someone who admired her cooking (mmmm…Del Posto) long before she became a TV personality. Now, she’s turning her talents towards a children’s book that just might take that “pasta with butter, no green stuff” kid and turn her into a foodie. Maybe? Hopefully?
The new book Lidia’s Family Kitchen: Nonna’s Birthday Surprise is at first a lovely storybook about Nonna Lidia recalling for her grandchildren her own Italian childhood through food. Accompanied by soft, sweet illustrations by Renee Graef, we learn about her shelling snap peas and gathering clover in the spring; playing with corn silk and cherries in summer while collecting goose eggs; the magic of grapes turning to raisins in fall; and how she ate in the winter–without the benefit of supermarkets to offer year-round produce from South America.
At the end of the story, she takes her grandkids to the market with her so they can learn just what’s fresh and in-season–something I really want my own kids to understand. And the moral of the story: there are better foods out there than french fries and pancakes. Though it’s conveyed in such a loving, personal way, it won’t feel preachy to your kids at all.
Of course you may prefer the second part of the book which contains Lidia’s recipes all sorted by season. While Pasta Primavera, Rice and Pea Soup, and Carrot and Apple Salad aren’t exactly what American kids are used to seeing on their cafeteria trays (oy, if only!) they’re really smart introductions to fresh, flavorful “grown-up foods” that should still tempt all but the pickiest eaters.
Now be aware this is not 3-ingredient cooking for busy working parents; it’s really about developing an appreciation for fresh ingredients and the way they can come together beautifully when you take the time. And the best part: Each one ends with a little inset that suggests just what kids can do to help.
Even my uber-picky five-year-old will tell you it’s hard to resist those snap peas when you helped shuck them yourself. -Liz