Paula Deen’s My First Cookbook: Catching ’em Young

I believe that most accomplished cooks, start young. There is something special about finding your way around the kitchen as a child. The first time you peel an onion, or when you use a knife without chopping a finger off, or switch off the stove the right way is a nudge in that direction. Under supervision, guidance and with an essential word of encouragement, children start looking at cooking with new eyes. Not to mention that these skills will definitely come handy every day.

Starting young

Paula Deen’s My First Cookbook is a book written with children in mind. I bought this book to introduce hands-on cooking to my kids. Asides from recipes in this book, there are separate sections for safety talk for kids and their parents, glossary of basic culinary terms, how to measure, how to set a table and good manners… (yes, good manners). She is a grandma, and that too a sweet and spicy one at that!

Easy recipes by Paula Deen

The recipes cover everything from breakfast, snacks, lunch, drinks and dinner to cakes and surprises for parents for special occasions. There are treats that can be made for holidays and towards the end, a fun arts and crafts section (non edible) that covers recipes for play clay, salt clay (that can be baked to harden) and bubble solution too.

Paula Deen, Mexican Omelets, Egg Salad, Stuffed Shells, Campfire Stew, breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, snacks, canned food, processed foodThe recipes that we tested out in our kitchen were all good, and made with kid-favourite ingredients. The cuisine featured is what I call “typical American”, where most ingredients are store-bought (read processed), or canned. Yet, we had lots of fun making Mexican Omelets, Egg Salad, Stuffed Shells and Campfire Stew, with the kids going crazy adding their own customization. But as an adult and parent, I did wish for a little more wisdom from Paula in keeping with the times. 

Cons:

  1. Kids are picky eaters. But as much as you want a kid to eat, you cannot feed them cheese, mayo and deep fried goodies rich in sugar and fats, meal after meal. You need fresh, balanced, nutritious and healthier meals than those with current threats like juvenile diabetes and heart diseases on the rise.
  2. This is not much of a con, but rather a mild annoyance that many of the recipes call for canned veggies and processed, pre-made dough. I also understand you can easily substitute fresh veggies and homemade dough for each respectively and go on with the recipes like no big deal.
  3. And lastly, from an Indian point of view, this cookbook though one of the best designated cookbooks for children, is American. The cooking style is distinctly American where the seasonings are limited to mustard, ketchup, and seasoning salts, the veggies come from cans and jars and every single recipe needs something from the grocery store (which can be a special order if you live outside the United States). Even as someone who is very much used to the American way of cooking, I wish there were more recipes like Deen’s pancake recipe or her vanilla cupcakes that actually reminds us that this is a cookbook written by the Paula Deen, with her inimitable overdose of butter and no-fail recipes, rather than playing it too safe with kids as well as recipes.

Pros:

  1. From the cover to the contents to the recipes, it is beyond doubt, a book for kids. The colouring, binding, page layout and overall quality is suitable for tiny, messy hands and will withstand most rough handling and mishaps. 
  2. The ingredient list has pictures – tiny illustrations that leave out the guesswork and ambiguity, very essential, when it is a kid reading the recipe. Every term, every process has been broken down to simple ideas that are extremely helpful for the kid as well as adults helping them out who might be trying these recipes for the first time.
  3. Tiny glimpses into the life of the author hides behind every family picture and memories that she shares. It is a good enough gift for a little one or a collector’s treasure for the garden variety Paula Deen fan.
  4. Healthy or not, semi-homemade or not, all the kids favourites are here – from root beer floats to inedible play dough to cheese toasts, the recipes are kid and time tested. Parents may love it or not, but the kids will have a gala time trying out the recipes from this book. Substitutions are always possible when the recipes are so simple. And leave it to children to come up with their brilliant ideas for substitutes.

Paula Deen, Mexican Omelets, Egg Salad, Stuffed Shells, Campfire Stew, breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, snacks, canned food, processed foodPerfect for the target audience

My First Cookbook by Paula Deen, honestly, is outdated in its contents and leaves a true fan craving a bit for Paula’s original recipes. But when compared with others, this book targeted at very young cooks hits the bulls-eye. It will gently ease the target audience into some serious culinary education, all cleverly camouflaged in fun and deliciousness. And that alone is the reason I give it three stars. Try this simple kid-friendly recipe from the book, with the little ones this summer. 

Vanilla Shake

  • 3 cups Vanilla Ice-cream
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Milk

Method

  1. Measure all the ingredients into a blender. Put the lid on, turn it on and blend until the shake is smooth.
  2. Pour into 4 tall glasses and serve. 

Nisha Pillai

Foodie. Super-Mom and Wife. Writer. Kitchen Scientist. Nerd. I have loved cooking and eating since I can remember. Love reading cookbooks and collecting them. A very selective introvert (if I may say so) by default but can be a very lively extrovert if the topic is food.