Sunday, March 25, 2012

Kitchens... with a twist!

I am in the middle (optimistically the second half) of a kitchen renovation and all I could come up with for "K" this round (for Mrs. Nesbitt's Round 10 of ABC Wednesday - check it out!!)  was Kitchen - with a twist.

kitch·en / ˈkichən/ (from The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English, 2009)• n. 1. a room or area where food is prepared and cooked. ∎  a set of fixtures, cabinets, and appliances that are sold together and installed in such a room or area: a complete kitchen at a bargain price. ∎  cuisine: the dried shrimp pastes of the Thai kitchen. 2. inf. the percussion section of an orchestra. 3. [as adj.] (of a language) in an uneducated or domestic form: kitchen Swahili. 
Some fun kitchen facts:
  • Fun Tudor kitchen facts:
    • The kitchen at Hampton Court provided food for up to 600 people while smaller palaces and mansions might cater for 200 people;
    • Hampton Court kitchens were staffed by over 200 people, providing two meals a day for the 600-800 members of King Henry VIII's court.
    • The annual provision of meat for the Tudor court is estimated to have stood at 1,240 oxen; 8,200 sheep; 2,330 deer; 760 calves; 1,870 pigs; and 53 wild boar.  This was washed down with 600,000 gallons of ale.
    • Click here to find out about Tudor banquets- which were for special guests after the main meat courses
  •  Hoosier cabinets - cabinets that organized ALL the obvious (and some not so obvious) kitchen needs into one hutch were introduced in the early 1900's and they provided a huge step towards moving 'homemakers' into "fitted kitchens." Aside from a counter top, small drawers and cabinets within the cupboard, the Hoosier cabinet also had racks and hardware to organize food staples, a combination flour bin/sifter, a tin hopper, and a sugar bin.  Special Hoosier glass jars were also manufactured by the Hoosier Manufacturing Co. of New Castle Indiana for coffee and tea canisters, a salt box and four to eight spice jars. The inside of the cupboard doors had cards with measurement conversion information, sample menus, and household tips.
  • The percentage of American families who owned a mechanical refrigerator jumped from 44 to 80% between 1940-1950;
While kitchens are places of nourishment, nurturing, and often the place to find the best family conversations, they are also sources of accidents and of learning. Regarding accidents, children in kitchens should be supervised and taught how to carefully and safely prepare food.  Regarding kitchen learning, here's what kids can and should learn in a kitchen:
  • Attention to details - whether following a recipe or safety rules, when working in a kitchen you have to focus carefully on what you're doing.
  • Chemistry - cooking, and baking in particular, are ALL about chemistry and how and when to mix specific amounts of given ingredients.  Stray from the proportions and your dish will stray too!
  • Math - cooking and following recipes is understanding measurement, ratios, and proportions, and often involves some form of calculation (for example, changeing cups to tablespoons or quarts to ounces).
  • Reading - my husband's grandmother taught her kids to read - in the kitchen - with cereal boxes. Reading recipes is a great reading resource, especially for reluctant readers.
  • History - kitchens tell stories about families, men and women's changing family and kitchen/cooking roles, new technologies and appliances, and shifts in values and everyday life.
  • Health - cleanliness, food expiration dates, awareness of what's going into your food, and general awareness about how what you are eating is essential for overall health and later independence. Being aware of what goes into making food will help children make more educated and health-based food decisions. 
While there are TONS of incredible children's books about food...(here are some of my favorites)...:
  • Thunder Cake (Patricia Polacco) 
  • If You Give a Mouse A Cookie (Laura Numeroff) 
  • Bread and Jam for Frances (Russell Hoban)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle) 
  • Bake Sale (Sara Varon)
  • Chato's Kitchen (Gary Soto)
  • Blueberries for Sal (Robert McCloskey)
  • The Chocolate Touch (Patrick Skene Catling)
  • Fannie in the Kitchen: The Whole Story from Soup to Nuts of How Fannie Farmer Invented Recipes with Precise Measurements (Deborah Hopkinson)
  • Kitchen Dance (Maurie J. Mamning)
  • Strega Nona (Tomie DePaolo)
  • Pascual and the Kitchen Angels (Tomie DePaolo)
  • Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs (Judi and Ronald Barrett)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl) 
  • Chicken Soup with Rice (Maurice Sendak) 
  • In the Night Kitchen (Maurice Sendak)
  • Green Eggs and Ham (Dr. Seuss) 
  • How to Eat Fried Worms (Thomas Rockwell)
  • Piggies in the Kitchen (Michelle Meadows) 
...there are not many stories that take place primarily in kitchens.  Maybe one reason is that until recently, kitchens were where food was prepared, and the dining rooms were where the family met, ate, and interacted. Now as more people are preparing and eating food more and more in kitchens maybe this will change.  There really is so much kitchens have to offer stories - in terms of wild adventures, yarns to tell, and life lessons to learn.

I can think of nine kids' books that center around a kitchen: 
  • Bake Sale (Sara Varon) - while the story centers around a baker and bakery and not  home kitchen, much of the story takes place in a kitchen. In this graphic novel, Sara Varon weaves a salivating tale of friendship, chemistry, baking, and marching bands. It is about friends using creative ideas to help each other with life's dreams and unavoidable obstacles. Life's solutions (at least in this book) revolve around baking. There are seven recipes from classic cupcakes and cookies to sugared flower petals to marzipan.  It is wonderfully heart-warming and creative and in addition to being about friendship, we have a glimpse of how a bakery kitchen is run. Please see this YouTube clip for more about the book.
  • Thunder Cake (Patricia Polacco) is based on the author's true life story of how her grandmother helped her overcome her fear of thunder.  It seems the author hated thunder and so her grandmother helped her face that fear by gathering ingredients from the barn (milk and eggs) and the pantry shed outside the house for her Thunder Cake recipe, and then baking it together in the kitchen as a thunder storm approached and passed.  This is a wonderful story of love, fear, distraction, and the powerful art of baking.  While it doesn't take place only in a kitchen, they do bake the cake together in the kitchen for half the book, and the recipe is included for you and your kids to bake together in your kitchen.  This is also a great book for grandparents to read and then bake with their grandchildren.  It is one of my favorite books.
  • Chato's Kitchen (Gary Soto) is about Chato, the coolest cat in East L.A. who couldn't be happier when a family of mice move into the barrio, but soon realizes that he is getting more than he can handle with the surprise guest the mice bring along.  This is an ALA Notable Book.
  • Kitchen Dance (Maurie J. Mamning) - about a young girl who wakes in the night to mysterious, inviting noises.  She wakes up her brother and together sneak downstairs to see (to their amazement and delight) their parents dancing and singing as they clean up and put food away. The kids are swept into the dance's embrace and slowly the song changes to a lullaby, lulling the kids to sleep.

  • Piggies in the Kitchen (Michelle Meadows) is about the fun, mess, and surprises that ensue as Mama leaves for the day and her piggies sneak into the kitchen to bake.

  • Pascual and the Kitchen Angels (Tomie DePaolo) - When Pascual was born, angels flew down and sang to him from the trees.  As a boy, Pascual san to the sheep and they sang back to him. As a young man, Pascual joins the Franciscans and when sent to work in the kitchen, has no clue what to do.  The angels return, flying down and a delicious dinner appears, the friars soon realize Pascual is special.

  • Fannie in the Kitchen: The Whole Story from Soup to Nuts of How Fannie Farmer Invented Recipes with Precise Measurements (Deborah Hopkinson) - is a delightful slice of history as it tells Fannie Farmer's story - how she was a mother's helper for the Shaw family, taught their daughter Marcia how to cook, and of Marcia's influence on her to record her recipes and exact directions for measuring and cooking into one of the first modern cookbooks.  It even has Fannie Farmer's famous griddle cake recipe to inspire young readers and young chefs.

  • The Borrowers (Mary Norton) is the first in a series of stories about tiny people who live in peoples' homes who secretly "borrow" things to survive. The story begins when Arrietty (a Borrower) is seen by a 'human bean', while scampering under the kitchen floorboards in an old English manor.  The adventure continues from there.
  • In the Night Kitchen (Maurice Sendak) is the story of Micky's surreal dream/journey though a baker's kitchen where he helps with the creation of a cake ready by morning.  Note that Mickey, at the beginning of the dream, falls into a giant pot of batter, loses his pajamas and is naked for most of the story.  This, along with the surreal dream has made this 1970 story somewhat controversial.  While not one of my favorites, my husband and kids actually enjoyed reading it together.  Also, the book, while a true product of the 1970's is a bit 'tripppy' but  there is a lot of imagery and imagination and wonderfully exciting art work. 
For In the Night Kitchen fans, here's an animated version adapted and directed by Gene Deitch found on YouTube:

What do you think? 

Whether you read about food, read about kitchens, or view kitchens on television or in the movies (Ratatouille was one of my favorites), there is a lot of fun and learning that goes on.  Please share some of your kitchen fun and learning (links to kitchen/kid ideas are also welcome) in the comments, or include other books and stories centering around the kitchen (that I failed to think of).

Thank you for stopping by and joining the conversation.  
Have a great week.


        1. My favorite book as a kid was called "Rain Makes Applesauce"--fits perfectly with the theme :)
          Stopping by from the Monday Mingle

        2. Thanks for stopping by the hop! =)
          I don't know if I have a complete favorite book and I know it's not going to be compatible with the post for sure if I did. But, wanted to say hello!


        3. Thanks for joining us at Creative Mondays :)

        4. Hello there very interesting facts, stopping by from the Mom Blog Monday Blog Hop

        5. New GFC follower from Mom Blog Monday .

        6. Great kitchen facts. My kids love reading the cereal boxes too.

        7. What a great post about kitchens and I enjoyed the illustrations. I renovated my kitchen 26 years ago. That's the sad thing about living in the same house for 28 years. Everything I've done needs re-doing. Good luck with your renovation.

        8. Meryl, your posts are such a wealth of knowledge. You make me want to run right over to the library and scope out all the books you suggest.
          I love coming here and being challenged each week.

        9. Having watched a lot of those home and real estate porn television shows,I also know that the kitchen can make or break a sale.

        10. My wife has threatened a kitchen makeover since we bought the house a decade ago!
          ROG, ABC Wednesday team

          1. You do so much research about the subject you post about and that is excellent. You have again written a great post. How wonderful that you worked in a kibbutz. I know what it must have been, because when I was a student I used to go to workcamps in several countries. It was great. The group was always very wonderful.

        11. My Dad was a chef...being in the kitchen with him was fun...he encouraged me to play with my food!
          Jane x

        12. I did a complete kitchen remodel back in 2008. Not a process that I am fond of, but I am pleased with the end results.
          I am also a big fan of Maurice Sendack-I did not know the Night Kitchen was on You Tube (never looked). What fun!

        13. What an entertaining post for K, thank you!
          k is for...

        14. wow! Very informational :) I loved it. I've never heard of this ABC Wednesday (very clever). I am your newest follower from the hop coming over to say hello. I am excited to browse a little more and read through your posts. Feel free to follow my blog at the happily ever after project

        15. I've been to Hampton Court Palace and it's astounding that they could feed 600 people from that space! And what a fascinating read about all the books for kids that involve kitchens! It's so important to teach kids the "why do we have to learn this?" when presenting materials in all subjects. Great post, Meryl...

          abcw team

        16. Great post and informational! We've done small kitchen renovations, but nothing major...yet ;) hehe


        17. That Hoosier cabinet looks like a very efficient item!

        18. We re-did our kitchen ourselves two years ago, and I 'cooked' in the toaster oven and microwave for a whole summer. What an adventure!

          I have a book to add to your list, Ugly Pie, by Lisa Wheeler. It's got a recipe at the end, that my kids insisted on trying after we read the book.

        19. I need to re-do our kitchen hubby and I do not like it, lol!


        20. I love this list : ) I can't think of any books right now to add to your list, but I know as soon as I click away I will : )

        21. Wow, can't wait to see your renovated kitchen.

          Korean Souvenir
          Rose, ABC Wednesday Team

        22. You've furnished many wonderful resources for teaching children about cooking & baking. Thanks for sharing these, & best of luck with all your projects!

        23. A Hoosier Cabinet! That's what I need in my kitchen. What a great idea!

        24. Great post about one of my favorite things... kids books. Here is one more for you list.
          The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman! Thanks for sharing!

        25. I love cooking with my two kids! We also enjoy If You Give A Pig a Pancake and for beginning readers, More Spaghetti I Say. I also enjoy Kids Kitchen from Barefoot Books, a great resource for budding chefs.

          New follower. Would love the follow back!

        26. All I can think of right now is the exquisite traditional woodwork in the houses of Skyros (a Greek island), where in a tiny space skilled craftsmen used to build kitchens that are still a feast for the eye. Worth a little search!
          Hope to see you more on Imspire Me Mondays :)

        27. Great blog! I'm following you from the Hop Along Friday hop. I hope you will stop by Swanky Baby and follow us too! Have a good day!

        28. What a fantastic post. You listed a lot of things people don't think of or have forgotten about. Have a great weekend!

        29. The very hungry caterpillar is one of my favourite books I use to teach the kids. We have swan plants that attract the Monarch.

        30. Newest follower from the Tiggerific Tuesday! Blog Hop. What a great post! Never realized how many things revolve around the kitchen or food. Good luck with the renovations!
          Have a wonderful Day

        31. What a great list of books! I love the old kitchen pictures - why can't we live in the 50s??
          I'm a new follower from WW.
          My Wonderfully Dysfunctional Blog