Chicks dig it

[Books: Chicks and Salsa & Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery]

Monday on NPR’s Fresh Air, Michael Pollan raised a scary point: the one-day possibility that cooking dinner may go the way of axing and plucking a chicken for dinner.

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He was talking about how we’ve gone from a people who cook to one that watches cooking happen on television; how cooking has gone from active daily ritual to fascination, from survival skill to sporting entertainment on shows like the Food Network’s Iron Chef and Chopped. (Download and listen, or check out his New York Times Magazine cover story on the subject.)

What Pollan didn’t broach was whether or not there’s any possibility of chickens doing the actual cooking — a concept that’s been entertaining us around here recently. That’s the [wink] subversive element in Chicks and Salsa by Aaron Reynolds. Quinn found the book at the library, but I was the one who insisted we bring it home. This kid’s book follows a farm full of industrious animals who, bored with the usual farm feed (can you blame them?), ransack the garden for tomatoes and cilantro and scallions, then cook their way through a week or so of Southwestern standbys.

Except for an unsavory appearance by some mysteriously available nacho-cheese sauce, the book is a fiesta of fresh, homegrown produce and real acts of cooking. The salsa is roasted, the chiles chopped (recipes are even included in the back, encouraging readers to not just read about the dishes, but to actually produce them). And when those chiles run out, the rooster that started it all turns his cooking attention to French cuisine.

Anglo-French cuisine is the subject of Rose Carrarini’s Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery (in Paris’s 9th). This is one of those scrapbook-style cookbooks (the trend of which can probably be used as evidence that we’re in an era of “Just look, don’t cook” ). Still, it’s a book that’s gratifying to both settle down with and to cook from. Truthfully, the book is more recipe than open letter, more tip and technique than light bio.

The photos have a being-there quality (and, oh, how I want to be there!), from the snapshot of the aloof bread-supplier to the caught-on-camera flour-dusted pastry kitchen.

And maybe I am part of a dying minority of people who cook, but those visuals that entertain (the lump of scone dough on a counter, the geometric angles of a perfect vegetable tart), also serve to inspire. I may start on the couch, watching or reading or gawking, but I’ll finish in my own kitchen, and there will be flour dust everywhere. (But no bloody chickens.)

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5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Laurie Schiltz said,

    I love that fact that you mentioned the book Chicks & Salsa. I read that every year to my students. It is such a great book and the illustrations are hysterical. From a teaching point of view it has many elements of writing that students can practice using. Quinn has excellent taste in books.

    I do enjoy reading your blog and viewing your pictures of what you have made. I wish more parents could read your blog and realize how important it is to have meals at home and well prepared lunches that students bring to school, not those nasty Lunch Ables (I don’t know if I spelled that correctly). As a nation we need to feed our children with nutritious meals, not fast food. Thank you for setting an example!

  2. 2

    Trisha said,

    Laurie: How neat to hear that you use that book in the classroom. Like you, I wish more parents would sit down with their children for dinner and send them to school with healthy lunches. I won’t get started, but it’s true that it’s important on so many levels, from the plain standpoint of teaching our children the art of civilized conversation and manners, to the more scientific reasons that better food = better capacity for learning. Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. 3

    I’m ashamed to admit that I STILL haven’t made it over to Rose Bakery yet. One of these days…

    And speaking of cooking dinner, I should really get cracking!

  4. 4

    Trisha said,

    Camille: When you make it to Rose Bakery, you’ll have to report back and let me experience it at least vicariously!


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