stephmodo: Teach Your Children Well + a Vintage French Cookbook

Teach Your Children Well + a Vintage French Cookbook

• 16 September 2012

Perhaps all of the hours I've recently clocked on the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Pandora station (best.station.ever.) have resonated.  Or perhaps I am finally tired of thinking about doing something for so long that I can I must talk about it openly here--for accountability purposes :)  Let me explain...

So you see, one of the boxes I'd like to check on my ever-lengthening-parenting to-do list is to teach my children the skills I have.  Nothing fancy, really...just things like "make pancakes", "how to run a load of laundry" and "how to play Ticket to Ride".  I feel so strongly that not sharing my knowledge with my children is such a disservice to them.  Yet, I struggle so much with implementation; despite the fact that my inner voice has been telling me this for a couple of years now.

Strangely enough, this classic, vintage, French book--a gift from my mother-in-law who picked it up for me at a Paris flea market--is going to be the motivating factor for finally tackling this weighty issue.  I refuse to be the mother who sends her kids off to college without knowing how to cook a proper meal (thankfully I have almost 10 years to teach 'em!).   This darling children's cookbook, complete with a forward by Jean Cocteau, is titled, "La Cuisine est un Jeu D'enfants"; which basically means that `cooking is child's play'.  This is according to the French, bien sur!

Between the charming illustrations, simply stated directions and cooking tips (like "don't flip over the crepe" and "don't put the mayonnaise in the fridge...ever!), I know my 2 oldest will be tickled when I initiate a little kitchen date for the 3 of us.  The deal will be this: I will teach them how to make a simple meal (and clean it up); in return, they can use the opportunity to teach me a few more French words and phrases.

I am hoping that as I seek to create these opportunities more often, and subsequently deal with the potential chaos of teaching a child a new skill, that I will actually grow more fond of the process.   And then perhaps it will feed on itself and become a more natural part of my parenting style.  A mother can always hope...

If you have any thoughts or advice on the subject, I would love to hear them!

note: vintage copies from 1963 can be found here and a new hardback copy can be picked up here. 

images by me


  1. My kids love Ticket to Ride...yours will, too!

    Your book looks delightful & your kids will (I'm playing armchair psychologist) value being able to teach mommy something.

    If you can track down a copy (I lurk on for it), a great kids' book is "I Can Bake Bread." My mom got me a copy when I was four & I continue to use it. I have given it, as well as Donna Hay's "Cool Kids Cook" as presents to foodie-friends' kids. They are both winners!

  2. This is such a sweet post and wonderful advise. Thank you for the reminder! That cookbook is a keeper too! (: & my mama has never put her mayo in the fridge tho I do now ..hmm maybe I need to rethink that (:

    blessings on your day, Barbara

  3. I loved cooking with my mother as a child. Now watching her cook with my daughter (20 months old) makes me so full of happy I could burst.

    From my experience cooking with my baby, I think the best advise comes from the french and that is the habit of "mis en place." In the beginning you must prepare the environment for them. Then as they become more skilled, you teach them how to "mis en place" before they begin. This seemingly simple act goes a long way to reduce potential stressors in the beautiful mess you will be creating.

  4. Such a lovely post! I ordered a copy of the book, a Christmas gift for my niece if I can part with it! Take heart if a child is not as interested as you might hope in acquiring these skills. My away at college son requested a small cast iron skillet and a few utensils to take along with him this year! He was in the kitchen a lot more this summer. I just love it. Sometimes they need to be on their own to see the value in some of these life skills. Have a beautiful day!

  5. For a while each of my children were to help choose and prepare a meal with me every week. We need to get back to it. I loved having one on one time in the kitchen with one of my 6 and I REALLLLLY loved having help making a menu (a hard chore sometimes).

  6. i think it's so cool that all of your kids speak french. what a cool vintage book, too! i am taking note of the book suggestions here. i love/hate having my 3 year old help me in the kitchen. i fear it will always be that way ... a nice idea in theory but kind of stressful and not fun in practice.

    oh well, if i figure if i can enjoy just a few moments of her help (i usually fill up a measuring spoon or cup and let her dump it in) maybe as she grows i can enjoy more and more moments as i help her build her skill set.

    i picked up all the kitchen cooking/baking basics from my mom casually teaching me over the years. it was never a big to-do - she just loved cooking and baking and spread that love to us.

  7. Wonderful idea, Steph! I can just hear the memories being etched into all of you.

    Keep us updated!

  8. Those illustrations are beautiful. What a pleasant thing to look at while you are working.

    It is amazing how hard it can be to teach kids to do simple things:)

  9. Great tips for Christmas gifts! Thank you!

  10. I need this book in my life. Thanks for linking to resources!

  11. What a beautiful book! The vibrant color and appealing layout is just right for kids. I so agree with you about trying to teach the kids my skills, though it's tough not to get caught up in the day-to-day and the thinking that "it would be so faster if I just do it." But in the long run, it's so important to stop and take the time.

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  13. i'm in love..i used to live in france so i need to get this! amazing blog..can't wait to follow! xo

  14. Oh my goodness, we had this book growing up!!! I think my mom must have saved it from her childhood. I don't remember actually making anything out of it, but I remember pouring over the illustrations and hand lettering. They're just as lovely as ever. Thanks for the reminder!

  15. Ok, don't laugh at me, but what is "Ticket to Ride?" I think I might have missed out on something!

    Anyway, this is a great post because my mom didn't teach me these things and when I found myself on my own, I was trying to figure out some basic life skills. I didn't know how to REALLY clean a bathroom. How to cook. It sounds silly, and I had a great mom, she just didn't have the patience to show me how to do things. I also think a lot of times when you are a mom it's easier to just do something yourself.

  16. One of my favorite cafes in Phoenix, La Grande Orange, has pages from this book framed on their walls. Love.


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