Great Reads for Culinary Kids (and Hungry Adults)

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Great Reads for Culinary Kids (and Hungry Adults)

By Marilyn Pollack Naron

As a kid, our tree house – aka two boards nailed to a branch – made a perfect reading spot. I’d make two separate climbs before settling in: one toting a snack-filled Partridge Family lunchbox, and another dragging a library bag of books. Many of my favorite reads, both then and now, featured food. The best don’t announce they’re about food, they just are: Heidi toasting cheese in her Alps, Mary and Laura pouring maple in the snow. I read and reread these books, and snacked and read again.  Lucky for me – or no accident at all – my daughter tasted books the same way. Here’s a list we compiled together of great culinary reads for kids of all ages, each delicious and timeless. Taste a book with your child today!

Fanny at Chez Panisse Alice Waters, 1997
In this truly charming story-cookbook, culinary royalty Alice Waters describes how her young daughter, Fanny, spends her days at Mom’s famous California restaurant, sorting tiny eggplants, hiding in stockpots and watching chefs at work.

Blueberries for Sal   Robert McCloskey, 1948
The classic picture book of blueberry picking, a bear cub, mothers and life in Maine.

Little House in the Big Woods Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1932
Ask any Little House fan – nearly every grown woman I know – what she remembers about the Ingalls family. Nine out of ten will say “the food!”  Highlights like maple snow candy, sour pickles, a crackling pig’s tail. Onion wreaths in the root cellar, and dozens of pies. Food passages so memorable, they eventually filled The Little House Cookbook

All-of-a-Kind Family Sydney Taylor, 1951
This marvelous series tells the story of a Jewish family living on New York’s Lower East Side in the early 1900’s – wonderful characters, but what everyone seems to recall is the food: penny candy with names like chocolate babies, chicken corn, lemon-snap and ginger, stuffed sour cream blintzes and pickles, and descriptions of “chick peas! Fine, hot chickpeas!”

In the Night Kitchen Maurice Sendak, 1970
This classic features a nearly baked-in-a-cake naked boy, but all I saw was a fantastical look at how a bakery works overnight. Sendak’s magical drawings of a flour-and-sugar world never fail to stop me in my tracks.

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs   Judi and Ron Barrett, 1978
Who doesn’t love the story of Chewandswallow?  It’s an unforgettable town where weather makes the meals, bringing juice in the rain and mashed potatoes for snow. 

Amelia Bedelia Peggy Parish, 1963
I always liked the many good qualities of free-spirited Amelia Bedelia: she was a tall, skinny smiler, and she cheerfully messed up everything. I particularly admired her tasty signature move: neutralizing any angry person with her heavenly lemon meringue pie.

Anatole Eve Titus, 1956
I don’t love rodents, but then Anatole’s no average mouse; he wears a beret, and bicycles daily into Paris to his cheese factory-taster job.  All these years later I am still dazzled by his jaunty little scarf, and all those Bries and bleus.

Heidi Johanna Spyri, 1880
One of my all-time favorites, the story of a Swiss girl and her grandfather in the Alps is really about toasting golden cheese, curing sausages, sipping warm goat’s milk and downy bakery rolls. Don’t be fooled by the plot; it’s all about the food.

Dear Julia by Amy Bronwen Zemser, 2008
Elaine Hamilton is an unusual teen, happy alone in her kitchen, cooking classic recipes and writing never-delivered letters to her idol, Julia Child.  A terrific story for tweens and up, it features everything from roast duck to the perfect omelet. Julia herself makes a cameo in this teen foodie’s dream.

Marilyn Pollack Naron is the compulsive toast-nibbler behind Simmer Till Done, where every bite tells a story. A former pastry chef enjoying the sweet life in historic Lawrence, Kansas, Marilyn sneaks in food writing when the dog doesn’t need walking. She catered her first party in 1978, a co-ed backyard bash featuring snickerdoodles and Fresca.

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Reader Comments:


Amelia Bedelia books were my kids favorites. No matter how many times we read them we just laugh at all her antics. My kids are now in their 20's and we still laugh at Thanksgiving time when Amelia Bedelia "dressed" the turkey.

By Kate on January 15, 2012


I remember ready All-of-a-Kind Family, Little House and the Big Woods, and many other books that talked about cooking. I want to also add that many of the American Girl Dolls have cooking/crafting books that go along with them. They are a great mother/daughter activity or good for a Girl Scout event. I loved them when I was growing up. Thank you for sharing these wonderful books.

By Anonymous on April 29, 2011

Thank you for your question, and we are so sorry about the confusion with the ad in the magazine. Here is the link to the delicious recipe you were looking for! Happy Cooking!

Libbie Summers

By Lisa the Admin on July 29, 2010

In the July/August issue of “Cooking with Paula deen” -page 37 says - U can go to - - and get the recipes from this magazine.  On that page was a beautiful picture of a cessert - Swiss Meringues with white chocolate mousse.  No recie in magazine and I have tried to get from inter-net and can’t find.  What is this.  False advertisement or what.  All I wanted was to look at ingredients - because I am not a sweet eater but thought I could fix for my friends.  I have said my piece and dissapointment.  Have a nice day.

By Carol Loudermilk on July 28, 2010

Oh lovely!
Great reads for children—and adult food lovers. Plus, Simmertilldone is a wonderful story teller of food. A great follow.

Thank you for sharing Paula!
dahlila xxoo

By dahlila on March 02, 2010

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