Effects of learning to cook


Here are a few examples of a 5 year old child’s learning in 3 years of learning to cook. These demonstrations of learning are taken from her experience of preparing “apple kesaribath”, a South-Indian semolina pudding sweetened with apples.

  • She has learnt several topics of mathematics while measuring out ingredients – including basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction and multiplication for now), fractions, ratios. For this recipe, we needed 1/4 cup of semolina (rava) and double that quantity of water. She was able to accurately measure out a quarter cup of semolina, and then calculated that double of quarter cup would be half a cup. This demonstrates an understanding of multiplication.
  • She has demonstrated the spirit of scientific inquiry, through observation of reactions between different ingredients and application of different processes to ingredient. For example: what happens when heat (a process) is applied to applies (an ingredient, a fruit)? She observed that the apples turned from crispy to soft, became stickier, and changed in color from pale yellow to light brown. She observed that cooking apples caused steam, despite not adding water to the pot, and was curious to know why. She asked questions about these reactions, and learnt that apples contain juice (which upon heating produced steam) and sugar (which upon heating caused caramelizing that made the apples turn light brown).
  • While preparing this recipe, traditionally served along with a spicy semolina porridge called “upma” or “uppittu” in small street-side cafes called “Darshinis” in Bangalore, Karnataka, she demonstrated a desire to understand culture, asking us to tell us the story of the dish, where the dish comes from, and how to eat it.

These are just a few examples of how cooking integrates education across disciplines, in a manner that makes learning natural, engaging and integrated into real life!

A recipe book for kids

I have an idea.

One of the constants during the pandemic has been food. Food has brought us comfort, joy, satisfaction, learning and more. When the weather has seemed gloomy, we fry pakodas, seating Ananya on the kitchen counter to gobble ’em up while they’re hot and crispy. When we need something to chew our brains on, we prepare a feast from a new cuisine, such as the middle-eastern feast we made, complete with home-made falafel, hummus, pita & muhamarra. When we need a dose of adventure, we spend the day making all the elements of a dish from scratch, such as pav bhaaji, filling our home with the aromas of freshly roasted spices and home-made bread. Ananya has loved this journey, eagerly awaiting dinner-time each night and learning to measure out ingredients for pav, roll out papdis for dahi papdi chaat and assembling her chaats just the way she likes.

The impact of this learning experience on Ananya has hit me a number of times. When I snagged a beautiful fresh baguette to make bruschetta, she asked me “which country is a baguette from?” I was also amazed when she casually mentioned to me learning about a “bibimbap” (a Korean rice bowl) from one of her books. I was once again in awe what a sponge for learning children are.

One of the roadblocks I’ve had on this journey is the sheer lack of good cookbooks for children that suit our tastebuds. I should mention here that both my daughter and I are those oddballs that can’t handle sweets- we do enjoy the occasional dessert, but love our savory food. We’re also vegetarians, and love trying ethnic food from everywhere- from close to home to around the world. But when I searched for cookbooks for kids, I frequently found dessert-themed books, or books with savory dishes that weren’t vegetarian, or good ethnic cookbooks that had great food but just weren’t accessible in language to a child.

This got me thinking. What if there were a cookbook that ticked all these boxes? A vegetarian, savory food cookbook written for kids. A cookbook full of colors and beautiful visuals. A cookbook that tells a story about each dish, the history and how the dish came to be. A cookbook that teaches children the science behind the food. Did I mention, a cookbook designed just FOR KIDS?

So this was my idea. This is the concept. To plan properly, it needs a series of recipes, stories behind the recipes, steps that children can accomplish independently and guidance on when they require adult assistance. Clear, concise, comprehensible instructions.

What do you think? Would you, or your child, love this?