Kitchen Chaos is the first book in the fun new MG series, SaturdayCooking Class, by JillEllyn Riley and Deb Levine.
The authors stopped by to chat with the MUF. Here’s what they had to say:
I love food. I love to read about it, think about it, shop for it, and–of course–eat it. But I don’t love to cook it. Oddly enough, it took me most of my adult life–that’s thousands of meals–to realize this about myself. The thing is, I love the idea of cooking–it’s the act of doing it I dislike. I don’t have the patience for all of the measuring and peeling and chopping and mixing and blanching…you get the idea. I’m a lazy chef, and an even lazier recipe follower–which drives my husband, who comes from a long line of Viennese bakers, absolutely crazy. If I don’t have an ingredient on hand, I’d rather skip it or improvise than run to the store and buy it. Sometimes, I’m lucky, and whatever I substituted actually works. Other times, my slacker tendencies are a recipe for disaster.
I’ve written about food from time to time throughout my career, for magazines and in a non-fiction book I authored about the history and traditions of Valentine’s Day (with recipes!). But before The Saturday Cooking Club books ( The Icing on the Cake , the second in the series, hits shelves in September) , I’d never written so much about the act–or, as I now understand it, the art–of cooking. A few chapters into Kitchen Chaos, I discovered that I have almost as little patience for writing about cooking as I have for, well, doing it.
Luckily, I have a co-author who understands that good food–and good food writing–can’t be rushed. JillEllyn’s instincts about how much detail and history to include in the chapters about cooking (which is most of them) made our books not only more authentic, but also more fun. With her help, as long as The Saturday Cooking Club series continues, I’m determined to keep fending off my impatience with the cooking scenes. I’m not quite as committed to self-improvement when it comes to actual cooking, however. So if you send me an invitation to a dinner party and I promise to make something, what I really mean is that my husband will bake.
Unlike my co-author Deb, I don’t get swept up in recipe reading or get excited walking through a farmer’s market imagining what we could eat for dinner. But as she would quickly point out, I do cook. I definitely cook. There is something about the chopping & the measuring, the pouring & the sifting, the folding & the beating, that feels like telling a story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. There is a journey from start to finish, an evolution. While I cook, I feel like I am telling a story, the story of my family. In our family, the food defines us, the food tells us who we are and where we came from — it describes the time of year, celebrates the occasion, sets the tone and reflects the atmosphere. Summer is here when a blueberry buckle emerges from the oven, with its cinnamon topping bubbling and crackling. If not for the dozen different kinds of Christmas cookies–some requiring complicated steps over multiple days at a time–will the magic of Christmas really unfold?
Both of my grandmothers were excellent cooks. One grandmother relished the planning and the prep, she found the hours in the kitchen productive, nurturing, and necessary. For my other grandmother, there were books to be read, surfaces to be painted, ideas to be pondered. Still, she always cooked. They used their food to tell the story of our family. The treats on their tables showcased the eras that shaped them–the stringencies of the Depression or the conveniences of the 50s & 60s (Jello salad anyone?). Now, in the years since they died, great-grandchildren continue to ask for Nana’s fudge or apple sauce or wilted salad. Cooking their food brings them with us, keeps them in the ongoing story even as it writes itself in Brooklyn–years and miles away from where it started. So I may not love to cook, but I do love to keep telling the family story, through food.
Kitchen Chaos is the story of three diverse, spunky seventh grade girls who discover that sometimes, you just have to stir things up. Their adventures mix friendship, family, food, and a pinch of romance. When they wind up taking a cooking class with their trio of strong-willed moms, well, things definitely get hot in the kitchen…
Thanks, you two! You’ve got our mouths watering. Deb and JillEllyn are giving away FIVE Copies of their new book. To be eligible, just leave a comment below.
Tricia is the author of many books for middle grade, most recently "Every Single Second" (HarperCollins) and the third book in the Cody series, "Cody and the Rules of Life" (Candlewick Press). A frequent speaker at schools, libraries, and conferences, she lives in Cleveland OH. You can find out more about her and her work at www.triciaspringstubb.com
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