It was one of those days at work - I'd had a couple of tricky meetings, a report to write, a stack of emails to read through. My lunch just hadn't cut the mustard and I had a hankering for something sweet. I work in the centre of Norwich so I thought I'd pop to the supermarket and see if they had any nice cakes (obviously I planned to share the cakes with my team...)
So I found a nice cake on the shelf, and just thought I'd check out the ingredients before I took it to the checkout.
And I found, deep breath:
Mono and Di-Glycerides of Fatty Acids
Sodium Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids
Calcium Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acids
Xantham Gum (a stabiliser)
Vegetable Glycerine (a humectant)
You what?? I can't even pronounce half of those things. And that was just in the cake sponge. The buttercream had another bunch of weird things in it. It wasn't even a "fancy" cake, just a plainish sponge. It was only 81p but I didn't buy it. I sneakily took a photo of the ingredients list on the box with my phone, and ran out, feeling like an undercover agent.
The gorgeous bun in the photo above is home-made. I didn't bake this bun, Genevieve did. Genevieve is three and a half years old.
OK, she did have help - she made a batch of them with my mum - but Genevieve cracked the eggs herself, helped weigh out the ingredients, mixed them up, and then decorated the buns once they were cool. I was pretty impressed. On the way, she learned about maths, about reading, about following instructions and working in a team. Genius.
The thing about cooking is it's so easy that anyone can do it. We started teaching the girls to cook when they were quite small - easy stuff like rice crispy cakes - and they took to it really well. They know that cooking is not playtime and they have to focus, but also that it's fun and that there's a little bit of magic involved.
Bookshop shelves are groaning with recipe books, and I've got a few myself. But, quite often, I reach for the books written for children. They're simple, well-planned and easy to follow. And you'll never find a list of ingredients in a cookbook like the one above.
You're never too old to learn how to cook. And you're never too old to enjoy making and eating jam tarts or chocolate crispies from a "Cooking for Children" cookbook!
(Picture above right courtesy of Jane Chittenden from the Transition Norwich Plant Swap)