When it comes to educating children about food, materials in our collection take all kinds of approaches: cookbooks, story books, advertisements, activity/resource kits, and even a few toys! This week, our blog features Learning to Cook and Serve Our Meals by Ada R. Polkinghorne. Published in 1946 by the National Diary Council, this story book follows Bob and Ann Brown and their parents, as the children learn about helping in the kitchen, cooking and preserving food, and having an airplane themed food party at school (no joke!).
Learning to Cook and Serve Our Meals is clearly designed for children, from its colorful illustrations to simple text. More importantly, the book includes representations of several themes we’ve talked about on the blog previously:
- The World War II and just-post-World War II time in which this publication was written, the emphasis on home gardens and self-sufficiency lingers. Not only do Bob and Ann help harvest, they also help freeze and preserve fruits and vegetables for the winter. Food preservation obvious had value beyond the age of rationing, and it continues to play in an important role in many families today.
- A story book can be educational for children. Or, conversely, an education book for children can have a fun story. This is a story children are intended to relate to, giving them a greater ability to incorporate its values into their own lives.
- Kids can (and should) learn to cook! The kitchen shouldn’t be a foreign place. Rather, it’s a place for work, fun, education, and experimenting/creativity.
- Vegetables are good to eat!
Unlike many “sponsored” publications, this one is free from advertising, which is a little different. Items from the Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Collection that we’ve look at on the blog to date have included varying degrees of product placement. Here, the National Dairy Council refrained from overtly forcing milk or cheese on the Brown family. And certainly not all children’s publications have an advertising agenda either (an idea we’ll come back in the future, no doubt).
While you may not be planning an airplane-themed party for a classroom of children any time soon, it is important to think creatively about food and family. There’s a lot you can do without the burden of reciting facts about flying or arguing over just who should be serving and why. Food really can bring people together, from preparation to clean up and everything in between–and a three day weekend holiday might be the perfect time to try it out!