My mother never wanted to be taken out on Mother's Day. "Don't you dare," she'd say, half-joking but half-serious. Mostly, she disliked the obligatory part of it, the thought of being surrounded by, as she said, "all those people who probably never talk to each other the rest of the year, having to be nice to the old bat because it's her day." Not us, of course, but still she had no interest in getting hauled out for overpriced mimosas and underdone eggs Benedict.
What she did like was a homemade breakfast, wobbled up the stairs as soon as the oldest of her three girls was able to carry a tray. We didn't make anything particularly fancy, but just putting together eggs, toast, and coffee can be a challenge when you're four, seven and eight, even with Dad on deck. Partly, I think, she enjoyed the simple luxury of a morning off, but it also reassured her that we'd picked up the basics of what she did to feed us, day in and day out.
As she attests in her lavishly illustrated and user-friendly new book, Williams-Sonoma Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen, cookbook author and former PlumpJack Cafe chef Maria Helm Sinskey feels the same way. Kids should know where their food comes from, whether it means picking out carrots at the market or helping Dad fry shrimp.
This isn't a kids' cookbook; instead, it's a cooking-together kind of book, full of dishes and menus that a whole family can make and enjoy together.
Helm Sinskey, her husband (acclaimed organic winemaker Robert Sinskey) and their two girls are adorable, the styling is charming, the recipes look both tasty and accessible, and alright, I'll admit it: by page 50, I was envious (those chickens! that lavender! those sweet dirty carrots!), and by page 260, I was downright suspicious. Who were these preternaturally well-behaved children daintily cutting out star shapes from their very own homemade marshmallows? As they frolic in the meadows around the Sinskeys' gorgeous wine-country house while stuffing handfuls of fresh vegetables into their mouths and saying things like "Mommy, you make the best vanilla ice cream ever!" the whole package can seem almost too rustically perfect.