This month’s Let’s Cook the Books is slightly sneaky, firstly because it’s featuring YoungestGirl, rather than EldestGirl, and secondly because we’re not actually cooking a recipe from The Gruffalo itself (roasted fox, anyone?). YoungestGirl received for her birthday, from my lovely friend Erica, a fantastic children’s cookery book based on The Gruffalo. (Believe it or not, they do actually have a recipe for roasted fox, but it – disappointingly, some might say – features roasted sweet potato rather than actual fox.)
On one of our days at home, YoungestGirl and I decided to make toast with the mouse from The Gruffalo‘s face.
First step – put on an apron that’s at least three sizes too big for you. Then complain you don’t have a chef’s hat. Ironically, this outfit used to have a chef’s hat, but EldestGirl refused to wear it, and now I think it’s been lost down the black hole behind our kitchen cupboard.
The Gruffalo was given to EldestGirl as a present when she was born, so it was one of the very, very first books she had. Over the years it has remained a favourite. Julia Donaldson’s meter rarely strays a beat, and the repetition makes it perfect for little voices to join in with. Both children have been able to recite it off by heart. As the children get older, they suddenly realise that the mouse is being clever and tricking the animals, which adds another dimension for them.
We used to live near the most fantastic Gruffalo trail that had all the characters carved out of wood. We live near a different one now, but it doesn’t have any of the characters – I think it relies on an app to virtually put the characters standing next to you, which is all well and good, but not very exciting for children, who can’t see the screen if they’re in the photo!
Almost every Julia Donaldson book is a winner for us; her lead characters are plucky and feisty, and there’s usually a moral in the tale.
Special shout out Donaldson’s The Paper Dolls which is a story so beautiful about loss, ageing and how nothing really disappears forever that I am unable to get to the end without sobbing. As far as my children are concerned, it’s just a story about paper dolls and Mummy has gone a bit mad.
Because I am really quite mean, I once sent this book as a present to Erica’s children, along with a pair of children’s scissors. (If you haven’t read it, then this will mean nothing to you, but basically I’m a bit evil. I’m sort of OK with this.)
Next we buttered the bread, preheated the oven, and cracked an egg into the hole we’d made in the bread. The yolk broke. If I loved my child and/or perfect pictures more, I’d have started again, but an egg’s an egg, innit?
Into the oven it went, and then came out, after about seven minutes, to be decorated.
Hilariously the book suggests using olives for eyes. Have you met any toddlers, oh recipe writer? What percentage of them do you think would like to eat black olives? I estimate it between 0% and 0.2%. We used raisins instead, which yes, don’t go brilliantly with egg, but YoungestGirl will willingly eat them. (EldestGirl has recently started boycotting raisins in a game that we like to call Sibling Dickhead Tag, where they take it in turns to dislike whatever food the other one eats, in order to make meal preparation more challenging for us.)
We had no chives at home for whiskers. I don’t want to be the sort of household that’s organised enough to have fresh chives on tap. You know who has fresh chives available at all times? Psychopaths. We used cheese instead. We always have cheese. Mmm. Cheese.
And we laughed and we danced and we sang.