The Cultured Chef: an International Cookbook for Kids

"Close Up Asian Cuisine" by rakratchada torsap at
“Close Up Asian Cuisine” by rakratchada torsap at

Nicholas Beatty and Coleen McIntyre have created a beautiful, well-researched and fun cookbook, which uses food to introduce children to other cultures. While it may see strange to review a cookbook for kids on an International and Global Studies blog for adults, most cookbooks don’t begin with the heading “How to become a global citizen,” or a list of “5 ways to become more globally aware.” Every section is organized around a world region, with recipes and information from a few countries. For example, the section on Hawaii describes how to make Musubi riceballs (which entails a discussion of Hawaii’s multicultural history), contains a kids’ activity to make a Lei, and tells about a Polynesian myth.The section on Mexico describes Day of the Dead bread, and discusses the artwork of Frida Kahlo and Jose Guadelupe Posada. Because one of the key goals of the book is to introduce children to global cultures, the work has unexpected sections such as “Musical Instruments of the World.” I liked that indigenous peoples also were included in the work, from the Yup’ik Inuit to the Maori.

At the same time, this book is primarily designed to inspire kids to cook, and it is carefully crafted to highlight appealing recipes that children can make. The glossary at the start of the book is particularly useful because every term comes with a picture, so that kids can understand terms like “mince” or “punch-down.” The 10 tips for success at the start of the book introduce kids to good, basic kitchen skills. It’s hard to read the book and not decide to cook shrimp jerk skewers from Jamaica or steak chimichurri pasta from Argentina. But I suspect that kids will more enjoy making Scottish shortbread cookies, especially since it is such a simple recipe. Many of the recipes -such as the Caprese salad- are wonderfully simple. Of course, I’m not sure that all children will be excited by the Dutch pea soup “Snert.” One of the tips for this recipe begins “Don’t make such a nasty face!”

Illustrator Coleen McIntyre has a gift for the use of color. The cover dances with images from a Ganesh to an octupus. The plates on the inside back cover shimmer with avocado green and rose colored tomatoes. She also seems to have boundless energy because every page is filled with endless images of folklore, architecture, masks, animals and food. How did she find the time to create so many wonderful watercolors?

The book ends with a discussion of how to incorporate the work into the classroom, with activities for different grade levels from Kindergarten through five. The multicultural reading list covers books from Pre-K through High School, and includes Indigenous author Louise Erdrich. I could see this being a key text for classrooms at International Schools, or schools with a global commitment. But it’s also such a fun book that I think that many adults will have trouble putting it down. I should say that I had the chance to meet the authors briefly at a book signing event this weekend in Portland, and their zeal for international cuisine is matched by their history of travel. If you need to buy a gift for a child who is passionate about cooking, this might be the perfect gift. You can order the book here. For some reason, the link to add the book to my shopping cart didn’t work on my Mac; I hope that’s only a quirk on my computer, because this book deserves a wide readership.

Have a good end to the term, and a real break over the holidays.

Shawn Smallman, Portland State University


Privacy & Cookies: This site uses cookies. See our Privacy Policy for details. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. If you do not consent, click here to opt out of Google Analytics.