Renowned storyteller Jane Yolen and daughter Heidi E.Y. Stemple are making magic again.
They’ve written another cookbook for kids, and it’s delightful.
Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook (Crocodile Books, $25), with tales retold by Ms. Yolen and recipes by Ms. Stemple, is filled with lovely illustrations by collage artist Sima Elizabeth Shefrin. There are 18 recipes, including latkes, kugel, and blintzes, spiced with an equal number of folk tales.
Whether it’s The Latke Miracle or The Wheat Came in at the Door or How to Know a Noodle, Ms. Yolen’s storytelling enriches each folk tale.
That food and folk tales are so intertwined shouldn’t be surprising. They are among our oldest traditions.
“We eat and we entertain ourselves with stories. There’s also a great female aspect because in the old days it was the woman in the kitchen and telling stories to the children,” says Ms. Yolen during a phone chat with the authors from Ms. Yolen’s Massachusetts home. “Both of them are arts and skills, and even if you have very little talent for each, you can do something within the family as part of the storytelling and cooking.”
Chimed in Ms. Stemple, “These are both things that families do together and they’re multigenerational. You can tell a story and a child will get one level of it and a parent will get another. With cooking, it’s the same.”
And while it may sometimes seem easier to chase kids out of the kitchen with an “I’m just cooking a meal,” Ms. Stemple, who’s cooked with her two daughters, including the now-18-year old who helped test recipes, urged otherwise.
“You can say, ‘We need to peel the carrots and that’s your job’ and somebody else needs to stir the batter and that’s a job for your younger sibling,” said Ms. Stemple. “It depends on the recipe, the child, and the kitchen. My kitchen has some enormous sharp knives. It has gas. The water is turned up scalding hot. My kitchen is not where a 7-year-old should go into and cook on her own.”
“We’re just hoping the book becomes a tradition with families, especially if they’re families who haven’t had much of a story and a cooking tradition because I think that we make it simple to love,” said Ms. Yolen, who’s written a hundred-plus books.
“Cooking and telling stories are the way to have that wonderful family time that we’re all regretting that we don’t seem to have anymore.”
The authors have designed the book to appeal to all ages for, as they note, recipes and folk tales have always been adaptable.
Recipes get tweaked by cooks to suit their taste buds, skills, and budgets. So do stories, whether the listener is a toddler or teenager.
“Be playful with both these stories and recipes,” the authors write. “First make [and] tell them exactly as they are here, and then begin to experiment. Recipes and stories are made more beautiful, more filling more memorable by what you put into them.”