Book Review: Alice’s Food A-Z, by Alice Zaslavsky

Available in bookstores nationwide.
Alice Zaslavsky is a former teacher and Masterchef Australia contestant. She now hosts an Australian kids cooking knowledge quiz show, thus this book, Alice’s Food A-Z is a logical combination of those two experiences. This colourful book is aimed at sharing food facts, cooking tips and terminology with children –the main audience being 8-14 year olds.

There are nearly 40 recipes included, from the simple – peanut butter on celery sticks, to the more involved recipe for borscht. It is framed as an A-Z, with each letter featuring a food and recipe or two. The writing style is very casual, perhaps somewhat irritating for adults (the sentence “Science, yo” still sits uncomfortably with me) but it is very engaging for the target audience.

The fun facts are interesting. I enjoyed learning why bananas are curved and being reminded that baby carrots are not young carrots, but sculptured seconds from the adult carrot harvest. We have also changed the way we peel bananas – we now peel from the short end – on her recommendation. My eight-year-old daughter had this book by her side for a few days. Kids her age love facts – so we heard a lot of them during this time. She also really enjoyed the mushroom guide – she hadn’t realised that there were more types of mushrooms than those we typically buy from the supermarket.

The recipes are all labeled to make it clear which contain nuts and gluten, with some of the recipes being at ‘expert level’ – needing independent knife skills for example. The recipes are often written in a very informal way and do not assume prior knowledge of cooking skills. They also give good reminders when you may need some adult assistance.

This is one of those hard to categorise books. It is the sort of book that has a really wide potential audience, because it is very engaging once you pick it up. But it is one that would perhaps be easy to overlook as it isn’t really just a recipe book, or a fact guide. I recommend it for children who enjoy sharing ‘fun facts’ or would like a slightly more than basic recipe book.

Reviewed by Emma Wong-Ming

Alice’s Food A-Z
by Alice Zaslavsky
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781922179388