Though I’m a longtime Christina Björk and Lena Anderson fan (they’re the Swedish author and illustrator team who created Linnea in Monet’s Garden and Linnea’s Almanac, among many others), I didn’t know about Elliot’s Extraordinary Cookbook (1990) until just recently.
Why didn’t you tell me? You know how nuts I am about illustrated cookbooks. 🙂
I snatched up a like-new copy and swooned over every page of this thoroughly charming and delightful book, which is narrated by Linnea’s neighbor Elliot, quite likely the most enthusiastic young cook ever to bake a potato or scramble an egg.
It all begins when Elliot locks himself out of his apartment and meets his neighbor Stella Delight, a kind widow and former ship’s cook who invites him to wait upstairs at her place.
Elliot’s hungry, but all Stella has on hand is a bag of potatoes — to him, not much, but to her, the potential for a feast. She cooks up a delicious batch of potato pancakes and proceeds to tell Elliot all about spuds — how to properly boil them, a little about their history and nutritional value, and of course she shares more potato recipes. Soon Elliot can mash, cream, fry, bake, and even transform these ‘earth apples’ into mouthwatering soup.
With Stella as his mentor, Elliot soon embarks on many other cooking adventures, often accompanied by his friend Arthur, who happens to be somewhat of a picky eater. They learn about cows and milk (and make butter), hens and eggs (and make an omelet), all about digestion, general nutrition and veggies.
But that’s really just the beginning. Elliot bakes bread, cinnamon rolls and scones, whips up some cool afternoon snacks, makes cranberry relish, and even sews his own apron from an old sheet.
The storyline is fun to follow because it provides an enjoyable context for the close to 70 recipes. Elliot and Arthur form a supper club, taking turns cooking or cooking together; Elliot surprises Stella on her birthday with an apple tart, and all three of them go on a picnic (love the bread twists idea).
Linnea makes several appearances in the book too: she shows the boys how to make a soft cheese spread and shows Elliot how to grow “magic vegetables.” She’s also invited to Elliot’s first dinner party, along with Mr. Bloom, Stella and Arthur.
I love love love Lena Anderson’s line drawings; every page turn is such a treat. Some pictures show recipe steps, others the finished product, many others are adorable spot illos that dress up the pages and pique the reader’s interest. We never lose sight of our intrepid little chefs as they hang out in the corners or margins, sometimes with speech bubbles.
The unassuming recipes are easy to make for budding chefs 8+ with some adult supervision. Once kids see how much fun Elliot and Arthur are having, they’re bound to want to give it a go. This is a wonderful celebration of good food and friendship, which is the best seasoning for any dish!
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♥ OAT SCONES ♥
Cornelius couldn’t wait to try the Oat Scones (this might have something to do with Elliot’s suggestion to eat them with orange marmalade or honey). He liked that they are bumpy and brown (kind of like him).
Arthur and I often bake scones when we come home from school hungry. They’re really fast to make because they don’t need to rise.
This recipe is for a small batch (just right for Arthur and me), because bread made with baking powder doesn’t stay fresh and should be eaten right away.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED:
- 1/2 cup oatmeal
- 2/3 cup white flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 T butter
- 1/2 cup milk
HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:
- Set the oven at 475 degrees F
- Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl: oatmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Cut thin slices of the butter (it should be cold and hard) and mix them with the dry ingredients in the bowl. Use your fingertips and work quickly, until everything looks like small crumbs.
- Pour in the cold milk and stir quickly. As soon as it has become a dough, put it on a greased baking sheet and shape it into a sticky round bun. Flatten it a little and make a cross on the top with a dull knife. That makes it easier to divide later.
- Put the baking sheet on a rack in the middle of the oven and bake 10-12 minutes. The bread will swell up to twice its size!
- When it is ready, and has cooled a little, we each take two pieces. We split each piece to make sandwiches that we first spread with butter. Then Arthur puts cheese on two of his and marmalade on the others. I usually have two with cheese and two with HONEY (because I like it so much). We drink tea with our sandwiches and a glass of milk.
The mustached spouse as well as the Alphabet Soup kitchen helpers gave this recipe a rousing ten paws up. The oats give these scones a nice chewy texture, and with lots of butter and honey (or cheese if you’re feeling mousey) they do hit the spot.
Thanks, Elliot, Arthur, Stella and Linnea!
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This post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best bib and join the fun!
Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.