Sweet memories: Children learn to make strawberry shortcake through online lesson

  • Deanna Cook, a professional children’s cookbook author, will be teaching children to bake strawberry shortcake Saturday, June 6 at 1 p.m. as part of Northfield’s virtual Authors and Artists Festival.

  • Deanna Cook, a professional children’s cookbook author, will be teaching children to bake strawberry shortcake Saturday, June 6, at 1 p.m. as part of Northfield’s virtual Authors and Artists Festival. Her cookbooks and website, www.deannafcook.com, feature a variety of recipes and activities for kids. Contributed Photo

  • Deanna Cook’s cookbooks and website, www.deannafcook.com, feature a variety of recipes and activities for kids. Contributed Photo

  • Deanna Cook, a professional children’s cookbook author, will be teaching children to bake strawberry shortcake Saturday, June 6, at 1 p.m. as part of Northfield’s virtual Authors and Artists Festival. Contributed Photo

  • Deanna Cook, an author of children’s cook books, says she has been sent countless pictures of kids cooking, like the one above. While families have extra time on their hands, many are spending more time in the kitchen and making moments of joy in an otherwise stressful time. Contributed Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 6/8/2020 10:58:58 AM

Deanna Cook remembers when she was a child waiting for the day when the first strawberry would appear in the garden so she could pick the fresh fruit, sprinkle it with sugar and enjoy the first of many snacks of the season. If the strawberries made it to the kitchen, Cook would whip up a strawberry shortcake from scratch.

Now grown up, Cook, who previously worked as an editor at FamilyFun Magazine when it was based in Northampton, is a best-selling author of multiple children’s cookbooks. She will be sharing her strawberry shortcake recipe with children as part of an online demonstration Saturday at 1 p.m. as part of the Northfield Authors and Artists Festival, sponsored by the Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield. She will guide the cooking session from her own kitchen while viewers follow along at home.

Cook said she enjoys teaching children the fun life skills of cooking and baking. During this trying time, Cook has been sent countless pictures of kids cooking.

“There’s so much joy on their faces,” Cook said. “They’re proud to have made something from scratch.”

While families have extra time on their hands, many have been spending more time in the kitchen and making moments of joy in an otherwise stressful time. Plus, cooking allows kids to keep learning skills like math, science, reading, and critical thinking when their school is closed.

“Cooking is a springboard for learning about the world, cultures, math and science,” Cook said.

With strawberry season here and with physical-distancing protocols still in place, the online program promises to engage children in seasonal hands-on fun from their own homes. Cook said she loved to bake as child, in part, because it felt like a science experiment. Children often enjoy the satisfaction of turning flour and milk into shortcake biscuits. Not to mention the slightly more challenging task of creating your own whipped cream.

“You’ve got to watch it so it’s perfect,” Cook said. “If you whip it too much, it turns to butter.”

Cook said working in the kitchen helps teach important values such as kindness and sharing. The life skill of cooking dinner may become even more important if families have to lean on kids to help feed household members who are unwell.

Many of Cook’s recipes are meant to be kid-friendly while appealing to adults. Growing up as a self-identified picky eater, she said it’s important for kids to keep trying new foods and experiencing new flavors. She also said that kids who have a hand in cooking a new meal are more likely to eat it.

Making meals from scratch helps teach kids where foods come from and what they’re made of. Some of Cook’s cookbooks include recipes that teach kids who to make things like ketchup, pasta sauces, salad dressings and even peanut butter from scratch. She said she tries to make the recipes visually accessible so kids really see how things are made.

Her cookbooks and website, deannafcook.com, feature a variety of recipes and activities for kids. They can learn how to make cookie sticks and toast toppers, or follow the “Eat a Rainbow” worksheet to keep track of all the colorful fruits and veggies they eat from the farmers market. Kids can also print out flashcards and learn to say “I’m hungry” in over a dozen languages, or use the Cooking Class Passport to mark the meals they’ve eaten from “around the globe.”

Cook’s first book, “The Kids’ Multicultural Cookbook,” was published when she graduated from Colby College. She was awarded the Watson Fellowship, which was allowed her to travel and collect recipes from kids around the world. She earned the fellowship after putting forth the idea for the book.

“You needed an idea for why to travel, and I suggested a children’s cookbook,” she said.

Cook was an English major in college but worked as a chef during the summers. She said she had never written a book or her own recipes before taking on the endeavor that would shape much of her career. Now, Cook continues to write and work these days as an acquisitions editor for Storey Publishing.

To support families, Cook started a recipe newsletter to provide free cooking videos, recipes, and learning activity sheets. If your children are inspired to cook dinner or bake cookies, they can share photos by tagging Cook on Instagram or Facebook.

The virtual Author’s and Artists festival will be hosting multiple events and speakers every Saturday in June, visit authorsandartistsfestival.wordpress.com to sign up or receive more information.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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