Real Style recently had the chance to chat with author and teacher Mardi Michels about her new book In the French Kitchen with Kids: Easy, Everyday Dishes for the Whole Family to Make and Enjoy and her love of French cuisine.
Real Style: What do you love about French cooking and French cuisine?
Mardi Michels: I lived in France for a number of years in my 20s and while I was living there, discovered how much I love how the French eat. The concept of shopping everyday for small quantities of fresh produce and ingredients is a wonderful way to ensure you’re eating fresh, real food everyday and while it’s not always possible, it’s still something I try to strive for when I’m home in Canada. The food the French cook and eat at home is actually very simple, despite what many people think – it’s not all Michelin stars and haute cuisine – and the recipes in In the French Kitchen with Kids speak to this. Not only are there no unusual ingredients (mostly pantry and fridge staples) but only one of the recipes calls for a special piece of equipment (a madeleine pan) – you’ve likely got all the equipment you need on hand already. I love that so many of the dishes sound fancy or look fancy but are actually super easy to make (don’t tell anyone but choux pastry – the base for profiteroles and éclairs is actually very easy!!). French food is easier to make than many people think which is perhaps the thing I love the most about it!
RS: You teach after-school cooking classes for boys aged 7 – 14 . How do children benefit from spending time in the kitchen?
MM: Teaching cooking is about so much more than preparing and eating food. Cooking is also about reading comprehension, following instructions, team work, collaboration, mathematics, science, chemistry – the list goes on and on. Where I think children benefit most from spending time in the kitchen is the confidence they develop as they make a recipe successfully – the pride I see in my students when they show their finished dishes to their parents is so rewarding for me (and them and their families!). Cooking encompasses a whole set of life skills I believe everyone should learn!
RS: What are some of your favourite recipes for the family?
MM: The recipes I include in In the French Kitchen with Kids are all kid AND parent friendly in terms of both cooking and eating them – I’ve chosen dishes that reflect the way French people eat at home – simply (it’s not all haute cuisine!) and I love that people are cooking from the book with so much success (check out the #inthefrenchkitchenwithkids hashtag on Instagram!). Some of my favourite recipes to suggest parents make with their children are based on what people have been loving – the Oeufs en Cocotte (baked eggs) for beginner cooks, the Ratatouille Tian for intermediate cooks and the Croissants for more advances little chefs and their parents. Other than that, there are a few recipes that I hope become family favourites – Mr Neil’s Roast Chicken (Poulet Rôti), No-knead French loaf (my version of a baguette) and the Mini Berry Galettes.