Sunrise slushies and dippy eggs
Three new cookbooks source recipes from the heady universe of children’s literature
The first big adjective I used was 11 letters long and grossly misspelt. “Scrumptious” stood out self-importantly in my primary school composition, a hat-tip to the custodian of every young reader’s listless afternoons: Enid Blyton. “Scrumptious,” and all its synonyms, find much to do in Blyton’s prose, where befuddling mysteries and sneaky adventures are always punctuated with delicious food. The most committed Blyton reader might have trouble recollecting the names of the Secret Seven, but will easily summon images of the buttery scones and jugs of fresh lemonade that dominated every meeting. As a children’s book author, Blyton achieved three big feats—recruiting lifelong bibliophiles, raising the aspirational value of boarding schools, and lending food a sensory vitality. For some of these readers, descriptors like “lashings of ginger beer” and “smell of frying rose” led them towards their own kitchen-counter adventures.
One such Blyton-head, Allegra McEvedy, returns to the author’s best-loved worlds and designs more than 50 recipes for children in Jolly Good Food (Hachette India). “Enid Blyton’s books are full of simple, timeless things that never go out of fashion: friendship, thrilling adventures, using your imagination, getting lots of fresh air, and the comforting reassurance that only home-cooking can bring,” she writes in the foreword to the book.
This bright, finely illustrated edition sources recipes from Blyton’s most popular works: Breakfast is inspired by The Naughtiest Girl, refreshments for elevenses come from The Secret Seven’s shed meetings, picnic essentials are courtesy The Famous Five, teatime snacks are picked from The Faraway Tree and midnight feasts from Darrell’s misadventures in Malory Towers. Each section opens with an excerpt from the series, and includes all-time classics like Ginger Beer and Google Buns, along with dressed-up updates such as Marvellous Melon Boats.
What’s interesting about Blyton’s food writing is that it is not entirely dominated by sugary cheats. In a piece for The Guardian, journalist Josh Sutton notes how Blyton could transform something as ordinary as a lettuce leaf into a desirable treat—“crisp lettuces, dewy and cool, and red radishes were side by side in a big glass dish, great slabs of butter and jugs of creamy milk”. In this way, she lends her protagonists a natural predilection for nutritious greens and works into her prose a fair representation of all food groups.
Another children’s cookbook that sources recipes from the wider universe of children’s literature, including Indian classics like Malgudi Days as well as newer releases, is Bookworms & Jelly Bellies (Hachette India), authored by Ruchira Ramanujam and Ranjini Rao. The 50-plus vegetarian recipes in the book are age-appropriate—from 3-14 years—and are accompanied by fun marginalia in the form of facts and limericks. The mix of healthy recipes and sweet treats—from Goldilocks’ overnight Oats Porridge and Sesame Carrot Fries from Peter Rabbit: The Complete Tales, to Roll-Out Atta Cookies from Vikas Khanna’s The Magic Rolling Pin and psychedelic pesto pinwheels from the Mad Hatter’s tea party—make smart diet choices, such as substituting sugar with jaggery.
Food blogger Kate Young, another devourer of food and fiction, is a London-based chef and author of The Little Library Cookbook (Head of Zeus Books), which features 100 recipes inspired by famous works like Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels (Neapolitan pizza) and Anna Karenina (chicken tarragon), as well as children’s classics like Winnie the Pooh (honey and rosemary cakes) and Harry Potter’s extravagant Hogwarts feasts (treacle tart). The list continues to grow on Young’s Instagram account @bakingfiction, an ever-expanding source of recipes sweetened by the nostalgia of a familiar childhood story.
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