English muffin pizza for breakfast? Miso cod fingers for the fish-o-phobe? Well, sure! Katie Workman, founding editor of Cookstr.com, created The Mom 100 Cookbook: 100 Recipes Every Mom Needs in Her Back Pocket to help families expand a tired recipe repertoire with simple, homemade dishes prepared with real food.
Workman, the mother of Jack, 12, and Charlie, 9, will autograph books at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe on June 20. We talked with her about splattered cookbooks, picky eaters and how anyone can get their cooking “sea legs” back.
Why publish an actual book in this digital age, when so many cooks surf websites like your own Cookstr.com for recipes?
Oh, I love books. It’s now becoming somewhat cliché to babble on about how a book feels in your hands, how turning the pages feels, the discovery of seeing what’s on the next page. The way a photo looks on the page is different from how a photo looks online. And even though some books you might want to keep pristine, I actually love the fact that when a cookbook is beloved, it gets splattered and tattered.
You place cooking squarely in the mom’s domain. What about dads?
There are of course dads who cook, and I expect that some will take umbrage with the “Mom” part of the title, but in most of our worlds it is the mom who runs the kitchen, the cooking and the food choices. I’m sure the reasons for this vary from family to family. I happen to want to be the cook, and am grateful that my husband is willing to be the dishwasher. I think that increasingly parents are dividing up roles less on traditional stereotypes than by one’s interest and/or willingness to take on an area of responsibility.
Have moms today been overwhelmed out of cooking with all of the convenience foods, busy schedules and fast-food short cuts?
Yes. It’s awfully easy to pick up packaged foods that just necessitate adding your own ground beef or the like, but it’s hard to feel good about the six-inch ingredient list on the side of the package with many items you’ve never heard of and can’t pronounce. I think some people now feel about cooking the way I’d feel if someone told me to make my own clothes, which is self-defeating. Find a couple of simple recipes, get your cooking “sea legs” back and you’ll recapture that nice feeling of being more in control of mealtime again.
What’s your philosophy on choosing ingredients for your recipes?
I am unwavering in the belief that when you are a parent cooking for a family, every day presents its own different reality, and the only way to not become daunted or overwhelmed is to cut yourself some slack and not box yourself into any set of rules or guidelines that are too onerous to stick to. If you can keep it simple, and stick to real food, you can still usually get dinner on the table without resorting to heavily processed foods.
You take on the problem of trying to please everyone in the family with a “fork in the road” solution. What does that mean?
The fork in the road solution is the idea that you can prepare a recipe up until a certain point, and then separate out part of the dish, leaving it on the plainer, simpler side for the pickier eaters at the table. Then you can continue on with the rest of the dish, gussying it up with more seasonings or spices so that it is more sophisticated and interesting to please the more adventurous palates.
Your son Charlie invented a recipe with scrambled eggs, olives and cucumbers he dubbed the “olive percenter.” Do your boys have an interest in cooking like their mom?
They are both pretty happy in the kitchen, though Charlie has shown more interest in the invention department. Occasionally there are blips, like the time he tried to invent a muffin recipe and wondered what would happen if he added a cup of baking soda. The results weren’t what he had hoped. But these are well worth it for the pleasure of seeing him trying new things.
What do they think of the cookbook? How do they feel about what their mom has accomplished?
They are quite into the cookbook. Of course they like the dedication and the acknowledgments, and loved the photo shoot, but they also do bring you back down to earth. My favorite moment recently was when I told them I was going to be on [NBC’s] “Today” show, and my older son Jack said, “Really? Why you?”
Meet Kate Workman
7pm Wednesday, June 20 at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 S. McClintock Dr., Tempe. More information: 480-730-0205 or changinghands.com.