Interview: Alice Zaslavsky

140718_Alice_74Why did you choose to write a fact based book for children, rather than adults?
I’m a teacher by trade, so it was never a question of whether it was going to be for kids or grown-ups… The question was which facts to keep in and which got the boot! The original manuscript was about 10,000 words longer. I’m most sad that “G for Gerbil (not a food)” didn’t make the cut.

Why did you choose those specific recipes to be featured in the book?
This book is more about the love of food and knowledge rather than a straight recipe book – I’d love for it to be used as a reference book for kids who are starting to pull other recipe books off the shelf, and used in tandem. The recipes that I did include are opportunities to build integral skills, as well as classic “kid-friendly” dishes that tend to be bought in. I’d love to be able to show that something like chicken nuggets are much simpler to make than you think – and are so much TASTIER when you MYO (not to mention better for you… But kids don’t particularly care about that yet).

Have you always wanted to write a book?
I’ve always been a voracious reader. I won the librarian’s prize for most books borrowed for three years running in primary school. I’d pick a nonfiction topic I was interested in, then read every book on that topic until I ran out. I still know an uncannily large amount of information on Ancient Egypt and Cats – makes for an excellent bank of info for trivia nights. But I digress! I also wrote textbooks for my younger cousin Diana for when we played “school”. I was always the teacher, of course.  9781922179388h

You often do cooking demonstrations and workshops with children, what have been some of your favourite moments of cooking with kids?
I love working with kids because they’re so spontaneous and quite hilarious. There’re plenty of stories of massive messes and ingredient explosions, but as for my favourite moments, it has to be those times when I find out that it’s the first time a new skill is being attempted – like chopping, or even stirring. When I was teaching, I used to love school camps because they were an opportunity to get kids out of their comfort zone – particularly when it came to prepping dinner. I was always amazed that even at year 8, boys hadn’t chopped an onion, or girls hadn’t understood flavour combinations. Those light-bulb moments are why I became a teacher, and they’re still the moments that make me happiest.

Who would you like to cook for at your ultimate dinner party?
I love cooking for funny people. If I could get a bunch of comedians in a room and just cook along, listening to their banter, that would make for a terrific evening. We’ve actually designed my kitchen in such a way that I can cook while our friends watch/eat. I get too fidgety if I’m just sitting there – this way, I can wander about, stirring pots and chiming in every now and then. The best part about being known for my cooking is that people can’t seem to say no when we invite them around for dinner – it’s made for some pretty illustrious shindigs already. I’d love to be able to create a bit of an ongoing “Edible Adventurer” dinner with visiting creatives. I cook, they chat. Sound familiar? Yep. I’m making my ultimate dinner party happen for real.

Who’s your cooking hero?
I’ve had a chance to meet quite a number of them now, so they’ve transcended past “cooking hero” to general legends, some of whom I can count as actual mates. I’ve always admired Rick Stein’s casual and inclusive cooking style, Massimo Bottura’s passion for regionality, art and culture, and, more locally, Alla Wolf Tasker for her approach to seasonal produce and education of the next generation of eaters.

You’ve conquered the alphabet, what edible adventures are next?
Gosh! This is only the beginning! There’s a veritable cornucopia of ingredients to come. I wanted this one to be a dip-your-toe-in tome, but I’d love for future books to be about weirder foods – to encourage more adventurous eating. My next book will most likely be an extension of my favourite part of this book though – the Snack Attacks! These are designed as guides rather than recipes – ways to encourage readers to rethink their snacking and make fresher choices from what’s in the fridge. Did someone say Avo & feta mash on bruschetta??