I'm quite often asked for book recommendations, especially since signing my own book deal. So this feels like a waaay overdue post. I hope you like it...let me know if the comments or hit me up on Insta...
Pictured above is a stack of interesting reads for anyone with a baby or little kid to feed. I reckon there's something here for everyone, no matter what stage we're at, so ping this post to your mum/dad friends, your baby's grandparents, or whack it on your baby-mates Whatsapp group. Sharing buttons at the bottom of the post to put it on the socialssss yaay.
Full disclosure: this isn't a list of baby recipe books. If I had shelf of well-thumbed baby cooking bibles I promise I’d share them. Truth be told I struggled to find a baby cookbook I loved. There are lots of brilliant books to inspire healthy and interesting family cooking once your kid has all their teeth and motor skills, but I found a bit of a black hole when it came to user-friendly, genuinely healthy weaning books based on real, whole foods and a broad flavour-range. I didn’t want to feed my baby refined white carbs, recipes with sugar in them, strange combos I don’t think I’d fancy eating myself (fish and fruit in the same puree?), and I didn’t want to give my baby just purees, or only finger food – I saw benefits in baby led weaning and spoon-feeding, and was looking for a best-of-both approach. I’ve read loads of baby cookbooks and found flashes of genius in plenty but just don't have a go-to title I’d wholeheartedly recommend to a friend. No pressure for my book coming out next Spring then…argh…but it’s best to be honest, isn’t it?
If this isn't a list of recipe books, what-the-h is it? You will find some amazing recipe inspo here, but only one of the titles about baby-specific cooking. The rest of the stack takes in the question of how to feed a baby well in its widest and most interesting sense: easy, useful reading on why good nutrition in early childhood matters, portion sizes, the modern baby and kid food industry, how kids are weaned in other food cultures or in the past, what’s going on in a baby’s brain as they’re learning to eat, the evolving role of milk in the diet during weaning, how broadly a baby can safely eat, and how to put flavours together. These books made me realise what a massive subject this is and how little most of us modern parents are encouraged to look into it, generally speaking.
There's no ideal order in which to read these books but if I were starting out I'd pick up Bee Wilson's book first. First Bite is a brilliant doorway into this whole subject from a smart and circumspect woman who is also a mother.
I've linked to all the books on Amazon so you can check out other people's (mega) impressions of them...just click on the book's title below. These aren't affiliate links, I just love these books and want you to know about them. I've also linked to some of the authors' social feeds so you can give them a follow if you like the sound of what they write.
From the top of the stack:
First Bite: How We Learn To Eat. Bee Wilson. If you like my recipes you’ll love reading this book. I met Bee a few months ago at an event she was speaking at just after this book was published, and she's every bit as passionate and compelling in person as she is in print. Regular columnist for The Guardian as well as an author of many books about modern food culture and food trends. After this maybe edge into her back catalogue with Consider the Fork. Follow her on Twitter here: @KitchenBee.
In Defense of Food. Michael Pollan. No list of books on this subject would be complete without at least one of his. He doesn't write specifically about baby food but what he has to say about food is very relevant to anyone in charge of feeding a kid. He’s the guy who famously said that thing you’ve probably seen quoted by alllll the Instagram and Pinterest foodies: "Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants."; “Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognise as food". He's written loads of interesting stuff - most recently a book called Cooked last year, about why he thinks home cooking is the most important thing a person can do for their family's health, their own wellbeing, and to help fix what he sees as our broken food system. 3.5m people have watched his RSA talk about that, called How Cooking Can Change Your Life. Watch it HERE and follow him on Twitter here: @MichaelPollan.
The Food Our Children Eat. Joanna Blythman. Kick-arse mumboss and award-winning British investigative journalist of the food-industry-expose type. She knows a LOT about the modern food system and isn’t afraid to say what she thinks. Thought-provoking for any parent wondering whether the modern western childhood diet is all it's cracked up to be. She’s written several books but this one’s an examination of why/how modern children’s food has become synonymous with bad food. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaBlythman.
GUT. Giulia Enders. OK, super specific sounding subject, but this little one was a bestseller last Christmas and I think it’s easy to see why. Easy read based on point of view that our gut is as important as our brain or heart and yet is, in comparison, much less understood and appreciated. Surprisingly entertaining given the subject matter. I shit you not. Sorry couldn’t help it.
The Flavour Thesaurus. Gorgeous in every way. Not a book you'll sit and read from cover to cover but it will definitely earn itself a place on your kitchen shelf. Breaking down what goes with what and why, this book helps me with pretty much every recipe I write, and has inspired loads of unexpected flavour combos in my kitchen. It’s a myth that babies need and like only bland, basic flavours. They can safely eat an astonishing range of foods, and this book will help make your baby cooking feel creative and interesting. Loved by loads of big chefs. Great gift for a foodie parent.
Flavour: A User’s Guide To Our Most Neglected Sense. New out, this is an in-depth read about the surprising ways humans experience taste and flavour written by a writer from New Scientist magazine. Brilliant book - cross between food writing, travel writing and psychology that will make you, like, reallllly interesting at dinner parties. LOL, as if we go to many of those these days. It’ll brighten up your knackered-frazzled-coffee-shop-mum-mate-dates. Truth.
Food and the Self. I've spent the past ten years as a brand strategist and trend forecaster (until I quit last month to be my own (mum)boss…read that story here), so I get that this book’s a bit niche but it was right up my street so I thought I’d include it. It's about how in the post-industrial modern culture food has become much, much more than just stuff to eat – our food choices can define the moment we’re in, change our mood, evoke memories of other places and times, and is an entire way of communication in itself – champagne means I’m proud of you, a warm milky drink at bedtime is comforting, remembering the way someone takes their tea shows them you care about them. Thought-provoking book for Millennial parents building a new little family ‘food culture’ around their kitchen table. Very cool book.
Super Nutrition for Babies. The only baby cookbook on this list: a rather niche American text that's a bit old, and a bit extreme (so much bone broth, and even advice about adding nutrient-dense raw egg yolk to weaning meals...advice I didn't follow myself and am not urging you guys to) but has at its core a simple and pretty powerful emphasis on real, unprocessed food that I found eye-opening. It gave me confidence that my baby could safely eat more broadly than my local supermarket's baby food aisle led me to believe. I totally narrowed my eyes at some of the more extreme advice (and the liberal use of offal) but honestly, this book was a bit of a game changer for me and I recommend it to you. Includes an interesting summary of the invention of mass-produced baby food in the mid 20th Century. If you can't find it in print check second-hand sellers like The Book Depository or request it at the library.
Green Kitchen Travels. This book is the dream. If you don't already follow @Gkstories, give them a little look. A foodie family floating around the world taking in the local food culture and creating colourful, healthy and totally non-boring family recipes. Luisa and David are the adventurous, laid-back, globe-trotting parents B’s dad and I wanna be when we grow up.
Part-Time Vegetarian. We eat all kinds of meat, fish and dairy in our house (respectfully raised/farmed and organic as much as we can) but I have a growing interest in that flexitarian kind of life. This book taught me about cheap and versatile plant-based protein sources and how to make them feel like the main event rather than the side-dish. Great inspo for any family keen to down their meat consumption without feeling like they’re missing out. Most recipes in this book are easily tweaked to make them baby-safe.
Jerusalem. I've always loved Yotam Ottolenghi and this book is his best yet. Baby B has eaten from this book so many times and it's inspired loads of the aromatic Middle-Eastern-style recipes I share on my Instagram feed like tagines, hummus, baba-ganoush, flatbreads and some of the stews.To anyone in London: his cafes make the.best.mum.date.locations. Cakes to make your eyes bug out and they’re famously welcoming to babies and little kids. Hero. I'm in denial that my book deal is with the same folks that make his.
One last thing. Grab 20m to watch (or re-watch) Jamie Oliver's 2010 TED Talk, Teach Every Child About Food. This sparked so much public debate and kicked off lots of JO's subsequent work on revolutionising how children eat in the U.K. and abroad. More than nine million people have watched it and it's well worth seeing now you're in charge of feeding a baby/kid. Watch it here: JAMIE'S TED TALK.