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Children's Nonfiction Cooking & Food

Starting from Scratch

What You Should Know about Food and Cooking

by (author) Sarah Elton

illustrated by Jeff Kulak

Owlkids Books Inc.
Initial publish date
Mar 2014
Cooking & Food, General, Diet & Nutrition
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2014
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2014
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 10 to 18
  • Grade: 4 to 6


Starting from Scratch is a manifesto on food that will help kids relate to what they eat, whether on special occasions or every day, inspiring both budding chefs and budding food lovers in the process. Beginning with an exploration of taste and the way it works, author and food activist Sarah Elton explains how ingredients have been on the move for centuries, resulting in the unique and fusion flavors we love today. She breaks down the science of food and cooking into bite-sized and easily digestible pieces of information that cover everything from the chemistry of heat versus cold, fat versus acid, and salt versus sweet.
Both practical and philosophical in its approach, Starting from Scratch demystifies food and cooking by boiling it down to the basics. Kids will be able to make sense of recipes, measure and substitute ingredients, and stock a pantry, but they’ll also discover that food is more than just a prepackaged meal. Using simple and universal examples, like how an onion is transformed when it’s boiled versus charred, caramelized versus fried, Starting from Scratch will inspire kids to eat better, try new flavors, and understand what’s on their plate.
Even readers who decide the kitchen isn’t for them will leave with an improved sense of where food comes from and be able to join in on a conversation that continues from snack time to dinnertime.

About the authors

SARAH ELTON is the author of Locavore: From Farmers’ Fields to Rooftop Gardens—How Canadians Are Changing the Way We Eat, an instant national bestseller that won gold at the Canadian Culinary Book Awards. The food columnist for CBC Radio’s Here and Now, Elton has written for The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s and She lives in Toronto.


Sarah Elton's profile page

JEFF KULAK is an Edmonton-born, Montreal-based designer-illustrator. From his studio, a converted room in a former nunnery, he creates art for books, magazines, album covers, and event posters.

Jeff Kulak's profile page


  • Short-listed, Ontario Library Association Red Maple (Non-Fiction) Award
  • Short-listed, Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction
  • Unknown, Canadian Science Writers' Association Science in Society Book Award (shortlisted)
  • Short-listed, A Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Book for Kids and Teens
  • Short-listed, Quill & Quire Best of 2014
  • Unknown, Ontario Library Association Best Bets List

Editorial Reviews

"A well-organized, descriptive book about the science, history, and tools of cooking and food. ... This book will supplement the 641 section by adding a food science and history dimension that is rarely seen at the intermediate level."

Library Media Connection

“How are we going to teach our kids to cook? Sarah Elton has taken a big step with Starting from Scratch.”

via Twitter

"There are so many possible ways for teachers to use this book ... [it] deserves a place in every middle school (and yes, high school) library's nonfiction collection."

Canadian Review of Materials

"Elton's insightful text is punctuated by Kulak's quirky, vintage art ... a sumptuous treat for any budding foodie to digest."


"Novice cooks of all ages will find Starting from Scratch an invaluable basic food preparation curriculum. Highly recommended!"

The Midwest Book Review

"There's more than enough in this encouraging book to get aspiring chefs started and plenty for confirmed foodies who enjoy working in the kitchen."

School Library Journal - Nonfiction Notes

"An important book on this subject."

The Bracebridge Examiner

"Starting from Scratch stands out because of its friendly, accessible approach to teaching kids about the importance of healthy eating and preparing your own food. ...Daring and picky eaters alike will feel encouraged to diversify their food choices by taking pride in their own cooking adventures."


"A lively, colorful and matter-of-fact introduction to the culture of food ... what will make the volume of interest to young readers are the eye-catching art and the many fascinating tidbits of information."

Kirkus Reviews

"An intelligent introduction to food and cooking meant for children 10 or older but useful for adult beginners as well."

The New York Times

"Recipes are demystified and cooking is boiled down to the basics... What a delicious idea!"

Canadian Children's Book Centre

"A boon to beginner cooks of all ages."

Alive Natural Health & Wellness Magazine

"If you have a future foodie in your midst, start exposing them to the science and FUN involved with cooking. With this book, they will become a chef for life!"

Green Teacher

"...a book I'd heartily recommend for elementary and middle school classrooms and libraries. Elton doesn't just talk about cooking and baking; she talks about nutrition, science and ethics as well."

Kirkus Reviews

"For those kids who love cooking and eating, this title should be required reading ... written in a clear and engaging style, this title has plenty of kid appeal."

School Library Journal

"Will inspire your students to eat better, try new flavours, and understand what is on their plate."

Resource Links

Other titles by Sarah Elton

Other titles by Jeff Kulak