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Q&A with Melissa Barlow

We’re pleased to feature a Q&A with food writer and editor Melissa Barlow who authored 101 Things to Do with a Salad and Easy Cut-Up Cakes for Kids. Recently, she launched a new cookbook for kids, Noodlemania! that not only contains fun, healthy and delicious recipes, but also presents lessons on basic math skills and fun trivia.

For a sample recipe from Noodlemania!, check out Melissa’s spaghetti pizza recipe.

What or who was your inspiration for creating the recipes for Noodlemania!?

My family is almost always my inspiration for any recipe I create. My kiddos love noodles of any sort, so I thought it would be nice to have a lot of kid-friendly recipes in one place. And then,Noodlemania! was born.

Did you grow up in a foodie household? Who are your culinary heroes?

I didn’t grow up in a foodie household, my extreme love for GOOD food happened naturally while I was a cookbook editor for nearly a decade. However, when I was young, my mom always made sure that we ate dinner together as a family. She cooked nearly every evening, and I think she instilled in me the thought that cooking is a good thing. It can bring families together, if even just for a few minutes each day. I would definitely say she is one of my culinary heroes.

How do you think incorporating fun into cooking will encourage kids to help out in the kitchen or have an interest in trying new foods?

There is something exciting about preparing food, and kids see that, even at a young age! My three year old knows that if she puts butter, sugar, flour, eggs, chocolate chips, etc. into a bowl, then we “magically” have chocolate chip cookies. What isn’t exciting about that?

The same thing goes for healthy food choices as well. Instead of trying to hide veggies in your child’s meal, have them help you prepare it. They will ask you about it and can actually see what they are eating. Then instead of thinking “this must be gross” because mommy hides it, they will think “it’s gotta be good, right?”

Many of my recipes in Noodlemania! have lots of fresh veggies, and the vibrant colors always make the final food product look more appealing and beautiful. Kids know that if it looks yummy, it tastes yummy too.

Do you feel that food literacy is missing in today’s society? Why do think it is important for people, especially kids, to be food literate?

Food literacy is definitely missing in today’s society. Over the years, we have all been trained to look for easy food solutions, which often means a lot of processed, high-fat foods. But healthy foods can be fast and easy to prepare as well, like many of the recipes in my book. If we start to teach our children how to prepare healthy foods, we may just be able to turn things around and cut back on childhood obesity and obesity in general.

Your cookbook is aimed at kids but do you think it will appeal to an adult’s inner child too?

Though my book was made for kids, the food will be just as tasty to any adult. They best part is that most recipes only make 4 to 6 small portions, which could be great for adults looking to cut back on their food intake a bit.

Do you think the concept of fun and enjoyment is missing in today’s food culture due to busy schedules and the lack of cooking knowledge? How would we remedy that?

People are missing out on great food because they are overwhelmed with their busy schedules. They forget that good food gives you more energy! I know lack of cooking knowledge is more prevalent than ever, and that is what leads to eating out every night of the week. However, eating out does not save time and it definitely doesn’t save money. The recipes in Noodlemania!take, at most, maybe 30 minutes to prepare from start to finish. Take-out takes longer than that! If we just make sure to have well-stocked refrigerators and pantries, there should be no need to go out.

On a side note, I do wish that more “healthy” cooking classes were required in schools. I remember loving my food education classes and wishing that I could take more.

Photo courtesy Quirk Books

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