Two raccoons, a mouse, two kitchens and two computers. That's what two former Sunset magazine employees dreamed up to create a cookbook story that will have children leading their parents by the hand into the kitchen. And just in time for some mom-kid kitchen bonding on Mother's Day.
The charming "You've Got Recipes," by Jerry Anne Di Vecchio and Françoise Dudal Kirkman, is based on three food-loving creatures: Henry and Cleo Raccoon, of San Francisco, and Sophie Souris, a mouse who lives in a Paris restaurant.
The raccoons in the story live under the porch of a lady who is a food writer. They peek through the window as the writer is making recipes for her books. When the lady is away, which is often, they slip into the kitchen and cook for themselves and their woodland friends from nearby Golden Gate Park.
The raccoons use the kitchen computer to chat with their friend Sophie, who lives in a restaurant near the Louvre with her many brothers and sisters. E-mails flash between Paris and San Francisco, full of recipes (in each other's language) with news of cooking and life in both cities.
The book includes 33 recipes, and each appears on two facing pages, so you don't have to turn any pages while you work. Recipes are easy to follow, with step-by-step instructions. Lists of kitchen tools and fresh, wholesome ingredients are included. The cover is laminated so it stays clean.
Di Vecchio was recently in Denver, where her daughter hosted the first signing of "You've Got Recipes" in her home.
We had a chance to visit with Di Vecchio in between signing books and serving treats she and her grandsons had made using the cookbook's recipes.
While at Sunset, she and Kirkman produced numerous popular children's cooking and craft stories.
"It was just a natural for us to collaborate on this cookbook," Di Vecchio said. As we learned, it was also only natural that a story about food would involve animals.
Question: Why did you come up with a story about raccoons and a mouse that were learning to cook?
Answer: Oh, Françoise and I had been talking about this idea for years. She and I worked at Sunset for years together. She actually had a pet raccoon that was called Cleo, who liked to play in her kitchen.
Françoise is a French-born, Paris-trained artist who was an art director at Sunset. When my daughter and her children were growing up, they were playmates. We were working on the book long before "Ratatouille" came out.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of using e-mail exchange?
A: That's how everyone communicates today, especially children. And we have a live e-mail address in the cookbook, firstname.lastname@example.org, where readers can e-mail us with questions about cooking. They can send questions to Cleo, Henry, Sophie, and her brothers and sisters.
Q: The book is self-published. Why?
A: Two publishing houses considered the cookbook, but although the editors loved it, they said it was too sophisticated for hildren.
Q: Why was that?
A: Because there are a lot of French words sprinkled in the book and the recipes are a little more adventurous. But the recipes are very doable for children, my grandsons were among the testers, but the editors didn't think the cookbook would have wide appeal.
Q: However, I see you have glowing endorsements from the likes of Alice Waters, Jacques Pepin and Wolfgang Puck.
A: They are chefs who are parents and grandparents. They know that children are much more sophisticated than from years past. They have been raised on great food and appreciate it. Also, there's the TV Food channel teaching a whole new generation about food.
The book costs $27.95 from youvegotrecipes.blogspot.com or $31.50 from amazon.com.
Yield: 2 servings
1 firm-ripe to ripe mango or 1-1 1/2 cups frozen
1 (6- to 7-inch) ripe banana
6 ounces (3/4 cup) plain or fruit-flavor yogurt
1/2-3/4 cup orange or tangerine juice
Ice cubes (optional)
Blender or food processor
1. With paring knife, cut off mango skin and discard. Cut fruit off mango pit and put in blender (food processor works, but mixture won't be as smooth). Discard pit (first, bite off fruit scraps). Or use frozen mango chunks.
2. Peel banana and break into chunks in the blender or processor. Scrape yogurt in with fruit. Add orange juice. If fruit is room temperature, add 2-3 ice cubes. Cover and whirl until mixture is very smooth. Pour into tall glasses and sip with straws.
Call the writer: 636-0271.