One of the all time best books my dad ever bought for 50 cents on the street (this is actually a substantial category) is SMASHED POTATOES, edited by Jane G. Martel. It presents “A kid’s-eye view of the kitchen” – recipes, complete with illustrations, written and drawn by elementary school children. It is not actually a kids’ book – it’s a book about kids aimed at adults. But its really one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, and at least 10 years after I first read it, I continue to laugh out loud whenever I pull it back off the shelf.
Some of the humor comes from a less-than-firm grasp on quantities of scale (“For Pie: 10 inches of dough, 3 apples, 7 pounds of sugar”) or difficulty with words (recipes for both “Basketti” and “Skabbetti” are included). But the best parts are descriptions and instructions that will absolutely not help you to produce any recognizable meal, and yet are unquestionably accurate. Corn beef stew “serves for a pretty long time if there’s only 3 people. (Eat out in between.)” When making Apple Cake, “remember – the cake is the same size as the pan.” To cook turkey, “Get the kitchen real hot, and from there on you just cook turkey.”
Funny quotes aside, though, the reason I write about this book here is that what makes it hilarious is its accurate portrayal of child-logic in all its glory: extremely observant of details, full of brilliant associations, and able to address questions no adult would think to ask. It may not align with the grown-up world, it may not be right, but it tends to be true. Possession of this genuine child logic is what makes so many of the best children’s book characters who they are. And reading that logic in action again prompts us to laugh not actually so much at the kids for being wrong, but at ourselves for having such a silly version of right.