Until recently one would come across recipe books meant for parents, who would then toil away in the kitchen, hoping that the children would lap up the healthy dishes they were whipping up. But Namita Moolani Mehra has come up with a book that enters into a dialogue directly with kids about superfoods and their qualities. Using a storytelling format, with a young child, Shivum, as the protagonist, Superfoods for Superheroes published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, draws children in. Illustrations by Cecilia Hidayat of the cooking process add to the appeal. The inspiration for this third cookbook by Mehra are her two kids, a 7.5-year-old son and two-year-old daughter. “Before this, I had always written for parents about why haldi doodh was good. But in 2016 when I wrote an article on superfoods for kids, I realised we spend so much time on a daily basis trying to get our kids to eat healthy,” says Mehra, who is based in Singapore.
Her son, while being a very active child, was extremely skinny and used to suffer from a weak immune system. She wanted to use foods with the highest nutrition value, but not have to force it down his throat. “I can’t nag or lecture. I have realised that I am able to connect the dots better for him while speaking in a language he understands,” she elaborates. So, while he was watching movies like The Incredible Hulk, Mehra would tell him the character is green because he eats so much broccoli. And soon enough, her son started making healthier food choices. “He would eat broccoli like there is no tomorrow,” she laughs.
In a bid to make the book even more engaging, Mehra contacted Hidayat, a Bali-based illustrator, on the suggestion of a common friend. “This is not a typical picture book. It’s a hybrid between informational fiction and cookbook,” she says. “Cecilia does a lot of work for Bali-based restaurants and cafes. Not everyone can draw food.” To test the recipes, Mehra created a WhatsApp group of mothers and kids. The children couldn’t believe, for instance, that the Mighty Mousse dish had an avocado in it. “Kids have been an integral part of the process since the book is for them. These are kid-approved recipes,” she says.