When I received promotional information on the “Cook Your Way Through the S.A.T.: Recipes Worth a Thousand Words” cookbook, I assumed its author was a college student or a recent college graduate. Wrong. Charis Freiman-Mendel is a precocious student at Choate Rosemary Hall, a private boarding and day school in Wallingford, Conn., who created the self-published book for her seventh- and eighth-grade home school art requirement. She says she has “a passion for cooking and aversion to standardized testing.”
The book, co-authored with Jennie Ann Freiman who apparently is Freiman-Mendel’s mother but is never definitively identified as such, is the result of the young author’s need to study for the Secondary School Admission Test and her interest in cooking.
While it doesn’t include any photographs, the book does offer 99 easy-to-make recipes, each matched with a paragraph using 10 words often found on standardized college-admission tests. Freiman-Mendel suggests thinking of a recipe, its blurb and word list as a lesson. “Assembling the recipe ingredients and cooking the dish provide context for the vocabulary and sensory association with the words,” she says. She recommends rereading the blurb after making the dish and then taking the match test that accompanies each lesson. Answers are found at the back of the 243-page paperback book, which is available through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble for about $15.
I am impressed with the young author’s eclectic palate. She includes recipes such as Fennel and Pear Salad, Fig and Olive Tapenade on Baked Baguette, Gazpacho, Roasted Butternut Squash With Dried Cranberries, Saffron Meatballs, Tofu Enchiladas, and Grilled Peaches With Vanilla Mascarpone.
However, the book’s recipes also reflect the author’s lack of extensive cooking experience. Ingredients aren’t always listed in the order used, instructions sometimes could be more clearly written, and cooking times occasionally seem inaccurate. For example, in testing the Orange Tea Infused Hot Chocolate recipe, I found that the time suggested for cooking ¼–cup of tea with a bit of sugar and cocoa powder is much too long, and I believe the quantity of cocoa powder should be in teaspoonfuls, not tablespoonfuls. She also fails to give credit to recipe contributors.
Still, the book is a terrific idea and if students seriously work their way through the book’s word lists, they should improve their standardized test scores.