Taste & See: Life Is Sweet – An Interview with Ruthanne VandenBosch
Ruthanne VandenBosch is the author of the new book Taste & See: Life Is Sweet. The book uses recipes as object lessons for devotions and gets kids in the kitchen, along with teachers, parents, grandparents, or anyone who enjoys baking, to prepare tasty treats as they learn more about God together.
We had the opportunity to ask Ruthanne some questions about writing the book and why baking can be an effective way to teach kids, and she shared some of her experiences watching kids learn about God through baking.
Q: Your new book Taste & See: Life Is Sweet combines baking with teaching Bible lessons to kids. What gave you the idea to teach the Bible this way?
A: I wish I could take credit for this idea, but it was an idea presented to me by Warner Press. I loved the idea immediately, and I feel so strongly that this is a book that God had planned before I even knew of it. I’m passionate about following God and teaching His word, and I believe the best teaching happens in the context of everyday life.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” We are to be teaching children about God all throughout each day.
This book idea tied together my heart for teaching and writing curriculum with my passions for baking, photography, and creating new recipes. I was thrilled to be able to use baking to teach kids about having a relationship with God!
God gave people at Warner Press the idea for these devotions, and in His perfect timing He directed them to my little dessert blog and orchestrated the events that would lead to this book. I love to watch God at work, and I can’t wait to see how He uses these devotions in the hearts and lives of kids.
Q: Why do you think baking is such an effective way to teach kids lessons about developing godly character?
A: Baking is fun, and it’s something that most kids are interested in (and if they aren’t interested in the baking part, they will certainly stick around for the eating part!). Tying a lesson to a recipe does a couple of things.
First, it gives you uninterrupted time together. While you are mixing, measuring, and pouring, you can talk about all sorts of things. You can discover a child’s hopes, fears, dreams, and struggles. You can find out what they really think about God and church. Kids love to tell their stories, and adults are often too busy to really listen. Time in the kitchen opens up an opportunity to deepen relationships with kids.
Second, when a lesson is tied to a recipe or a technique in the kitchen, it will act as a reminder for years to come of a truth from God’s Word. One of the recipes in the book involves dividing eggs and just using the whites. Every time I divide eggs now, I think about being obedient to God’s Word, not just reading it, but obeying it. That lesson is forever tied to that technique in my mind now.
Q: How did you decide which recipes and lessons to include in this book?
A: I wrote the lessons first. I wanted the focus of each lesson to be on a relationship with God that brings obedience to His Word. Children are often taught to obey “just because,” and I want that “because” to be a love for God. If you love God, you will want to follow His commands. I tried to write lessons that address struggles kids have. Guarding your heart from sinful things, being genuine with others, being thankful, and trusting God’s plans are a few topics I chose. I added recipes as I went. Sometimes I had a previously created recipe that worked well with a lesson, and sometimes I developed an easy recipe to fit with a specific lesson.
Q: How have you seen kids respond to these recipes and lessons?
A: I lived in the Navajo Nation for almost a year and did several recipes and lessons with kids there. It just makes me smile. I guess you don’t really know if a lesson will work until you try it. The baking part is glorious chaos. The lessons were heartwarming and memorable. I am always amazed at the insight and honesty of kids. They seemed to really relate to the lessons we did. The best part happened weeks after the lesson when one of them would say, “Every time I eat a chocolate chip cookie now, I think about how God wants me to keep even little bits of bad things out of my life.” I would hug them and think, “Me too. I think that every time now too.”
Q: What sort of advice or encouragement would you give to someone who feels he or she is not gifted in the kitchen but still would like to give this book a try?
A: My goal was to keep the recipes in this book simple, and I took pictures of each step along the way. Some of the recipes are easier than others, and I’d start with those. If you are very nervous about baking recipes with kids, try making them on your own first. The important part isn’t to make a gourmet masterpiece, but to spend time creating and learning with kids. Some of my favorite memories of baking are the laughter at a totally failed dessert. Be honest with the kids about not knowing much about baking and tell them you will be learning together. The important part is the development of relationships between you and the kids and between the kids and God.
Q: What is your favorite recipe you included in Life Is Sweet? Why is it your favorite?
A: That is the hardest question ever. I love them all!
I think I will go with the recipe for fudge cupcakes. I’ve used this recipe for years, and I love how soft and flavorful the cupcakes are. Along with the actual recipe, the lesson is one of my favorites, too. The kids have a lot of fun tasting all the “yucky” ingredients before you make them into delicious cupcakes. The lesson addresses the topic of trusting God when bad things happen, and how God can make all things work together for good. On the Navajo reservation, lots of bad things happen in kids’ lives, and this lesson was really helpful in talking about some of those things and learning how to trust God in spite of our circumstances.
Find out more about Life Is Sweet, download a free sample of the book, and watch a cooking demonstration by author Ruthanne VandenBosch here.