KIDS: Charis's Publishing Story

{Spotlight Page Header} In the Spotlight
Connecticut Teen Author Charis Freiman-Mendel
How did teen author Charis Freiman-Mendel come to write a cookbook that helps you prepare for the S.A.T. test? Here is her own story:
{Picture of Charis in the Kitchen}
Charis Developing Recipes in the Home Kitchen
I have been interested in cooking since I was a little kid. My Dad is the chef in my house and I have spent a lot of time watching him and helping him in the kitchen. I also learned a lot about food from my nanny, Ruby, who cooks Caribbean cuisine, which my Dad knows nothing about. My Dad cooks by following recipes from fancy cookbooks. Ruby cooks what she learned from her mom, which is by pouring a little of this and adding a "tip" of that. You can watch a video me cooking Ruby's Belizean Bean Recipe with Ruby at
My favorite reality T.V. is the Cooking Channel and I have learned a lot from watching. My absolutely favorite chef is Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. I also started collecting recipes when I was little.
{Picture of Charis Cooking with her Mom in 2008}
Charis Cooking with her Mom Jennie in 2008
The first meal I ever cooked was when I was around 9. I decided I would treat my parents to a surprise anniversary dinner, and prepare and cook the whole thing from start to finish. I needed Ruby's help to buy all of the ingredients. I wasn't old enough to buy champagne, so she had to come with me to the liquor store. On the afternoon of the anniversary, I made my parents sit outside on our patio and told them a surprise was coming. Ruby and my brother Ross were my sous chefs. When the dinner was almost ready, I gave my parents some champagne, and a printout of the menu, which I had created on my computer. Once they got over the surprise and read the menu, my Mom said, "Charis, I am sorry to be such a philistine, but what is an 'amus bouch'?"
Maybe that's what started "Cook Your Way Through The S.A.T." My Mom loves words and she likes to use them in context, so my brother and I can figure out the meaning and hopefully remember them. My Mom doesn't cook at all and she doesn't really care about food, so she didn't know that an amus bouch is a palate cleanser, something such as sorbet, that's given between two courses to prevent tastes from getting mixed up.
That meal was really successful and my parents realized I was serious about cooking. From then on, they let me cook as much as I wanted. They also let me use all of the equipment, including big knives, which not all parents would do.
{Picture of an Apple Pie Baked by Charis and her Friend Eleanor}
Apple Pie Baked by Charis and Friend Eleanor
When my Mom and I decided I would be homeschooled for 7th and 8th grade, we needed to figure out how to get things into the curriculum that she wasn't good at. We needed some fine arts and that's an area she really couldn't teach. My Mom is big on integrating the curriculum so that what you learn brings together many different subjects. Because I love cooking so much and because we needed a creative project for me, we realized I had to do something with cooking. That's how "Cook Your Way Through The S.A.T." came about.
{Picture of Charis Writing on Her Computer}
Charis Writing and Researching on Her Computer
I got to cook a lot and my Mom got me to integrate research, writing, computer skills, history and math into one. I cook a lot like Ruby, sprinkling and adding as I go. When you write a cookbook, you have to use math for measurements and proportions. This project made me more aware of what goes into cooking, especially if you want to teach others to do it.
I cooked many of my recipes over and over until I got them just right, which made my Mom a little crazy. She kept thinking they were good enough when I knew they could be better. The same thing happened with a lot of my writing. I thought my blurbs were good enough and my Mom made me write and rewrite them till they were better. She's a really tough editor but she did force me to become a better writer.
I have had lots and lots of bloopers in the kitchen. Most of the time getting things right means doing them over and over. The first time I tried my Mom's cousin Sylvia's recipe for steamed cabbage with caraway seeds and meat, I put sugar in it by accident. I didn't realize it until I served it. It was so gross. It's supposed to be a savory dish, not dessert! 
The hardest part for me was time management. I would be happy to cook all day, but that's not allowed in homeschool. School would often spill over to nights and weekends because we had to finish the curriculum and cooking takes time. I also had to study for the SSAT because I was going back to traditional school for high school, and I wanted to go to Choate, where my brother went.
{Picture of Charis with her }
Charis with her "Official" Tasters her brother Ross, Jorge her blond Labradoodle and Diego, her chocolate Labradoodle
I really hate standardized testing. I don't like memorizing lists of words. Finding a way to learn while being involved in my passion is the lesson I hope to tell everyone. While I was working on this project, which took 2 years, I didn't really realize I was studying because I learned while doing something I love.  My SSAT scores improved a lot, so I think it worked.
Now that the book was published, it seems surreal (that's an SAT word!). I can't really believe it myself, except for when I hold the book in my hands.
Once I am used to the routine at Choate, I plan on starting a "Cook Your Way Through The S.A.T." Contest. I'm going to post a new recipe and ask kids to write a blurb for that recipe (it has to contain 10 SAT words that I didn't already use in my book). The winner will receive a "Cook Your Way Through The S.A.T." apron and the blurb will be posted on my website and Facebook. I will also include it in my next book. I hope the kids at ConneCT Kids will enter the contest!
I am going to go to college ( so I will have to study for the SAT!). I also would like to go to culinary school and live in Italy. I might take a gap year after high school, before I go to college and live in Italy then or I might do that right after college. I haven't decided yet. I want to invent a product that has to do with cooking and food. I have a great idea for a baby food company but that has to wait till I'm done with school. I'm definitely going to go into business.

Content Last Modified on 10/3/2011 8:26:33 AM