Feb 9th, 2010 by Marilyn
One breezy Chicago summer, my brother and I built a treehouse.
Wait! You don’t need that intro again. You don’t need to hear me wax poetic about books in the trees, or Jo March, or the Bobbsey Twin’s Luau. You just need to know that today we’re revisiting Great Reads for Culinary Kids, and that we’ve added marvelous reader suggestions to the list, and have plenty of room for more.
Here’s the original list Josie and I compiled, plus a new selection from our readers. They run from picture books to young adult (or 42-year old adult). Do you have a favorite food read, or a great food scene you never forgot? Add yours to the list. Happy (and Hungry) Reading.
Fanny at Chez Panisse Alice Waters, 1997
Truly charming story-plus-cookbook by a culinary royal. Alice Waters describes how her young daughter, Fanny, spends her days at mom’s famous Berkeley restaurant, sorting tiny eggplants, hiding in stock pots and watching chefs at work.
Bread and Jam for Frances Russell Hoban, 1964
Frances will only eat bread and jam, so her mother gives it to her for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I would like to reenact this as “Deep Dish Pizza for Marilyn.”
Blueberries for Sal Robert McCloskey, 1948
The classic picture book of blueberry picking, a bear cub, mothers and life in Maine.
Amelia Bedelia Peggy Parish, 1963
I always liked the many good qualities of free-spirited Amelia Bedelia: she was a tall, skinny smiler, and she cheerfully screwed up everything. I particularly admired the way she could neutralize any angry person by feeding them lemon meringue pie.
In the Night Kitchen Maurice Sendak, 1970
Though there was controversy over the depiction of a nearly baked-in-a-cake naked boy, all I saw was a fantastical look at how a bakery worked overnight. Sendak’s illustrated world – especially with flour and sugar – never fails to stop me in my tracks.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle, 1969
The classic caterpillar eats every food in sight, until he finds all he really needs is one plain and perfect green leaf. Truth? I didn’t want him to eat the leaf. I wanted him to keep eating salami and ice cream.
Eloise in Paris Kay Thompson, 1957
I was lucky to inherit a stack of 60′s-era Eloise books, and Paris was my favorite. Her champagne cork necklace! Baguettes! Dinner at Maxim’s! It was all rawther delicious.
Little House in the Big Woods Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1932
I could blog every day for a year about the Ingalls family and how they rest in the mind of most every woman I know – but for now I’ll just serve highlights: maple syrup snow, sideboard of pies, sour pickles, a crackling pig’s tail. Onion wreaths in the root cellar. So memorable were Laura’s food passages that they eventually filled The Little House Cookbook, as noted in this lovely post by Paige Smith Orloff.
Strega Nona Tomie DePaola, 1979
A wise Italian witch with the power to conjure up pasta. What’s not to love?
Heidi Johanna Spyri, 1880
One of my all-time favorites, the story of a Swiss girl and her grandfather in the Alps is really about toasting golden cheese, curing sausages, warm goat’s milk, and soft white bakery rolls. Do not be fooled by the jacket copy. It’s all about the food.
Anatole Eve Titus, 1956
And here is where Simmer readers fall down. Yes indeed, I love a book about a mouse, a mouse who wears a beret and tastes cheese in the cheese factory. When I first read it – decades before the pear incident – I was dazzled by his little scarf, and all those Bries and bleus.
Strawberry Girl Lois Lenski, 1945
A terrific book I never forgot – Lois Lenski’s story of hard living for rural Florida “crackers,” a detailed, often sad picture of Birdie Boyer and the tough world around her. Strawberries are everywhere, all about growing them, picking them, eating them. A classic for 9-12 readers.
James and the Giant Peach Roald Dahl, 1961
This book made me dream of waking up, rolling over and eating chunks of peach from the wall. Enough said.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone J.K. Rowling, 1997
Oh sure, there’s dueling and wands and danger, but what thrills me at Hogwarts is dessert. I mean, Dumbledore claps his hands and profiteroles fill the hall. Magic, or what?
Suggested by readers and family, the additions:
Farmer Boy Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1933
Both my 13-year-old daughter Josie and the full-grown Merrill Stubbs from food52 added another Laura Ingalls Wilder classic, Farmer Boy. The story of Almanzo Wilder – young Laura’s future husband – is possibly the most food-rich “Little House” book of all. And that’s certainly due to the prosperity of the New York State Wilders, who were always ready to feast: flapjacks and eggnog, braided donuts and candy, roast pork and golden pumpkins.
Dim Sum for Everyone! Grace Lin, 2001
Reader Julie Whitehorn suggested great books like Frank Asch’s Moonbear and Karen Wallace’s Scarlett Beane, but the one that caught my dumpling-loving eye was Grace Lin’s Dim Sum For Everyone! A girl visits a dim sum restaurant with her family and chooses treats to share from the rolling trolleys: cakes, buns, tarts and – of course – dumplings.
All-of-a-Kind Family Sydney Taylor, 1951
Both blogging singer Emma Wallace and my super-reader cousin Robin noted one of Josie’s all-time favorites, the All-of-a-Kind Family series. The books tell the story of a Jewish family living on New York’s Lower East Side in the early 1900′s – wonderful characters, but what everyone seems to remember is the food: penny candy varieties like chocolate babies, chicken corn, lemon-snap and ginger; stuffed sour cream blintzes and pickles, and descriptions of “chick peas! fine, hot chickpeas!”
A Girl of the Limberlost Gene Stratton Porter, 1909
Savour Fare’s Kate suggested this unusual classic, the story of Elnora Comstock, a poor rural girl who catches rare moths to put herself through high school. In one remarkable scene, Elnora opens her lunch box: “She scarcely could believe her senses. Half the bread compartment was filled with dainty sandwiches of bread and butter sprinkled with the yolk of egg and the remainder with three large slices of the most fragrant spice cake imaginable. The meat dish contained shaved cold ham, of which she knew the quality, the salad was tomatoes and celery, and the cup held preserved pear, clear as amber.”
A Book Buffet from Pinot and Prose:
“I can’t say enough about Kitchen Dance by Maurie Manning – it captures not just the joy of food but the kitchen as well.”
“The Adventurous Chef: Alexis Soyer by Ann Arnold also gives kids some culinary history info – I found out a lot that I didn’t know. Also on culinary history, Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie (the story of chef Edna Lewis) by Robbin Gourley is particularly well-written.”
“For older readers, I loved Dear Julia by Amy Bronwen Zemser – this is appropriate for tweens even though the characters are older. I also ADORED Madame Pamplemousse and her Incredible Edibles, by Rupert Kingfisher. It’s super short but holds so much magic in such a tiny package.”
“For teenagers, The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara M. Zeises is really wonderful. Great characters, fantastic food descriptions.”
Sara at Culinerapy – and countless others – reminded me about Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett. Sara particularly loves “its pea soup fog and Cream of Wheat snow banks.” Erin Nichols recalled great food scenes from Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby, Age 8 including “the infamous egg-bashing on head incident, and the yogurt-marinated chicken dinner that she and Beezus make for their parents.” Finally, Beach House’s Jane notes that both Alice in Wonderland and Babar feature plenty of incredible eats.
Your turn! Add your own favorite read for culinary kids (and this now-very-hungry adult).
* Print the whole list? Why not. Click here for a PDF.