The Sweet, Salty, Crunchy, Chewy Journey of Food!

All through this HOT summer, we’ve been talking about the cool things happening in our gardens: the plants we’ve grown (or tried to grow!), the creepy crawly pests that have invaded our plots, the tasty treats we can make from the produce of our hard work. We’ve learned a lot about growing our own food, but what about the rest of the things that we eat?

What about the bread that holds our tasty tomato sandwiches? What about scrambled eggs with cheese? WHAT ABOUT CHOCOLATE BARS?! I’m as hungry for information about where my food comes from as I am the food itself, and I’m sure that you have wondered about it, too. This month, I’m going to tell you about some great books that help answer the question: How did my food get to be, well, FOOD?

Market Day by Lois Ehlert is a great book to read with little kids who want to know more about the trip that their food takes from the farm to the farmers’ market. Bright colors illustrate the simple story of the journey taken by some carrots and tomatoes from the dark country fields where they grow to the lively market and then to the kitchen of a hungry family. New readers will need some help with some of the unfamiliar words, but the beautiful folk art pictures will give context clues when the story gets confusing.

Since fall is right around the corner, I’ve started craving one of my personal favorite treats: a nice big slice of apple pie. I think that Marjorie Priceman, the author of How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World must be a fan, too! “Making an apple pie is really very easy,” starts the story, but only if you have what you need on hand! And if you don’t and the grocery store is closed, well, the task gets a little more complicated! Little kids and newly independent readers alike will love following the main character’s journey around the world to collect the ingredients that make apple pie so tasty. Then they can make their own with help from their favorite grown-up using the recipe at the end of the book!

Some of the ingredients needed for a warm apple pie are discussed in my next pick, If It Weren’t for Farmers by Allan Fowler. Farmers aren’t just growing carrots and tomatoes; after all, they’re also raising chickens for eggs to scramble, cows whose milk is made into tasty cheese, and wheat that’s ground into flour for sandwich bread! Real photographs show glimpses of life on farms and the hard-working people who make sure that we have good food to eat. The book doesn’t just discuss what is grown on farms, but also what it takes to help ensure that the crops grow healthy and strong, just like the kids who will someday eat them!

Did you know that eating earthworms isn’t just the basis of a great classic book by Judy Blume, How to Eat Fried Worms? They’ve traditionally been made into soup to cure fevers in China, saved for tribal chiefs in New Zealand, and dug out of logs to eat raw in Australia! It might also surprise you to find out that an orange is not the best source of Vitamin C— a better one can be found on the rose bush in your front yard! Older elementary-level readers will be fascinated and, maybe, a little grossed out by the descriptions of various foods that have graced dinner tables in It’s Disgusting—and We Ate It!: True Food Facts from Around the World by James Solheim. Besides tales of, well, tails and other food oddities, the weirdness behind some commonly accepted treats like cheese and honey is examined, too, to help put the many stories of food into perspective. There’s even a recipe or two that you might want to try out yourself!

Many kids will agree that the best part of any school day is lunchtime, especially when what’s in the lunchbox is a surprise! How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?: The Story of Food is sure to be a hit with the grade school crowd. This book by Chris Butterworth starts with a normal, everyday lunch and traces the journey of each yummy part: a sandwich, some fruits and vegetables, an apple juice box, and a chocolate chip cookies dessert. The book finishes with some helpful information on what you should eat, how much of it you should eat, and why you should eat it.

Pizza, spaghetti, and lasagna just wouldn’t be the same without tomatoes, so they must be from Italy, right? Wrong! Potatoes play an important role in Irish history, so that must be their homeland, right? Wrong again! They both originated much closer to your own backyard! More advanced readers will enjoy a history of New World produce, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Corn, and Beans: How the Foods of the Americas Changed Eating around the World. Seven different native of the Americas are given an in-depth look with special attention paid to how they were developed into important food crops in their home areas and how they came to influence the cuisine of lands far, far away. The descriptions of the interesting “life” of each food are accompanied by historic illustrations and more current photographs, giving a full picture of the travels it has taken.

What meal would be complete with a sweet treat at the end? Chocolate: Riches from the Rainforest by Robert Burleigh reveals the rich, creamy, delicious path that my favorite flavor takes to get from trees in tropical regions to the irreplaceable chips in my most loved cookies. Its sometimes dark history is shared with many historic illustrations to help explain how something that was once a bitter drink reserved only for the wealthiest people in the world became bars, powders, chips, and truffles available to everyone. This book is a must for any chocoholic who hungers for more information about this divine food!

Oh, after telling you about that last book, my sweet tooth is begging for something wonderful to nibble on! It’s a good thing I brought a nice, chocolaty brownie with me for a snack. As the gardening season for this year comes to a close, so does my series of book suggestions on the wonderful world of food. I sure hope that you’ve learned a little more about your favorite ingredients, how to grow them, and where they came from! I’ll continue “feeding” you something new and different each month through the fall and winter, so keep an eye on the Keyword: Kids blog to see what I and your other librarians have in store for the cooler months! Until then, see you at the Library!

by Melissa Horak-Hern, Plaza Kid Corner Associate