13 Diverse Books For Foodies
Are you a picky eater? Do you like to try new foods? What's your favourite dish? Is it sweet or savoury?
No matter where you live, there is always a staple dish that can be enjoyed with friends and family. Whether you gather around the table or on the floor, food is a great way to bring people together.
I grew up in Toronto, where different culinary dishes surrounded me. Many of my friends were 1st generation Canadians. We grew up in homes where the food was different from the traditional 'Canadian meal.' I had friends whose parents were from Greece, China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Italy, Jamaica, Iran, Nigeria, and Peru. There were many of us from all around the world, which meant there were many different smells to experience. Sometimes we would share our snacks; Me with my plantain chips and a friend with her seaweed paper. The best part about living in a diverse neighbourhood was sampling foods from around the world. No plane needed!
As I got older, my taste buds expanded, and I continued my fascination with foods by eating at many different restaurants.
Here are 13 diverse titles that will have your mouth watering.
Warning: do not read this on an empty stomach or 30 mins before going grocery shopping.
We connect with people we enjoy having around us. When meeting a new person, it is easier to 'break the ice' when one's favourite we talk about our favourite foods. It connects us and units us. In times of celebration, we gather around plates of food. When we mourn, we bring food to show our sympathies. Food has always been more than a means of survival; it has brought us together and connected us.
Let me bring you to taste the culinary treats of Spain, France, Korea, and India.
Mindy Kim: and the Yummy Seaweed Business by Lyla Lee
Discount Price: $10.42 reg. 22.99 - AGES 8-10
Making friends is challenging, and being the new kid doesn't make it any easier. Mindy Kim is a Korean-American who knows what it's like to be the odd one out. When she brings a traditional meal for lunch, the other kids' reaction isn't what she imagined. She eventually turns it around and starts selling her classmates a Korean snack (dried seaweed). This snack isn't your typical bright-coloured orange or reddish snack. So, it must have taken quite some brainiac skills to sell a piece of green, salty underwater snack. Dry seaweed is one of my favourite snacks. If you haven't tried it, visit your local Asian grocery store and ask someone to lead you to your new experience.
*Great beginner chapter book for young readers
*Themes: parent loss, race, being different, new experiences, overcoming adversities, entrepreneurship
All You Knead is Love by Tanya Guerrero
Discount Price: $8.90 reg. 22.90 - AGES 8-12
12-year-old Alba must go live with her estranged grandmother in Barcelona. She would prefer to stay with her mother, but her mother has a new plan for their life; to escape Alba's abusive father. In Spain, Alba learns about her Spanish and Filipino heritage through her Abuela Lola. The author made sure to express the blend of heritage with words in Spanish and Tagalog. When she finally settles into her new city, makes friends, and discovers a love for baking, things are about to change again. The bakery she loves is closing, and her mother has come to Barcelona to tell Alba she has left her father. Alba's life is coming apart, but can she save the one thing she finds salvation in - the bakery?
*Themes: divorce, abuse, generational stories, travel, new experiences
Phoebe G. Green: Lunch Will Never Be the Same! by Veera Hiranandani
Discount Price: $5.90 reg. $9.50 - AGES 6-8
Well, it's not your 90's peanut butter and jam sandwich for school lunches. Phoebe is fascinated by the new girl in school. Phoebe is a young foodie who loves food with all its smells and sights. So, when the new girl opens her lunch box, and it's full of French goodies, Phoebe is obsessed. The three friends have something to share; Phoebe is Jewish, Camille is French, and Sage is Indian. Their friendship is all about learning about each other's diverse food choices.
*Great for beginner readers and an introduction to chapter books
*Themes: friendships, culture, culinary foods, multiculturalism
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
Discount Price: $10.94 reg. $22.99 - AGES 8-12
This book is mainly about a half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old named Nisha. Her whole world ended with India's independence from British rule in 1947. Now she must navigate a world where war rages between the Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. Within each tragedy is the introduction to Indian culinary dishes. Through the pages, Hiranandani takes her readers into a kitchen filled with curry and naan dishes. Each chapter brings its reader into the world of Indian dishes. So much so that it is almost as if you are there, smelling the spices.
*Themes: war, death, family, friendships, food, multi-generational ties, siblings
My fondest memories are of family gatherings during the holidays. These were the days when my Caribbean culture was very prominent. Christmas would not just be about Santa Clause and opening gifts; it was a day to celebrate who we are. Foods made by people from the Caribbean diaspora would surround our table, but mostly everything was made by the hands of my Grenadian mother and aunt. We would gather together and eat until our bellies were full. Foods such as pelau, kingfish, oxtail, and oil down were part of the main dishes; tamarind balls, coconut cake, rum cake (the show stopper), cheese straws, and Christmas cake were our desserts or snacks. I could go on, but I'll stop there because I am getting homesick and very, very hungry.
These foods awakened my ancestors as soon as they touched my tongue. With food comes music, stories, and so many other things that connect us to our culture. Here are three titles that will help any reader understand the joy that food brings.
I Love Boba by Katrina Liu
Our Price: $27.19 - Ages 4-8
The author, Katrina Liu, loves boba so much that she wrote a whole book about it. Boba is made from tapioca starch. The tapioca simmers in a brown sugar syrup to give it its sweet taste and black colour. Boba is commonly paired with a creamy black or green tea called "boba tea." You can also pair it with slushies, coffee, or smoothies. I Love Boba is about all things boba and why it's so great!
*Themes: Asian foods, cities, on the map, Taiwanese culture
Goodnight Bubbala by Sheryl Haft
Our Price: $12.52, reg.$24.99 - Ages 4-6
Have you heard of the story Goodnight Moon? Well, this is a parody of that well-loved book. You can find Yiddish words and Jewish references on every page. Goodnight Bubbala is a story that will be a great Hannukah bedtime story. This bedtime story adds dance, kvelling, and noshing. After reading this book, you might be tempted to create a favourite Jewish treat. Well, have no fear because you will find a handy latke recipe in the back of the book. Bring the book to life with some tasty latkes.
Theme: Jewish traditions, food, family, bedtime stories, learning languages, and worldly foods.
What Can You Do With a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla
Our Price: $7.99 reg. 8.99 - Ages 4-8
Do you know what a Paleta is? Or what about a paleta wagon? In this wonderfully written book, we learn about a delicious Mexican treat called a paleta. This cold treat will undoubtedly be a delight on a hot summer day. In this story, a young girl takes readers on an excursion around her barrio and introduces her favourite cold treat. Introduced to the reader are the many sights and sounds of her barrio. A paleta is a cold, fruit-flavoured treat that resembles a popsicle.
* This is a bilingual book and can be read in English and Spanish
*Themes: Mexican culture, world foods, city life, books about home, deserts
What's For Dinner?
Is anybody else's tummy rumbling? This simple three-word question has been around for ages, asked by kids worldwide, and feared by parents everywhere. "What's for dinner?" is on everyone's mind when the clock reaches 5 pm. You may think about adding healthy choices, when to eat dinner or when not to eat dinner (the general rule is after 7 pm). But most importantly, what cuisine will you place on the table?
Kalamata's Kitchen by Sarah Thomas
Our price: $10.70, reg: $23.99 - ages 4-8
It is Kalamata's first day at school, and she's feeling nervous. She's worried about whether the kids will be friendly or not. Or what if they do not like alligators? She dreams of going back to India and walking in the spice market. She was most courageous at that time, but Kalamata had a secret. When mama opened the kitchen cabinet, the smells of spices flew over Kalamata. Under her table, she and her alligator, Al Dente, will travel anywhere they want. Can they find a scent that will make her feel brave before her first day?
*Themes: Indian foods, imagination, stuffed animals as friends, family, worldly foods, confidence, bravery
My Friend Mei Jing by Anna McQuinn
Our Price: $5.80 reg. $8.50 - Ages 6-8
In this book, we meet two best friends, Monifa and Mei Jing. They love doing things together, especially arts & crafts. They even have the same favourite colour. Monifa is the storyteller and takes us on a journey to discover their friendships and learn about what makes them unique. Monifa's parents are from Nigeria, and she shares the foods they like to eat there. She also shares with readers the type of food Mei Jing eats at her house. They even bond on foods their grandmothers love to eat. Mei Jing's grandma likes to eat chicken feet, and Monifa's grandma likes to eat cow's feet...yuk! I remember my grandma used to cook pig's feet soup. It was not my favourite.
*Great introduction to chapter book reading
*Themes: friendships, African & Asian cuisine, multi-generational, grandparents, differences, diverse cultures
Mamaqtuq! by The Jerry Cans
Our Price: $16.95 - ages 3-6
Yummy! Mmmm! Mamaqtuq! A few friends are hungry for some delicious soup but still need a critical ingredient, a seal. So they decide that they must go hunting. As time passes, they begin to lose hope in ever catching a seal. When they were about to give up, they spotted a seal in the distance. Finally! They can have their delicious soup filled with carrots, celery, garlic and onions. Hunting for your food is still a significant activity in many parts of the world. People often use their traditional tools to allow them to catch the animals. Hunting is a great way to eat fresh meat, but it's important to remember to only hunt for what you can eat (or need to eat).
*Themes: Northern Canada, Inuit culture/cuisine, diversity, foods, hunting, eating diverse foods, cookbooks
The Definition of You!
For centuries food has always shown us how to be our best selves. We have defined who we are because of our dietary and eating habits. For example, "a foodie" represents someone who loves to eat and try different foods; a picky eater is someone who is the opposite and choices wisely before trying. I consider myself a picky eater and have yet to indulge in the joys of yogurt. Are you a vegetarian, vegan, or meat eater? Perhaps you only desire to eat raw foods.
Travel worldwide, and you will find many people who eat different meals. This could be because of geography (what is available in their region) or faith/religion. Whatever the case, it is important not to judge others or enforce your diet on anyone different.
Eating These Foods Makes Me by Kalifa Rodriguez MSc
Our Price: $16.97 - Ages 4-8
Picky eaters are so hard to convince to try new things. It might be the colour, smell or texture that will stop a child from trying something new. In this book, the author found a proactive way to introduce healthy eating habits. To convey the message that eating the right foods will help your body grow, the illustrator added bright and fun pictures to help bring the concept to young readers everywhere.
*Themes: healthy eating, vegetables and fruit, food groups, diversity, tolerance
Under the Mango Tree by Valdene Mark
Our Price: $23.99 - Ages 5-7
What do best friends do in the Caribbean to pass the time? They hang out under a mango tree! Well, at least Vee and Sanaa do. Two best friends find comfort under a fruit tree where they meet daily. They were extremely close, but one day Vee had to move away. What will Sanaa do without her bestie? Are the mangos going to taste the same now that they bring sadness?
I remember meeting a friend in elementary school every day in a specific place, at the compost bins. That would be "our spot" where we would start conversations and gossip. I also remember the day my friend had to move away and how I felt. I had to change my routine, and seeing those blue compost bins always reminded me of my best friend.
*Themes: Friendships, moving away, healthy fruits, Caribbean foods, agriculture
Linus the Vegetarian T-Rex by Robert Neubecker
Our Price: $10.70, reg: $19.99 - Ages 3-7
Ruth is brilliant. She knows everything there is to know about dinosaurs, especially what they like to eat. Some dinosaurs are carnivores, and some are herbivores. It's very black and white; that's it, that's all. However, when Ruth meets Linus, the t-rex, everything she knows about what dinosaurs like to eat goes out the window because Linus is a vegetarian t-rex.
Reading this book makes me want to visit my local market to try new vegetables. There are so many tastes that I have yet to try. Who knows, I may find a new vegetarian recipe.
Literature helps us discover new things, and foods are one of them. Challenge yourself and find a book discussing a meal you have yet to try. You may need an extra push to dive into a cultural experience. Anyone of the books mentioned above can be that push you need. Try new things and open a door of delicious opportunities. After reading these extraordinary stories, I am certainly hungry for something new.