March 21 - Today's post contributed by The Fourth Musketeer
Alice Waters and the Youngest Foodies
I grew up in the 1960's and 1970's, when Jello mold, Kentucky Fried chicken, and a glass of Tab were considered a perfectly acceptable meal to feed your kids. TV cooking shows consisted largely of Julia Child's refined French cooking. In today's brave new world of 24 hour cooking shows on Food Network, there's even a reality cooking show competition just for kids, The Kids Baking Championship. Reality cooking shows abound on many other channels, even the august Public Broadcasting System. Our kids are more food savvy than ever, and boys as well as girls watch cooking shows these days.
Throughout history, of course, it's been women who've been most intimately associated with cooking and preparing food at home, but men who have been the great restaurant chefs. One important figure who has smashed this barrier is Alice Waters, chef and owner of Chez Panisse, a Berkeley, California restaurant known for using local, organic ingredients and pioneering "California cuisine." Alice is not only a chef, but also an activist, and in 2014 she was recognized as one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people. Described as a "revolutionary who wants to change the world through food" by writer and food critic Ruth Reichl. Waters also holds the distinction of being the first woman to win the prestigious James Beard Foundation Outstanding Chef Award.
Author Jacqueline Briggs Martin (author of the Caldecott-winning Snowflake Bentley and many other favorite titles) traces the life of Alice Waters in Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious (Readers to Eaters Press, 2014), a thoroughly engaging picture book for young people ages 5 and up. The author starts our journey by telling us that "Chef Alice Waters wants every kid in the country to come with her on the trip to Delicious." All kids should know the "taste of good food" and "have a delicious lunch--every day." Briggs Martin highlights Alice's relationship with food, from her days as a child when she used fruits and vegetables to create a costume for a contest, to her studies in France, where she learned the importance of fresh, local ingredients, to her establishment of a Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California,in 1971. We learn that good food starts not in the kitchen but in the field, with good farmers. Soon Alice dreams of teaching children how to grow their own food, starting with just one school but expanding around the country. Children learn the importance of delicious food made from fresh ingredients they grow themselves. Her efforts grew into The Edible Schoolyard, whose mission is to build and share an edible education curriculum for students in grades K-12. The book features an Afterword by Alice Waters, an author's note, bibliography, and suggestions of resources for further reading on growing and cooking your own food.
The whimsical illustrations are by textile designer and artist Hayelin Choi. In her first picture book, she offers illustrations that perfectly complement the joyous feeling of the text, with smiling children from different ethnicities sharing the delight of good food. The artist also offers diverse perspectives, including some two page spreads set up in a square like a school yard, with pictures that children can follow around the edges.
This is a book profiles an important figure in American women's history; the book is sure to be of interest to young foodies, and may inspire some to become involved with growing their own food as well or starting Edible Schoolyard programs in their community.
Margo Tanenbaum is a children's librarian in the Los Angeles area. She is a co-curator of Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month and also blogs about children's books at The Fourth Musketeer.