A Cooks Tour: 3 picture books about famous foodies

SWEET JUSTICE
Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
By Mara Rockliff
Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

ALICE WATERS IS MAKING A FOOD REVOLUTION
By Diane Stanley
Illustrated by Jessie Hartland

BORN HUNGER
Julia Child becomes “the French chef”
By Alex Prud’homme
Illustrated by Sarah Green

Whether kids know it or not, the plate of food in front of them can be so much more than food. It can be a source of comfort, a connection to their heritage, a teaching moment, a conversation starter, a grounding ritual, a battle of wills, an expression of love, a trigger of fond memories and dark.

Three new illustrated biographies of women in the world of food, who have quietly and not so quietly made their way through history, are built on the premise that food has the power to make our worlds bigger, better and more connected.

Most compelling of these, both narratively and artistically, is “Sweet Justice”, by Mara Rockliff (with art by R. Gregory Christie). It tells the story of Georgia Gilmore, an unsung behind-the-scenes heroine of the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott.

Georgia, a restaurant cook who roams the pages in a bold canary-yellow coat, produced the best meatloaf and sweet potato pie in town, boycotted the bus for more than a year to protest the arrest of Rosa Parks and segregation in general. , and soon found herself at the center of the movement, baking and selling her famous pies and crispy chicken to raise money for the cause. After testifying at Martin Luther King’s trial, she was fired from her job, but with King’s encouragement she began cooking in her own kitchen, producing food to feed protesters.

“However, Georgia’s was not just a place to eat,” the story tells us. “It was a place to meet, talk and plan.”

Georgian food was not just a livelihood for the protesters. It was as legitimate and motivating fuel as their rage and thirst for justice.

Rockliff weaves this idea through his poetic prose: “Spring had come, but the city officials were still not moving. Fortified by sweet potato pie from Georgia, the boycotters were determined not to take the bus. Summer has warmed up, frying the sidewalks like a sizzling pork chop in one of Georgia’s skillets. The boycotters trudged on. Fall has passed, with cold mornings and the comfort of hot buns from Georgia’s oven. The boycotters continued.

The biggest lesson for children? Moves are more important than headliners; behind every Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King hides an army of Georgia Gilmores. Anyone can be a hero and a hero can come from anywhere. If you’re armed with pies and cabbage, well, that’s as good a ticket to the show as any. (It should be noted that while food serves primarily as the focus here, it’s nearly impossible not to crave sweet potato pie and crispy chicken when the book closes.) Christie, a Caldecott winner, gives History comes to life with its stylized art, rendered in rich, saturated hues.

In “Alice Waters Cooking Up a Food Revolution,” by Diane Stanley (illustrated by Jessie Hartland), kids will delight in reading that the most important food movement of the past half-century was started by a woman who does just what she likes: cooking and eating, for and with her community. In a not unusual start to the story, a trip to Paris during college transforms a cheerful young Alice into a Francophile, reminding her of how she grew up eating only what was fresh and in season – a cutting-edge delicacy. .

Kids will get the message and laugh when they pass from his childhood summer dinner table illustration showcasing the best summer produce (“Nothing is ever picked until it’s ripe, and they eat it the same day”) to the fall spread (“‘Convenience food’ – processed in factories, then packaged, frozen or canned. It’s modern! It’s easy! It’s what l ‘America wants!”).

Waters’ awakening is great news for his friends in Berkeley (and eventually the world) as he inspires one of the most influential restaurants in history: Chez Panisse. When she opened it in 1971 with a bunch of hippie friends (collective dining experience: zero), Waters was just a lost graduate trying to make a living and recapture the magical flavor of a simple soup. that she ate in Paris (“THE BEST! SOUP! EVER!”), followed the next morning by a baguette with freshly made apricot jam (“THE BEST! BREAKFAST! EVER!”).

And by basing her cuisine on local and sustainable ingredients, foods “that enrich the earth instead of depleting and polluting it”, she launches many other things: the conversation around organic farming; its national Edible Schoolyard project (where schools use local gardens to teach children about the environment); the return of food cooked with intention and eaten at home as a family.

Following his lead, Hartland’s accompanying illustrations invite a slowly savored reading experience, the better to discover their abundant, joyous and whimsical details – a suitcase covered in travel stickers, a tray of fish where the fish looks decidedly worried , a poodle sitting and conversing at the dining room table.

One of the ways Waters immersed herself in French cuisine was watching Julia Child’s groundbreaking PBS show “The French Chef,” so it stands to reason that the other giant among the culture here is Child, she -even, a giant both figuratively and literally – she stood 6ft 2in tall. “Born Hungry,” written by Child’s great-nephew Alex Prud’homme and illustrated by Sarah Green, chronicles Julia’s life leading up to her best-selling book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” “Mastering” shifted our country’s worldview of food from cheap and easy to fresh and refined, ultimately earning Child the “French chef” gig.

It’s fun to read how she met her doting husband, Paul Child, while working as a spy for the OSS, and how he introduced her to the foods of France, in Rouen by ordering Julia oysters, sole meunière, fresh bread “with perfect butter”. white wine, yoghurt and coffee – which (shockingly!) set off all sorts of fireworks in his young brain.

The illustrations are colorful and often comical – Julia towering over her all-male classmates at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school; Julia literally dreaming about food, a stick of butter and chicken thighs swirling all over her as she sleeps.

An author’s note at the end completes his biography with the fame and fortune that has come from his television success, explaining how Child was able to so charmingly demystify French cuisine for the masses – and one can’t help but wonder. prevent wishing for these parts of one’s life were also illustrated.

Nevertheless, Julia’s message, to any child who wants to hear it, is clear: “Good results require taking time and care– for that plate of food in front of you and beyond.

About Joey J. Hott

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