Enjoying a meal with the ones we love is a universal comfort shared among us. Whether it be a cozy weeknight dinner with family, a Sunday roast with the whole crew, or a special family recipe shared for the holidays, eating together can be a great way to catch up on each others’ lives and share memories while making new ones. Family meals can warm not only our tummies, but our hearts as well. One publisher who does a great job of showcasing diverse dining from families around the world is Barefoot Books. Here are a few of my favorite reads with recipes.
Dumplings can be found in some shape or form in just about any country. Dumpling Day, by Meera Sriram and illustrated by Inés de Antuñano, showcases ten delicious dumplings from around the world. From the spiced fillings of samosas and tamales to the tangy taste of shish barak and pelmeni, there’s a sweet, savory, soft, or crunchy dumpling to appease anyone! This cultural culinary children’s book features repetitive, lyrical text with the addition of a fun count-along element and spreads featuring diverse families with a short description of each dumpling. Backmatter includes a map showing which country each kind of dumpling originates and all ten dumpling recipes.
Miko constantly strives for perfection. Whether it’s folding her clothes or painting a picture, it must be just right. When the time arrives for her grandmother’s birthday, Miko knows that sushi will be the perfect gift, only…she just can’t seem to get it right. With the help of her grandfather Jiji she tries and tries but they never look perfect. Luckily, just down the road is a sushi-robot making flawless maki rolls and nigiri. To her dismay, the perfectly made sushi was missing a very important ingredient, kokoro, love from the heart. This adorable read is filled with colorful collage art and fun onomatopoetic text, and of course a whole lot of kokoro. The Perfect Sushi, by Emily Satoko Seo and illustrated by Mique Moriuchi, the ideal read for little perfectionists, includes a glossary and sushi recipe in the back.
Sometimes a meal is more than just food on a plate, it’s the home it comes from, and the family we share it with. Dinner on Domingos, written by Alexandra Katona and illustrated by Claudia Navarro, introduces Alejandra who loves going to her grandmother’s house for Sunday dinner. She loves the smell of garlic on her abuelita’s hands, the sound of pots and pans clanking in the kitchen, and the hearty laughs of her family as they all join together to enjoy a pot of abuelita’s locro, an Ecuadorian potato soup. Based on the author’s own childhood with her grandmother, this bilingual book highlights the memories we cherish from coming together for a meal with family. Backmatter includes a heartfelt note from the author, a pronunciation guide and glossary for the Spanish woven throughout the book, and a recipe for traditional Ecuadorian locro.
Making homemade sourdough bread with my grandmother is one of my fondest memories. Luckily, things never got quite as out-of-hand as they do in this fun, whimsical STEM title, The Bread Pet, by Kate DePalma with illustrations by Nelleke Verhoeff. Readers follow along as young Cora agrees to pet sit for her uncle JB, only she isn’t just watching his goldfish this time. Cora must feed and care for her uncle’s bread pet. Seems easy enough…at first! But soon the bread pet is growing faster and faster until it’s outgrown nearly every container in the house. Cora bakes loaves of bread for everyone in the neighborhood, but still the bread pet grows. She soon comes up with a clever solution that gives back to the whole community. Backmatter includes not only the instructions for beginning your own sourdough starter, but a tasty bread recipe as well.
Sometimes bread can disappear before you even get to taste it as is the case in Bring Back the Babka! by Marilyn Wolpin and illustrated by Madison Safer. Mama’s freshly baked babka has gone missing right before Shabbat dinner, and her two young sons, Sammy and Sol, are on the case! They, with their dog Mazel, go to their neighbors’ homes in search of the braided cinnamon treat. While they don’t know where the babka is, each neighbor gives the boys a delicious Jewish treat and words of wisdom. The culprit is soon exposed, but all is not lost, as the neighborhood has come together to make a Shabbat that won’t soon be forgotten. Backmatter gives insight to the regions each featured dish comes from as well as a recipe for Mama’s missing babka. Just be sure to keep a close eye on it!
Eating and cooking with young ones is a great way to introduce reading, math, and basic life skills all while nurturing bonds and creating lasting memories. It is also a great way to encourage picky eaters to try the new dishes they help make. All of these titles from Barefoot Books showcase the wonderful ways in which food brings us together. Most of these books can also be found in Barefoot’s “Food and Family Gift Set” along with other titles that highlight the importance of sharing meals with the ones we care about. Which recipe will you try first?