Monday, March 30, 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: Food For Thought

I picked up this lovely-looking book at the library yesterday and, judging it by its cover, thought it would make a perfect Non-Fiction Monday post AND would be a possible Sibert contender for next year. And by gum, I'm going to review it even though I didn't like it.

Food for Thought: The Stories Behind the Things We Eat by Ken Robbins, Flashpoint/Roaring Book Press, 2009.

I thought this looked good, even though I generally relegate foodie books for kids to the same category as art museum and modern poetry books for kids--it's what adults would really, really like kids to enjoy. They think "if I was a kid, this is what I would want to read". But even though I like going to art museums better than just about anything else as an adult, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been interested in books about going to art museums when I was a kid. And even though I love everything about food--food-blogs, food-books, food-stores, food itself--when I was a kid, I was much more interested in reading Frank Asch's Popcorn or Tomie de Paola's Strega Nona than anything that might be termed, like this, a "foodie" book.

Robbins supplies a mishmash of mythology, history, and biology for each section (Apples, Oranges, Corn, Bananas, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Pomegranates, Grapes, and Mushrooms). Some of the facts are interesting and at least a little esoteric--the history of ketchup, as told in the Tomatoes chapter, is the kind of thing kids thrive on--but others are so obvious as to be kind of silly; a list of the ways people eat potatoes? In an already-short chapter, "We do like them baked, roasted, boiled, and perhaps most of all, fried" is not particularly compelling.

I also quote from the strange Grapes chapter, which is all about wine: ..."if you are a child, you're generally not allowed to drink it until you're older. The reason for this is simple: a little bit of alcohol, when it is drunk, makes people feel good, but just a very small amount more also robs them of their ability to think clearly. Adults, who may legally drink, tend to believe that children don't think all that clearly in the first place and should, therefore, never drink. It should be noted that some of those adults who drink probably shouldn't either."

...I find that reasoning behind laws and cultural beliefs about children and alcohol... sort of skewed.

There also aren't any references or back-matter of any kind. I would have been really into a timeline showing when these foods were introduced or popularized, or a For Further Reading list, or something like that.

I give this one a pass, but will take recommendations for foodie-books-for-kids that are good--even if kids don't really like them, maybe I would.

See more Non-Fiction Monday posts at Tales From the Rushmore Kid.


Roberta said...

Wow, that wine quote is really something. Thanks for taking the time to review this even though it wasn't to your taste :-)

Amy Planchak Graves said...

"Children don't think all that clearly in the first place"? That's harsh. I wonder how they determine which adults should or shouldn't drink, too. Nothing like a little pseudo-prohibitionist propaganda.

Sandy D. said...

Hmm. I love foodie books, but the only kid one I can think of that was at all memorable is Aliki's "Corn Is Maize".

Sadako said...

I liked the wine quote--very funny.