Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Right Taste

No thoughts of Thanksgiving are complete without thinking of my Dad.  He and his three younger brothers were extraordinary cooks.  Their gift began in being highly skilled in gardening, working with the soil and tending every single seed and plant until it was a thing of beauty.  They believed a good meal began with those items it contained.

Of the four my father, with no prejudice intended, was the best gardener and culinary wizard.  His favorite herb to use was sage, growing his own plants, picking the best leaves, washing them, drying them and grinding them up to give as gifts to family and friends in carefully labeled jars.  When I first read Alice Waters and the Trip To Delicious (Readers to Eaters, Bellevue, Washington, August 26, 2014) written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin with illustrations by Hayelin Choi I rejoiced in knowing about one woman who devoted her life to what was a significant aspect of my childhood.

Some people want new red shoes.
Some people want to sing on stage
or play basketball.

Chef Alice Waters wants every kid in the country
to come with her on the trip to Delicious.

She believes every child should enjoy lunch, a lunch full of flavor and unforgettable taste.  This desire did not come to her in adulthood, during college, her teen years or even her first years in school.  It's safe to say this kinship with food began when she was three years old.  It had something to do with winning a costume contest.

Her affection for food led her to France where she studied, worked and talked with like-minded people.  

Sharing good food
could start a party, make memories.

Upon her return home to America, Alice wanted this connection between food and friends to continue.  Searching for the best fruits, vegetables, meats, herbs and spices, cooking and serving the meals gave her an idea.  There never seemed to be enough room in her home so she decided to open a restaurant, a restaurant which felt like her home.  Chez Panisse became a reality.

Alice was relentless in her pursuit of the very finest, freshest ingredients.  Her restaurant's popularity soon brought farmers to her with their produce. No meal was served unless Alice tasted it first.  Everyone needed to reach the same destination, Delicious.

Alice's restaurant served people from all walks of life which earned her an award given to a woman for the first time.  She made sure even children would feel comfortable at Chez Panisse.  This care given to meals for the youngest eaters made her notice something else.  Another idea was about to be born.

A school without a kitchen was on her route to the restaurant each day.  What if there was a garden at the school?  What if the students learned to cook meals?  What if the students traveled down the path to Delicious?  The Edible Schoolyard became a reality there and is still expanding today to other places around the world.  One person, Alice Waters, changed the way we think about food.

Jacqueline Briggs Martin forms the narrative for her biographies with an initial premise, building upon this event by event making her readers more acquainted with an individual on a personal level.  Her inclusion of specific slices of Alice's life, the first place prize for the costume, her studies in France, the meeting with the boy in Turkey, the results of the first night Chez Panisse was open, Alice searching for natural foods, the famous individuals who visited her restaurant, and her attention given to the school she walked past every day, help to make readers appreciate the difference Alice has made in the food community, in the lives of thousands of people, especially children.  By adding the small circles containing precise facts to the larger conversation text it's as if Martin has pulled up a chair next to us, telling us everything she knows about Alice Waters.  She tells us those things which will have us honoring this woman as much as she does.  Here is a sample excerpt.

And that was a problem---
finding enough fresh, tasty food.
Frozen food was handy.
Food that had been on the shelves for days
was cheap.
But those were not right for the trip to Delicious.
Alice worked day and night finding just the right food.
She drove to the fish and poultry markets
in Chinatown---so often that her car began to smell
like a fish wagon and no one wanted to ride with her.

Debut picture book illustrator Hayelin Choi has rendered all the illustrations using brush and black ink, scanning them digitally and then coloring them.  Each element is blended together using Adobe Photoshop. Beginning with the front and back of the book case the color choices, lines and design evoke cheerfulness while introducing readers to the lengths Alice Waters goes to acquire fresh foods.  A lighter and darker shade of the predominant green on the cover is used in a design on the opening and closing endpapers; a swirling array of fruits, vegetables and fish.

The heavier matte-finished paper is the ideal canvas for Choi's work, serving to illuminate her style which looks almost like block printing.  Her pictures altered in size and perspective elevate the text as do the different background colors.  Many of her images are pure genius in their depiction of time, drawing your eyes from one point to another with lines or by following a pictorial border around text.

One of my favorite illustrations spans across two pages.  On the left Alice is shown cooking in her kitchen with pots, utensils and a light above her head.  She is crushing food with a mortar and pestle in her right hand.  With her left hand she is reaching for an onion being carried in the back of a small truck; about toy size.  What Choi has done is create a series of farms on the left connected by a roadway which runs into Alice's kitchen.  The farmland blends into her preparation counter.  I love this picture!

Alice Waters is a true inspiration; a living hero for children (and adults).  In reading Alice Waters and the Trip To Delicious written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin with illustrations by Hayelin Choi we understand how following a dream can impact the world in more ways than initially imagined.  I believe those who read this book will be excited to pursue some, if not all, of Alice Waters' ideas.  At the book's end is an afterward written by Alice Waters, an author's note, a bibliography, and a list of resource (Grow Your Own and Cook Your Own).

To learn more about Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Hayelin Choi please follow the links embedded in their names to access their personal websites.  At Hayelin Choi's website she has shown more images from the interior of the book.  Here is the link to The Edible Schoolyard Project website.  Follow this link to an interview of Jacqueline Briggs Martin by educator Mary Ann Scheuer for Parents' Press.  I would recommend using this title with Jacqueline Briggs Martin's other title, Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table, and It's Our Garden:  From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden by George Ancona.

I am thankful to be participating in the 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge each week hosted by Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy.  Be sure to visit her site to see the titles recommended by other bloggers. 


  1. Fabulous review as always. Can't wait to see this one!

    1. Thank you Jama, my favorite foodie friend. I know you are going to like this. Wishing you a wonderful holiday.