There are dozens of holiday-favorite children's books that
include food passages and/or suggest food pairings. Here's an
Book: The Nativity, by Julie Vivas, Gulliver Books, 1986
Food: Angel-shaped and donkey-shaped sugar cookies
Book: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, Alfred Knopf
Food: Anything from A Christmas Carol Cookbook, Abbeville Press,
Book: The Miracle of the Potato Latkes, by Malka Penn, Holiday
Food: Tante Golda's famous Potato Latkes (recipe included in the
Book: Grandma's Latkes, by Malka Drucker, Harcourt Brace
Food: Grandma's Latkes (recipe included in the book)
Book: The 12 Days of Christmas: A Pinata for the Pinon Tree, by
Philemon Sturges, Little, Brown and Company, 2007
Food: Bizcochitos, the New Mexico Christmas cookie, (recipe
included in the book)
Book: Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder,
Food: Heart-shaped cakes or other recipes from The Little House
Cookbook, by Barbara Walker, Harper Collins Children's Books,
Book: My Prairie Christmas, by Brett Harvey, Holiday House,
Food: Roast prairie hen (chicken), cranberry sauce, wheat-flour
biscuits or Indian pudding
Book: Too Many Tamales, by Gary Soto, Putnam, 1993
Book: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Theodor Geisel (Dr.
Seuss), Random House Books, 1957
Food: Roast beast
Book: The Gingerbread Baby, Jan Brett, Putnam, 1999
Food: Gingerbread baby cookies
Book: Snowmen at Christmas, by Caralyn Buehner, Dial, 2005
Food: Ice cream and snow cones and dainty iced sweets
The winter season is filled with story-and with fanciful food.
Books that put the two together sing out to us. From Nutcracker
"sugar plums" to Whoville "roast beast," holiday foods decorate
childhood dreams. Close you're eyes and you can see them-Laura
Ingall Wilder's little heart-shaped Christmas cakes with "delicate
brown tops" sprinkled with sugar that "lay like tiny drifts of
snow." Or maybe those "big and round, crisp and brown" potato
latkes from Leslie Kimmelman's The Runaway Latkes.
Wouldn't it be fun to taste them, too? Bringing favorite food
passages from children's stories to life makes for a
multi-dimensional holiday experience. Now in addition to the cozy
reading, you can enjoy the making, the decorating, the eating and
the giving (gifting some of what you make.)
When you gather holiday books to read this year, include your
favorites, but add a few more to the stack. Try books from
different traditions, new writers and unexpected perspectives. Mix
in some poetry, song and fable, the mythic and magical, the ancient
and the true. While not all holiday books are about food, many
include it. In searching for recipes, look for cookbooks on the
topic. A few examples? Nutcracker ballet lovers will be thrilled to
find Linda Hymes' Nutcracker Sweet: Showstopping Desserts
Inspired by the World's Favorite Ballet. And Dickens' fans
should know authors Sarah Key, Jennifer Brazil and Vicki Wells put
together A Christmas Carol Cookbook, including "Ghost of
Christmas Repast" recipes such as Tiny Tim's Mini Shepherd's Pie
and "Ghost of Christmas Presents" Humbug Lemon Curd. If there isn't
a cookbook, you can always research a few recipes that would match
the story. Google "roast beast," from Dr. Seuss' How the
Grinch Stole Christmas, and you'll find recipes ranging from
an Irish Roast Beast to several by celebrity chef Bobby Flay.
Once you've decided on a book and recipe, you can build
anticipation several ways. If you like, make simple invitations to
send to some guests. (If it's just a dessert or side dish you're
doing, consider making the party a "tea" rather than full-blown
dinner.) Then, before the appointed day, decorate the dining room.
Even very-small children can enjoy and understand the appeal of a
pretty table. You don't have to be Martha Stewart about it-just
loosely fit your decorations (place mats, a simple centerpiece,
maybe some place cards) with the theme/period of your book.
Bringing kids into the kitchen doesn't have to be a scary
experience. If you weren't lucky enough to have a mom who cooked
and you lack confidence, kid-targeted cooking recipes might be a
relief. Practice the recipe once or twice by yourself before you
try it with the kids. Based on how that goes, you'll be better able
to plan the right amount of time for the project. You'll also know
which tasks to delegate to the kids and which to do yourself.
Consider doubling the recipe so you can gift some of the yield.
Include cleanup time with the kids in the planning.
Now it's time to enjoy. Whether you've invited guests or are
doing this as a family-only occasion, make it extra special with
music to match (Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" if you're doing
sugarplums; the theme from the Narnia film, if you're eating
Turkish delight, folk-fiddle music if you're doing a dish from
Little House on the Prairie, etc.) Read the passage you are
highlighting out loud as part of your party.
If you've made enough of this special food to share-and it's a
food that travels well-think about packaging it in boxes, tins or
takeout cartons decorated to go along with the theme. You might
even print out the passage your treat was inspired by and include
that, (or the recipe) on a tag with the gift, along with your kids'
See more of Monica's stories here.
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