With all the excitement surrounding the announcement of production beginning on the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movie, shopping for foodie baby shower gifts, and flipping my lid over the Foodie Babies Wear Bibs book I started remembering all of the stories I loved as a kid that involved food in some way or another.
The Little House books are a prime example of this. They’re full of food. So much so that there’s even a companion cookbook. I was always jealous that Laura Ingalls got to make maple sugar candy, pancake men, and vanity cakes. In real life I just got yelled at if I tried to eat snow, and my grandmother’s attempts at pancake men usually ended up looking slightly decapitated. I guess living on the frontier wasn’t as fantastic as I wanted to believe, unless you were a boy. You see In Farmer Boy, Alonzo got to pull taffy. For some reason that always sounded like an exotic adventure on par with escaping from the Temple of Doom with Indiana Jones. To this day I’ve never had the pleasure of participating in a taffy pull.
I feel obligated to put Blueberries for Sal on this list since I grew up in Maine, but honestly I hated blueberries as a kid. I was forcibly taken on too many marathon berry picking expeditions in the hot summer sun to ever have fond thoughts of the fruit or this classic story. Dear parents: no kid wants to go berry picking for four hours when they can be at home trying desperately to beat Paper Boy on the Nintendo while chain snacking on orange freezer pops.
In contrast, Bread and Jam for Francis is so loved that it’s made the cut out of hundreds of other books I grew up reading and has now been retired to the quiet serenity of my office bookshelf. Very few childhood books received this sort of reverent “put out to pasture treatment.” Even the 60 plus Baby-Sitter’s Club books I cherished were eventually donated to the local library. Why is Bread and Jam for Francis so good? Two words: egg cup. I obsessed about this plot point and pestered my family constantly as to why we didn’t have egg cups. They looked so fancy! I must have an egg cup! It wasn’t the whole jam part of the book, or the not so subtle “it’s good to try new foods idea” that I was enthralled with, but the egg cup illustration on the first few pages. I received my hard boiled eggs in a bowl so obviously in my mind I was very deeply deprived.
Popcorn, pretzels, jelly beans and toast?! What more could a kid ask for?! Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving still knocks my socks off. I honestly think that someday I’m going to have people over for a “traditional” Snoopy and friends shindig. Who wants to be included on the invite?
If we were doing a High Fidelity inspired top five list than Mickey Mouse’s Picnic would have to be included for most read and beloved picture book of all time. Like previously mentioned books, it wasn’t always the story as a whole that would become memorable for me, but a single piece of the plot or artwork. In Mickey Mouse’s Picnic the mention of “paper tape” fascinated me. In the story, Minnie fastens a knife to to the bottom of the cake pan she’s bringing to their outdoor get together with paper tape. Unfortunately, The picnic feast gets stolen while everyone is frolicking at the swimming hole. The day is surely ruined, but wait! Just in the nick of time Donald appears with a picnic to share with the crowd. Hmm…Mickey and Minnie are suspicious and do a G-rated CSI investigation. Flipping over the cake they find Minnie’s knife stuck to the bottom with the now infamous paper tape. For some reason I was completely befuddled by the idea of paper tape, even after it was explained to me that paper tape was masking tape I still focused on this tiny piece of the tale for years.
Ramona Quimby Age 8 has several chapters where food plays an amusing role. Who can forget when Ramona and Beezus have to make dinner for their parents after they complain about their dad’s cooking? Or how about daredevil Ramona cracking an egg on her head to impress the “Yard Ape.” I still get the quivers thinking about that gooey mess sliding through Ramona’s hair. Ick!
Recently, young adult titles Life as We Knew it, and The Dead and the Gone have given me terrifying food related nightmares and essentially scarred me for the rest of my life. Now every time I’m putting away groceries I think really melancholy thoughts like…what if this box of elbow macaroni and this can of diced peaches is the only food I get to eat for a week because a meteor knocked the moon out of whack and the weather is trying to kill us! And then CK forcibly takes the iced coffee out of my hand and makes me go for a run. I think I’m more afraid of starvation now than my 5-year-old self was afraid of the dark. Thanks Susan Beth Pfeffer!
Are there foodie books from your childhood, that stand out for you still? Please tell me I wasn’t the only freaky kid begging for egg cups and wishing for a pretzel main course at Thanksgiving.