Tag Archives: cooking

PPBF – Salma the Syrian Chef

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve been cooking, and eating, way too much these past few holiday weeks. But while I was visiting my daughter recently, I perused her copy of The Immigrant Cookbook, which has inspired me to try some healthy, new-to-me recipes. After reading today’s Perfect Picture Book, I think I’ve found another new recipe to ring in the new decade, too.

Title: Salma the Syrian Chef

Written By: Danny Ramadan

Illustrated By: Anna Bron

Publisher/Date: Annick Press/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: cooking, recipe, Syria, refugees, home

Opening:

Salma watches the Vancouver rain from her apartment window in the Welcome Center. It’s different than the sunny days back in Syria.

She still can’t pronounce “Vancouver,” but her friends tell her that her ways of saying it are more fun.

Brief Synopsis: To cheer up her mother, Salma, a young Syrian refugee living in Vancouver, Canada, decides to make a beloved Syrian dish with the help of friends from the Welcome Center.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a favorite food that reminds you of a special place or person? With the help of an adult, try preparing it for family or friends;
  • Salma prepares foul shami (pronounced “fool shammy”), fava beans prepared in the style eaten in Damascus, Syria. Check out the recipe;
  • Salma originally lived in Damascus, Syria; learn more about this ancient city.

Why I Like this Book:

In Salma the Syrian Chef, Salma, a young Syrian refugee, notices that her mother has stopped smiling. After numerous attempts to cheer her mother up and make their adopted city of Vancouver feel more like home, including drawing pictures, telling jokes, and jumping out from a hiding spot to surprise Mama, Salma thinks about what may be making her Mama sad: they no longer are in their home, and Papa isn’t with them. Salma realizes that she can’t change either of those by herself, but she can make Mama a favorite food from home.

I love how Salma realizes that her Mama is sad, that she determines to cheer her up, and that she understands that a favorite food from home can brighten someone’s day. As a young child, though, Salma isn’t able to shop and cook by herself. Other adults and children at an immigrant Welcome Center rally to help her, showing how important a new community can be to help refugees and other immigrants resettle.

I think children reading Salma the Syrian Chef will enjoy this story, will empathize with children, like Salma, who are struggling to resettle in a foreign land, and will learn that small actions, like cooking a favorite recipe or helping someone else do so, will, like raindrops in a puddle, spread through a community to cheer everyone.

Bron’s soft palette of beiges and browns from the Syrian desert and the grays and blues of often-rainy Vancouver effectively show the dichotomy of these two places. I especially enjoyed the tiled frames that appear on most spreads.

A Note about Craft:

In Salma the Syrian Chef, Ramadan presents a classic, kid-friendly problem for the main character, Salma: cheering up her mother who is sad to be away from home and so far from Salma’s Papa. The solution, cooking her Mama’s favorite dish, isn’t something that Salma can do by herself, however, as she needs help finding the recipe, sourcing some of the ingredients, and chopping vegetables. Although a picture book main character should solve her or his own problem, by presenting a solution that requires community involvement, I think Ramadan adds an important layer to this story and strengthens its impact.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

Perfect Pairing – of Traditional Comfort Foods

Looking for a fun family activity to chase away the winter chills? Try cooking together – as shown in today’s Perfect Pairing.

Freedom Soup

Author: Tami Charles

Illustrator: Jacqueline Alcántara

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: intergenerational, cooking, tradition, Haiti

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Join the celebration in the kitchen as a family makes their traditional New Year’s soup — and shares the story of how Haitian independence came to be.

The shake-shake of maracas vibrates down to my toes.
Ti Gran’s feet tap-tap to the rhythm.

Every year, Haitians all over the world ring in the new year by eating a special soup, a tradition dating back to the Haitian Revolution. This year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the soup — Freedom Soup — just like she was taught when she was a little girl. Together, they dance and clap as they prepare the holiday feast, and Ti Gran tells Belle about the history of the soup, the history of Belle’s family, and the history of Haiti, where Belle’s family is from. In this celebration of cultural traditions passed from one generation to the next, Jacqueline Alcantara’s lush illustrations bring to life both Belle’s story and the story of the Haitian Revolution. Tami Charles’s lyrical text, as accessible as it is sensory, makes for a tale that readers will enjoy to the last drop.

Read my review.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

Author: Kevin Noble Maillard

Illustrator: Juana Martinez-Neal

Publisher/Date: Roaring Brook Press/2019

Ages: 3-6

Themes: Native Americans, family tradition, cooking, community

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Fry bread is food.
It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate.

Fry bread is time.
It brings families together for meals and new memories.

Fry bread is nation.
It is shared by many, from coast to coast and beyond.

Fry bread is us.
It is a celebration of old and new, traditional and modern, similarity and difference.

Read a review by Susanna Leonard Hill.

I paired these books because they involve food traditions that tie communities together, be it soup, as in the Haitian Freedom Soup, or the Native American Fry Bread. And a special bonus: both picture books include recipes, perfect for wintry days!

 

 

 

PPBF – Freedom Soup

It’s January, and the wintry winds are whistling outside my window. Although it’s a few weeks since we celebrated the start of the new year, I think today’s Perfect Picture Book, about a special New Year tradition, and a perfect winter food, is a perfect picture book for the holiday, or any day.

Title: Freedom Soup

Written By: Tami Charles

Illustrated By: Jacqueline Alcántara

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: intergenerational, cooking, traditions, Haiti

Opening:

Today is New Year’s Day. This year, I get to help make Freedom Soup. Ti Gran says I’ve got a heart made for cooking, and it’s time I learn how.

Brief Synopsis: Belle helps her grandmother cook Freedom Soup for the New Year’s celebration, a tradition from their Haitian culture.

Links to Resources:

  • Cook and enjoy Freedom Soup, using the recipe at the back of the book;
  • Freedom Soup is a special soup prepared in Haiti and by those of Haitian descent. Learn about Haiti;
  • Does your family enjoy preparing and eating a special food? Ask an older relative to explain why the recipe is special and to help prepare it with you.

Why I Like this Book:

Freedom Soup is a joyous celebration of family and cultural traditions. With its bright illustrations and vivid language, I loved experiencing Ti Gran and Belle working together to create Freedom Soup. As snow piles up, “cottony-thick” outside, the pair shimmy and shake to musical beats – even the steam dances in ribbons “up to the ceiling”, and the “pumpkiny-garlic smell swirls all around us.”

As the soup cooks, Ti Gran relates its origins, reminding Belle, and readers, of the importance of freedom and the history of Ti Gran’s native Haiti.

Alcántara’s illustrations transported me to the Caribbean, with Haitian artwork evident in several scenes, and fabrics adding additional pops of color.

A Note about Craft:

In an Author’s Note, Charles reveals that she learned about Freedom Soup from her husband’s late grandmother. I love how Charles has crafted a picture book based on a family member and grounded in Haitian history by imagining Ti Gran teaching a young child how to cook Freedom Soup and why.

By weaving music and dancing through the text, Charles roots the story in the culture of Haiti, and, I think, brings a celebratory feeling to a special activity shared by a grandmother and her granddaughter.

Visit Charles’ website to see more of her books. Visit Alcántara’s website to see more of her work. Alcántara is also the illustrator of The Field (Baptiste Paul, 2018).

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!