It is not just with our taste buds and our noses that we savor food, we do so in our imaginations. A story, a holiday, a special guest can all make a dish that much more tasty, that much more memorable. Jane Yolen’s gift is to inspire children with stories that are intimately connected with the foods they eat. Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook with recipes by Heidi E.Y. Stemple and illustrations by Sima Elizabeth Shefrin (Crocodile 2013) is a perfect example. It marries carefully chosen stories with commentary (for parents) and recipes to share together.
The Latke Miracle begins with a Jewish saying: “Eating latkes makes you a well-rounded person.” (Ha, ha, ha) There is a pretty collage of an old man meeting an old woman who is cleaning her pots at the waterside. The story is about being polite and hospitable and ending up with a reward. Read the story and your reward is making the pancakes! That’s a great incentive for a reluctant reader. The recipe for Latkes (Potato Pancakes) is easy to follow and there is plenty for little hands to do. In telling Counting Eggs Jane Yolen writes about her sources for the story. This could open up a discussion on how authors and writers acknowledge where an idea came from. The recipe that goes with the story is for Shatshuka, a Middle Eastern version of huevos rancheros that is perfect for a cold, wintry weekend morning.
Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts is a lovely book for the Jewish holidays – or any time of year. It will encourage children to read, to cook, and to enjoy their meals. The question is: what’s next? The Illiad and the Odyssey with recipes? Now, that might be fun!