Sun-ripened peaches. Juicy blackberries straight off the vine. Crunchy pecans and walnuts. Succulent tomatoes fresh out of the garden.
If your mouth is watering at the sound of this delectable fresh produce, then this is the book for you. Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie by Robbin Gourley is a fictionalized account of the childhood of famed chef Edna Lewis. A master of her craft, cooking delicious Southern food in some of the most popular restaurants in the country, Lewis believed strongly in using the freshest ingredients possible. She maintained the traditional methods of preparing food, always using the finest produce she could find, as that, she believed, made the dishes sing. In writing Apples, Robbin Gourley researched Lewis's life extensively, and created a tale that was inspired by Lewis's upbringing in Freetown, Virginia (a community founded by freed slaves, including Lewis's grandfather).
Apples is a perfect introduction for kids to the notion of eating seasonally. As each new crop comes in, Edna and her siblings take part in the harvest. From picking bucketsful of ripe cherries to gathering all sorts of beans from the garden, Edna can always think of something delicious to make with the fruits of her labor. The first crop is wild strawberries, and though her sister plans to eat as many as she picks, Edna's going to turn hers into strawberry shortcake. On it goes, up through the fall harvests of apples and of nuts, and at last Edna surveys the pantry, bursting full of preserved goods ready to get the family through winter with a little bit of summer for them to taste every day.
There's a lot to like about this title, from the gorgeous watercolor illustrations (the peaches look like you could pluck them right off the page) to the dynamic of family togetherness throughout. Gourley emphasizes the role that ever family member plays in putting food on the table; while things may be different now since many families don't gather their foodstuffs from the garden, the lessons in responsibility and participation carry over. And oh, the food - if the illustrations don't make you want to rush out to the farmer's market, then the children's plans for their bounty surely will. It's a summertime treat to read this when so many of these goodies are either in season or nearly there.
Reading this one with Sprout, he was especially taken by the illustration of plump tomatoes heavy on the vine. Though we didn't plant tomatoes this year (just too wet here in Northwest Washington), he remembers picking them from the vines himself last year. "I like these tomatoes, Mama," he tells me seriously. And in fact he did eat the ones we grew last summer, though he won't touch tomatoes from the grocery store. Smart kid that boy is!
Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie is a great book to share with young chefs and foodies, but don't expect to get off lightly when you read it. I'm already expecting to be baking pies with Sprout just as soon as those berries are ripe!
Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You A Pie by Robbin Gourley, published by Clarion Books
Sample: "Spring turns into summer, and Edna leads Daddy to a beehive she's found deep in the fragrant honeysuckle woods. He breaks the comb and gathers all the delicious dark-amber nectar. / Edna dips her finger in the bucket. 'Honey on hot biscuits sweetens the morning,' she says, smacking her lips."