Monday, September 8, 2008

Raising a stylish eater

Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban

"I have a thermos bottle with cream of tomato soup," she said.
"And a lobster salad sandwich on thin slices of white bread.
I have celery, carrot sticks, and black olives, and a little cardboard shaker of salt for the celery.
And two plums and a tiny basket of cherries.
And vanilla pudding with chocolate sprinkles and a spoon to eat it with."
"That's a good lunch," said Albert.
"I think it's nice that there are all different kinds of lunches and breakfasts and dinners and snacks.
I think eating is nice."
"So do I," said Frances,
and she made the lobster-salad sandwich, the celery, the carrot sticks, and the olives come out even.

-- from Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban (pictures by Lillian Hoban).

I found a copy of this classic picture book for way less than a buck at a church basement sale in Cold Spring, NY. I remember reading this (and other Frances books) numerous times when I was a child. Perhaps those multiple readings of the book - terminating with the page quoted above, which I have made my profile quote for the time being (even though it meant displacing Werner Herzog, one of my honorary uncles) - led to my variety-is-the-spice-of-diet eating habits today.

A cautionary tale for picky eaters, Bread and Jam for Frances is also about aspiring to new heights when it comes to menu planning and school lunch eating. I'm sure my love of the book had something to do with my occasionally taking chopsticks or salt and pepper shakers with me to school in my lunch sack. If only I could have found a doily and a tiny vase of violets (two items Frances has on her desk at the end of the book) to complete the staging and styling of my "sack lunches," I'd have been in book-nerd-slash-food-nerd heaven.

Come to think of it, "desktop lunch stylist" doesn't sound like a half bad job title to me.


Bets said...

I have a 2-year-old, and was thrilled when my brother brought us an aged copy of The Little Engine That Could to read him. What was the train's cargo? Oh, toys and books, sure but also "re-cheeked apples and golden oranges, bottles of creamy milk for their breakfasts, fresh crisp green spinach for their suppers, and peppermint drops for after-meal treats."
(That's from memory -I think I'm missing one sort of candy.)
I had never forgotten the bottles of creamy milk, or the illustration of the grinning apples and oranges across the top of the page.

Jennette said...

That sounds really lovely. This has jump-started a pleasant chain of references in my mind. I'm remembering, for example, all the mention of food in the Little House on the Prairie books and the Christmas feast in Little Women. I love discussions and illustrations of food in children's books!

Mechanic said...

i have similar fond memories of "all of a kind family" and their descriptions of lower east side food stuffs. it sounded so exotic! i still recall it when i'm down there...

Jennette said...

I loved those books, too! The illustrator (Helen John) was a favorite of mine.

Bets said...

Though it must be said, one super-memorable food description - the lovingly detailed pig slops from Charlotte's Web - were brilliantly written to be both tantillizing and super-revolting at the same time.

Jennette said...

That is another good one...and reminds me that I have a children's book called "It's Disgusting and We Ate It!"

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