March 21, 2010

Bread and Jam for Frances

Sometime around 1984, there was a little girl in southwest Michigan who had not yet learned to read. She was sitting with this book, Bread and Jam for Frances, the audio version running in her cassette player, and she listened to this story over and over and over.

That little girl was me, and this was my favorite book.

When asked what she had in her school lunch box, Frances, a badger-looking character, and the first "foodie" I ever met, replied:

"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."

What you may not realize, unless you have read the book, is that Frances was not always a foodie. She started out a very picky eater, willing only to eat bread and jam. Her parents devised a clever plan to get her to WANT to eat a variety of foods, and it worked.

It worked on me, too. Looking back, I really think this book was the reason I was the only kid at my parents' table who asked for salad, and second helpings of vegetables, and shared seafood pasta with my Dad for lunch when the rest of the family was eating peanut butter.

Wikipedia tells us that the word, foodie, "was coined in 1981 by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, who used it in the title of their 1984 book The Official Foodie Handbook." Wiki also says that "foodies differ from gourmets in that gourmets are epicures of refined taste who may or may not be professionals in the food industry, whereas foodies are amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news."

What does being a foodie mean to me? It means I talk about food, eat food, compulsively collect recipes, browse kitchen stores, and always order something new at the restaurant. This morning for breakfast, while Daniel and the boys ate English muffins, I sat with a pair of chopsticks, eating leftover pork and peppers with rice. To me, it's a no-brainer. If I have a chance to eat, and there is a tastier option, I'm going to choose it.

So the other day, when the boys and I found "Bread and Jam for Frances" at our local international library (or rather, a single lady's book collection in her private apartment that she has opened up to foreigners to check out for three weeks at a time at 7 books for $1), I was thrilled! I was going to get to share this piece of my childhood with my own kids. I carried it home carefully, not wanting to open it until we were nestled into our couch at home.

Since then, which was late last week, we have enjoyed veal cutlets, string beans, and cup custard many times during story time (not actually consuming these foods, of course, though I would love to). Maybe my boys will be bitten by the good-food bug, too.

Regardless, I am glad to have Frances around again. The picture below, by the way, is me in my mom's kitchen, circa 1990.