Monday, September 14, 2015

About Time

There’s some comfort in knowing that favorite things can have long lineages.  Whether we’re talking about family traditions, favorite objects such as toys (Much Loved) or books (Alice in Wonderland turns 150 years old this November) there’s security to be had in familiar things passed down.

Food falls into a category by itself in my opinion.  Besides being a necessity of life, we’ve imbued particular dishes with cultural significances or familial prominence that become part of people’s identities.  Think barbecue, pasta or tea and the southern United States, Italy or England (or China) come readily to my mind.

A Fine Dessert: four centuries, four families and one delicioustreat by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall tie all of this together in a sort-of narrative timeline.
The dessert, blackberry fool, remains the same, made from the same ingredients, for over 400 years.

But so much else can and does change, too.

Four families, spaced 100 years apart from 1710 to 2010, show the reader lots of changes over that time, not just in terms of technology, but also who does household chores. The 1810 family includes female slaves who make and serve the dish, whereas in 2010, a boy and his father make this dessert for a gathering of very diverse people. However, the technological changes are interesting too, moving from twig whisks to electric mixers and outdoor ice houses to modern day refrigerators.

Getting the ingredients from picking your own berries and milking your own cow in 1710 to going to a grocery store in 2010, shows how we’ve been removed from the direct procurement of food.

The illustrations are terrific with historically accurate details included for each setting.  I enjoyed reading the author’s and illustrator’s notes about how they decided on which settings, families and details to include. They also include a recipe for you to try, too.

Elementary teachers would find this book useful for teaching concepts about the big concept of time and the nature of change within social contexts.


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