Some tasty books (Image: Claire Mabey)
Some tasty books (Image: Claire Mabey)

BooksApril 6, 2024

Why my family is eating our way through children’s books

Some tasty books (Image: Claire Mabey)
Some tasty books (Image: Claire Mabey)

Gemma Bowker Wright and her kids set themselves a challenge to eat something from every book they read. Here’s how it’s gone so far.

My kids and I like to read. We also like to eat. We like to discuss the food in our favourite books, the meals the characters eat, and if we would like to eat it, too.  

“What if we ate something from every book we read?” my older child suggests. 

It feels like a good idea. A great idea. A challenge! The great book-eating challenge of 2024. 

Our goal: To eat something from every book we read.

Our methodology: Haphazard and fraught and driven by our bookshelf and what is available at the library, and mood and emotions and the pictures on the covers, and mostly, by our tummies. 

Here is what we’ve read and eaten so far. 

The Famous Five: Cream and ginger beer 

We read The Famous Five by Enid Blyton. We get confused by the characters and their names (which one is the dog? Timmy or George? Or Dick?) and by the gender roles (why does Anne do all the housework? Why do Julian and Dick do all the exciting stuff?).

We focus a great deal on the picnic lunches the famous five eat while on their adventures. These are hearty, postwar spreads – ham, bacon, eggs, ginger beer, cakes, buns. We are most excited about the ginger beer, and the cream.  

“What is a lashing?” my older boy wants to know. “A tablespoon? A cup?”

My younger boy wants a picnic. We sit on the deck on a bedroll. We drink ginger beer and eat scones with cream. There’s not much interest in the scones. We just want the cream. And the ginger beer. Afterwards we feel slightly sick. 

The Bomb by Sacha Cotter and Josh Morgan: Pies

The Bomb by Sacha Cotter and Josh Morgan is one of our favourites. My younger son asks for it daily, sometimes hourly. We like the colourful pictures, the storyline. We like the bit where the young protagonist is told to eat more pies so he can make a bigger bomb. 

“Can we get a pie?”

Our pie-eating history is fraught. We have been through vegetarian phases (once for ethical reasons, once for textural). While currently in an omnivorous phase, there are strong likes and dislikes. We don’t like funny smells. We are “put off” things easily. 

At the local bakery we find potato-top mini pies on offer. These don’t quite meet the brief, but we attempt it anyway. We take it to the table by the window. We each have a bite. We dive off the table. We finger the tomato sauce. We eye the lamingtons through the glass cabinet. We leave the bakery and head to the nearby park.     

A scene from The Bomb, featuring a picnic blanket.

Mini Whinny by Stacy Gregg: Carrot cake

We have a copy of Mini Whinny: Happy birthday to me! by Stacy Gregg. A beautiful, cheeky book. Mini Whinny is a naughty little pony. She has a birthday with all the other horses (but wishes she could have the day all to herself). The cake is carrot, of course. 

We make carrot cake. We use the grater for the first time and grate parts of our fingers into the mixture. We pour the sugar in an overenthusiastic manner and it goes all over the bench, and the floor, and somehow gets into our hair. We are missing some of the ingredients. We keep going, anyway. The cake is sweet and carroty and a little bit gritty. We make icing to go on top. (Next time we decide we’ll just make the icing.) 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl: Chocolate

We go to Pak’nSave. We walk straight to the chocolate section. We look at all the different blocks of Whittakers. We finally settle on Almond Gold (the title suggests, tantalisingly, a golden ticket). We unwrap it quickly. Will it be? Will it be? Nothing. No ticket. We feel, momentarily, winded. Our grief is overwhelming. We devour the chocolate on the way home, radio blaring, windows open, crying and singing.

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl: Watties tinned peaches in juice

We want a peach. A giant peach. An extra-extra-extra giant peach. The stone fruit season has been a mixed bag, according to the news. Cyclone Gabrielle, along with the economic climate, means peaches are more expensive than usual. We are not deterred. At the farmers market we find Golden Queens for $3.99 a kilo. We buy lots.

“They’re furry,” says my younger boy. “It’s like eating a mouse.”

Both boys take a few bites each and then ask for apples, a watermelon. A pretzel.  

Tinned peaches are more our thing. We eat them by the can. On Weet-Bix. On yoghurt. On jelly. (Once, with ginger beer and cream.) They look like dead goldfish, my younger boy says. 

Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail picking blackberries. (Illustration: Beatrix Potter)

The Mapmakers’ Race by Eirlys Hunter: Porridge with sugar

This book is a real find. The Mapmakers’ Race by Eirlys Hunter is an adventure set in a fictional past. There’s a mix of strange and familiar food. Pugnuts and pugnut butter feature heavily, as does porridge with sugar. 

“We want porridge with sugar!” we declare firmly. We add oats to water. We put them in the microwave. We watch the bowls turning slow circles through the glass. We add milk, and sugar. We each eat two bowls. The next night we ask for more (it all feels a little bit like Oliver Twist). 

Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter: Blackberries 

My older boy wants to be Peter. 

“Mr McGregor won’t catch me!” he hides under the table.

My younger boy wants to be one of the others: Flopsy, Mopsy or Cotton-Tail, he doesn’t mind which. He just wants to get the milk and blackberries at the end. He also wants the currant buns that Mrs Rabbit has gone down the lane with her basket to fetch.   

We search for blackberries on Mount Vic. There’s lots of them, but right in the middle of the thorny bushes. We sacrifice limbs. We wonder if they’ve been sprayed. We collect them anyway. 

We eat them by the fistful. Purple around our mouths. On our faces. Our hands. Our hair. They taste wild and delicious and a little bit sour. Then, suddenly, the bowl is empty. Here one minute. Gone the next. Poof! Like childhood. 

Keep going!