• Kim Bogren Owen

Come Together, Cook Together: Sharing Culture Through Food


Children love to cook! And often they will eat what they cook themselves even if it is new or unusual. Food also brings families together and represents our heritage. Enjoy learning about other culture's food traditions while trying new foods with the following books.

Children will enjoy Arroz Con Leche by Samantha R. Vamos and Rafael Lopez which is about a farm maiden making arroz con leche (rice pudding). This rhyming book, which includes a recipe for arroz con leche, introduces young children to Spanish vocabulary as well as the steps of making rice pudding. While reading this book, talk about where our food comes from. At the grocery store look for the items in this book and others, and talk about how they are grown or produced. Visit a farm if you have one close.

A mother and daughter make Bee-Bim Bop together and serve it to their family in Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park and Ho Baek Lee. A very fun and joyful book that includes the recipe. Ask your child what their favorite recipe is and make it with them after reading this. This is a great way to connect with your child!

Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie: A Story of Edna Lewis by Robbin Gourley is the story of chef, Edna Lewis and her love of cooking and food. This book tells of her gathering food throughout the seasons as a girl and includes the recipes in the story.

Sometimes our friends don't appreciate our favorite foods, especially if the foods are very different from what they are used to eating. Charlie discovers this in Char Siu Bao Boy by Sandra S. Yamate and Carolina Yao. Will he succumb to peer pressure or help others try new things? This book includes the recipe at the end. Ask your child if they have ever not wanted to try something, but then after trying it liked it. Talk about your own experiences of being wary about a new food and how it can take several times of tasting a new food before your body likes it.

In Everybody Bakes Bread by Norah Dooley and Peter J. Thornton, Carrie's Saturday plans get ruined by rain. On a hunt to find something to do, she visits her neighbors where she learns about the different types of bread they make. Recipes are included at the end. Also, in this series are Everybody Brings Noodles and Everybody Cook Rice by the same author and illustrator. All three books include the recipes at the end. Have a potluck with your child's friends and neighbors where they each bring a favorite noodle, bread, or rice recipe after reading these books.

Pablo isn't sure what food to bring for International Day at his school. He wants to share his culture but doesn't know how to show both his Jewish and Hispanic heritage until he decides his family special jalapeno bagels fit the bill perfectly in Jalapeno Bagels by Natasha Wing and Robert Casilla. This book, also, includes recipes. Talk about your own culture and the foods you celebrate with or cook from your heritage.

A girl gets to help her grandmother make tortillas on her 7th birthday in Madga's Tortillas/La Tortillas de Madga by Becky Chavarria-Chairez and Anne Vaga. However, she can't make them perfectly round like her grandmother. She is very discouraged and embarrassed when they are served to her family, but they all love them even though they are not perfect. It takes practice to make things perfectly round. Have your child pretend to make tortillas with playdough, and then make your own.

Mama Provi makes a pot of arroz con pollo for her granddaughter, Lucy, who has chicken pox in Mama Provi and the Pot of Rice by Sylvia Rosa-Casanova. As Mama Provi travels up the stairs from her apartment to her granddaughter's, the smell of other's food draw her into trading her arroz con pollo for what they have cooked. She ends up bringing Lucy a multicultural feast which they enjoy!

Every Saturday, Maria Lili makes sancocho with her grandparents. Excited to begin cooking, Maria Lili arrives only to learn that they have only eggs. How will her grandmother make the sancocho with only eggs? Maria Lili learns the power of trading as she goes on a journey to the market with her grandmother in Saturday Sancocho by Leyla Torres. This book includes the author's family's recipe for chicken sancocho.

Explore a lesson plan based on Mama Provi and the Pot of Stew and Saturday Sancocho here.

Tia's Tamales by Ana Baca and Noel Chilton celebrates a family’s tradition of making tamales that started with the great-great grandfather. Tamales represent resilience and finding happiness even in challenging times. The recipe is included. What gets you and your child through hard times? What makes you happy and how do you stay connected to your family’s past?

Finally, the World Snack Series by Amy Wilson Sanger includes 7 books that are perfect for infants and toddlers. Explore food from around the world in all 7 books: Chaat and Sweets; Hola, Jalapeno; Yum Yum Dim Sum; Let’s Nosh; A Little Bit of Soul Food; First Book of Sushi; and Mangia! Mangia!. Every infant and toddler should have, at least, one of these books in their library and no infant or toddler classroom should be without the entire series.


Enjoy making the recipes in these books with your child as you take a food journey around the world. Pull out a map to show your child where you live and what country or region the food originally came from. While young children won't fully understand how big the earth it, showing them maps will provide them with a reference point for where the food comes from.

Cooking with your child creates a connection and wonderful memories all while teaching your child math concepts, vocabulary, science, and responsibility. Have fun!

As always, I hope you enjoy these recommendations. Feel free to share with credit to Words Reflected and Kim Bogren Owen on Facebook, your website, or in your newsletter. Please add your recommendations for additional books about with cooking as the theme in the comments.

On a different note, my two picture books, Orchids and Art Parts: A Child's Introduction to the Elements of Art, are about to go to the printer! It has been a long learning process, but we just about there! Be on the lookout for pre-sales to start the week of March 13th, 2016 (this is no longer a drill)!

(This blog uses the Amazon affiliate program so when you click on the title or book image, and purchase through Amazon, you are supporting us! If you don't purchase through these links, please, be sure to support your local, independent bookstore or find them at your library!)

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