Over the years of storytelling and reading-aloud, there is always this one thing that I notice have children crinkling up their noses, and making faces at…that is the mention of a food they are not familiar with.
This is not just the mention of non-vegetarian food, but the mention of any food unfamiliar to them. I am a foodie…I grew up in a foodie household, not just loving to eat but my parents were in the food business and I absorbed foodiness by osmosis. Studying Hotel Management which meant that I studied food, which only added to my love affaire with all things food.
So this intolerance to food that I see, gets my goat…as the saying goes.
Its only natural that these foodie encounters shape much of me, my thoughts, my feelings.
So when I received a pile of books from Pickle Yolk books, I raced through them, devouring each one…but it is was a book that I hadn’t read any reviews about, that touched me the most.
Vee Loved Garlic by Richa Jha, illustrated by Kunal Kundu.
One day Vee takes a bite of her friend Novi’s sandwich, which tasted unusually delicious. The sandwich melted in her mouth and made her head spin…it was divine! Thats when she finds out that the secret ingredient is garlic!! Vee fell in love with the flavour of garlic and from that moment on all she wanted to do was eat garlic. That should’t be a problem (given all the benefits of garlic) except for the fact that Vee was a Vampire….and well, Vampires don’t eat garlic. Why? Coz it makes them pop, burn , melt and squelch. Nothing happened to Vee but when she walked into her house that evening reeking of garlic, her parents went crazy and began the lessons on the danger of garlic. She had a list of ‘Stay away from garlic rules’, and punishments…Vee was miserable. What can this garlic loving vampire do to convince her parents of the virtues of garlic? . So, I declared to myself, that I completely understood this book, given the food prejudices I encounter regularly…or at least I thought I did. I was sure that it was about intolerances to different food, and how it does not matter what you eat, nothing is bad for you… (don’t tell the kids that…chips, cola and their ilk are still taboo!)
I was convinced about how it was a gentle prod at food intolerant folk and a lesson at acceptance and looking at/for the truth, about questioning instead of merely accepting what is thrust on them.
So I messaged Richa Jha effusively expressing my love for the book and asked her to share what inspired her to write this story.
I was expecting some deep philosophy when she replied, “The idea came about generally one day… my daughter (then 7) and I were talking about one of her favourite dishes - garlic chicken. And I just asked her what she thought would happen if a vampire was tempted to try it out. That’s it! That eureka moment when you know this could turn into a funny story. But more than that, it is also about the need for children to keep questioning the given. And see it as their basic right that most kids in our culture are denied.” . I laughed out loud as I read the first part of her message. Here is me the library educator, ever on the look out for books with layers and ‘meaning’, and here was one that just started as fun!
But her last line vindicated my ’deeper’ thoughts about the book.
Vee Loved Garlic is a fun book, and I love spunky and gutsy Vee. What I also love is Richa’s little back story. I love the image of chatting with her little one over dinner and the discussion she initiated, prodding both their imaginations….and voila!! A story.
Vee Loved Garlic is published by Pickle Yolk Books and is available on the Pickle Yolk website and Amazon.