about the joy of harvesting and cooking

by Robbin Gourley - Houghton Mifflin, 2009
ages baby to 12 years / food, heartwarmers

"... Edna inspects the cellar. It is full of good things: ....'You can never have too much summer,' says Edna."

One of the great meals of my life was beef stew, potatoes and green beans – but the potatoes were tiny and newly dug that morning and the beans were picked from a trellis in my mother’s garden moments before they were lightly steamed and served. I can still taste them.

There's a tremendous movement for local, organic foods happening now, and it’s a very good thing. It means I can buy my fruit and veg from farmers at the farmer markets and eat what is in season – but I still haven’t found beans quite as delicious as those.

Bring Me Some Apples is a harvest story that follows a young girl and her family through a year of harvests. 

They start with strawberries and end with pecans and walnuts. 

And what a bounty they have in between. 

The story is loosely based around the childhood of Edna Lewis – a remarkable American chef who was known for Southern cooking. (A google search will yield a whole slew of her recipes and they look fantastic.) She was famous for saying:

“As a child in Virginia, I thought all food tasted delicious. After growing up, I didn't think food tasted the same, so it has been my lifelong effort to try and recapture those good flavours of the past.”

And that’s the essence of Bring me some Apples - it’s about capturing the very best flavours as the seasons provide them. We’re a long way from the time when children would pick berries and gather nuts so that their family could eat and store them, but this story will still resonate with today’s child. 

As Edna works her way through the year harvesting and savouring the various produce, she's reminded of simple traditional rhymes – the sort that modern children might also love to learn and recite at dinner.

Edna is a most appealing child and a wonderful role model showing the value of contributing, of work, of simple pleasures, and of preparation. This story will help to teach all of those things but will also be helpful in reinforcing:

A love for good and healthy food
Simplicity in life and in eating
The importance of food sustainability – a hot topic at the moment
An interest in food preparation – leading to self reliance
An appreciation for those who bring our food to us
An interest in new foods

I do love the watercolour illustrations – they’re full of promise and life, as a harvest should be - and there are a few recipes in the back of the book that ‘represent the kind of dishes Edna Lewis loved’. But I confess this book always leave me wishing for green beans straight off the vine. 

And, while on the subject of apples, we bake from Sophie Hansen's Local is Lovely cookbook really a lot!

You can buy Bring Me Some Apples via these direct links: Amazon - Book Depository - Booktopia

(I’ve included Racism in the categories because Edna is African-American – and although the book doesn’t mention or deal with racism, it is nonetheless helpful in an ongoing conversation about racism since persons of colour are only rarely found in picture books.)

Names in this book: Edna