Friday, August 22, 2008

Everybody Eats Lunch review

I remember watching an episode of Jamie Oliver's Great Italian Escape a few months back and being struck by a scene that highlighted how well the Italians educate their children about the wonderful world of food. In the segment, Jamie decides to test the limits of the pint-sized gastronomes food knowledge by pulling out a variety of fresh ingredients from a box to see if they can identify the food. He pulls out item after item -- eggplant, fennel, arugula -- and the kids, without pause, bark back the name of each food. Jamie was impressed and I was too. These kids not only recognized these ingredients, they also enjoyed eating them too. These items were not "exotic" or "strange" but part of everyday life. After this classroom experience, Jamie speculated that the reason why food is so highly revered in Italy is because the children, from a very young age, learn about food as an integral part of their education and well-being.

As a food-lover and a parent, I've attempted to educate my kids' palettes as best I can. While I doubt that I'm succeeding to the extent of the Italians, there's certainly a lot of simple things we parents can do. Regular trips to restaurants, farmer's markets and the grocery are great ways to teach children about the selection, consumption and enjoyment of food. At home, I try to cook a wide variety of dishes using seasonal ingredients drawing from a variety of cuisines. Family dinners with the whole brood seated at the table teach your kids that meals are a great time for conversation and enjoying the company of others (and that the TV isn't a welcome dinner guest). And preparing simple recipes with a child can go a long way towards helping them appreciate food and show them that homemade food isn't that difficult and can taste better than their store-bought or processed counterparts.

So it was with much pleasure that I recently received a copy of Cricket Azima's "Everybody Eats Lunch" (published by Glitterati Inc., 2007). The book is a welcome addition to the small, but growing, catalog of children's books about food and food culture. "Everybody Eats Lunch" features thick, rigid pages perfect for small children and sports a whimsical lunch box shape with handles on top. Content-wise, there's no real narrative (not unusual for children's books). Instead, each page of the book presents a country - Mexico, Japan, Brazil, South Africa and Jamaica - along with a lunch representative of the culture and several easy-to-follow recipes. Young children, in particular, will enjoy the recipe pages which feature colorful puzzle pieces with drawings of the dishes. These puzzle pieces can be pulled from the page (and later returned) to reveal the written recipes beneath. As a side note, I would've liked it if they could have printed the recipe on the back side of the puzzle piece since the puzzle piece was much more compact and almost functions like an index card.

In order to test out the recipes, my daughter and I selected the Japanese lunch which features Onigiri Rice Balls (with Salmon) and Boiled Pumpkin. The recipes were clear and concise and mostly simple enough for a child to make on their own (with some parental assistance and supervision). The boiled pumpkin, for instance, calls for a kabocha squash to be peeled, seeded and cubed. Now I love kabocha squash, but this is one of the more difficult vegetables to skin and cut. Clearly a child would require some parental intervention to safely get past this task. The resulting dish, however, was very delicious and required only a simple braising liquid and about 15 minutes of braising. The rice ball recipe could have also been refined as we found that the version detailed in the book to fell apart too easily. We quickly remedied this by wrapping the entire rice ball in a piece of nori (dried seaweed). We also added a small amount of nori furikake (seasoned seaweed sprinkles) to the fish filling as well. Regardless of these minor nits, the overall experience was enjoyable. My daughter had a blast preparing the food and her little brother was even happier when he was wolfing down one of his big sister's rice balls.

My only real gripe with "Everybody Eats Lunch" is that it begs for more countries and more recipes. With only five countries covered and about one dozen recipes, it leaves the parent wanting a little more. Here's hoping that Azima will followup "Everybody Eats Lunch" with a sequel -- there's certainly sufficient material to warrant several companion volumes.

For more information go to

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

See Cricket on The Food Network

Our favorite kid's cooking expert has been verrrrry busy these days!!! See what she has been up to on "The Food Network" website!! Cricket creates five fabulous quick & easy kid friendly meals for you all to view. Do take my word for it. GO CHECK OUT THE VIDEO!! I promise, you will love it!

For more information, go to,1904,FOOD_16382,00.htm

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Everybody Eats Lunch on

Hey gang!!! If you are in the city today be sure to stop by the Children's Museum of Manhattan and participate in the " Everybody Eats Lunch"cooking classes I am hosting at 3pm and 4pm. Its free with museum admission!!! Bring the kids and enjoy foods from Brazil, Mexico, Japan etc. !! Happy eating!!

Everybody Eats Lunch

Sunday, June 29, 3 and 4 p.m.
Children’s Museum Of Manhattan
212 West 83rd Street
(212) 721-1223
FREE with Museum Admission

For more information go to:

Everyone is talking about Everybody Eats Lunch!!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Everybody Eats Lunch review in the Miami Herald

McClatchy Newspapers

"Everybody Eats Lunch" (Glitterati Inc., $16), a new book for kids ages 4 to 11, takes a midday-meal trip through five countries. Author and cooking instructor Cricket Azima rounds up kids from Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica, Japan and South Africa. Each shares how to say "lunch" in his or her native language, what time of day it is eaten and whether it is eaten at home with family or at school with friends. Nelly from Jamaica explains in English that his lunch is enjoyed with friends at school at 2 p.m.

As in each of the five little chapters, Nelly shares his Jamaican menu and recipes, including fried plantains, which we share here.

Fried plantains

Serves 4

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 plantains, peeled and cut into {-inch-thick slices

\ teaspoon salt

1. In a medium frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add plantain slices and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.

2. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt. (Serve with sour cream or yogurt for dipping.)

For more information go to

Tampa Tribune

Here is a small but cool blurb about the book in the Tampa Tribune ...enjoy.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

More press!!!

A real treat: 'Everybody Eats Lunch' by Cricket Azima is a lunchbox-shaped book for ages 3 to 8.
Mark Thomson

The world in my lunchbox

A new children's book features international recipes.

Ah, lunchtime. Everyone enjoys this midday break. It's just the thing to tide you over between breakfast in the morning and dinner in the evening.

But, depending on where you live, not all lunchboxes are filled with the same things. What do you usually eat for lunch? Do you have a list of favorite lunch foods? Where and when do you eat? You can answer these questions and see how kids from around the world do the same in a new picture book "Everybody Eats Lunch," written by Cricket Azima and illustrated by Titus V. Thomas.

This lunchbox-shaped book comes complete with a handle for easy toting. On the first page you can write and draw all about what lunchtime is like for you. Turn the page and take a peep at a map of the world with flaps that show you characters from different corners of the globe who eat lunch each day, just like you.

Next, meet cartoon kids from Mexico, Japan, Brazil, South Africa, and Jamaica. They'll tell you their names and how to say "lunch" in their languages. Some of the kids eat lunch at home, while others gobble up their meals at school. They all dig in at different times, too. Lunch can begin as early as 11 in the morning or as late as 2 in the afternoon.

Take a good look at what each boy or girl loves to eat most for lunch. Then comes the best part: Lift out the card showing the colorful drawing of each food to reveal a recipe for how to make it. Ask Mom or Dad to help you gather ingredients and prepare some of the tasty cuisine from each country.

You can sample dishes as distinctive as cactus salad from Mexico and "bunny chow" from South Africa (which actually contains chicken, not bunny!). Or try fried plantains (a banana-like fruit) from Jamaica, onigiri rice balls from Japan, and Brazilian-style rice and beans.

Any way you slice it, "Everybody Eats Lunch" is a treat to read.

For more information, go to