A Fine Dessert: Four Families, Four Centuries, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Published by Schwartz & Wade

Summary:  A parent and child work together to make a serve a dessert called blackberry fool in four different centuries.  In 1710 England, a girl and her mother beat cream with a bundle of twigs to whip it, pick and strain blackberries, and store their concoction in an ice pit set into a hillside.  100 years later, a mother and daughter who are slaves in Charleston, South Carolina do the same thing, using the tools available to them at that time.  The process is repeated by a mother/daughter pair in 1910 Boston, and finally, by a father and son in San Diego in 2010.  The author’s note at the end suggests topics of discussion, not only noticing the changes in technology and food preparation, but also the inclusion of slaves and the fact that a boy and his father would probably not have been in the kitchen before the late 20th century.  Don’t worry, a recipe is included!

Pros:  You won’t be able to read this book just once.  It repeats the same story four times, with a new cast of characters and new century with each retelling.  The menu for the dinner is given in each story, so the reader learns a little about foods people ate at that time.  The cream is whipped with twigs, a wire whisk, a rotary beater, and an electric mixer, with the whipping time getting shorter with each new technology.  The food is kept cool in a variety of interesting ways.  The notes at the end are fascinating, explaining how the author and illustrator did their research.  The illustrator’s note will send you back to the book to study the details of the pictures more carefully.  This is nonfiction at its best, a book that could be used for teaching in many different ways.

Cons:  The two feet of snow in my backyard that prevented me from picking blackberries.

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