Musing about parenthood, the work of justice and diverse reads.

Diverse Picture Books & Documentaries for Food Lovers

I love food. Really, I do.

I love learning about food, the origins and history of my favorite foods and understanding the complexity of that history.

When I mentored college students who were living in intentional community focused on racism, they’d also wanted programs surrounding food. Students, very hungry students, wanted more than the dining hall could offer…uh, me too. 

I pushed back a little bit on their desire for potlucks or ordering pan after pan of spicy Indian curries and naan (um, yum!) because I wanted my students to understand the history around food. We were after all living in an intentional community, so I couldn’t just give you college credit for eating tikka masala on a Tuesday. 

I’d often tell my student leaders that “dancing and tacos” weren’t enough. We had to do more than teach people about culture, but really dig deep into understanding colonialism, the introduction of white flour and sugar on First Peoples and the Chinese Exclusion Act.  

They were a little less than thrilled about this, but like I said, I’m not giving you college credit to eat food. If so, I’d have my P.hD already.

If you’re looking to understand food more and the history of immigration, racism and journey of immigrants and New Americans then grab a pencil or open your notes app.

My favorite food documentaries: 

PBS junkie, but No Passports Required goes down as one of my favorite documentaries that interweaves food, travel and historical depth together. On a personal note, I loved watching the episode about Massachusetts and the interconnected Cape Verdean and Portuguese communities because it brought so much insight to our family history. 

I’m almost positive we watched most of Lisa Ling’s documentary, “Take Out with Lisa Ling”, before our HBO trial ran out. (Too many subscription services!) In her documentary, she explores the history and experience of Asian Americans through the lens of food. 

“High on the Hog” is a beautifully filmed documentary telling the story of African American cuisine and history that is so deeply interwoven. During our time living here in the South (South Carolina, to be specific) I’ve come to appreciate this history with new eyes as I understand more about the region and the history of food in the South. Call me crazy, but pair this documentary with a lazy afternoon post Sunday dinner and you’ll find the perfect match. 

On my watchlist: Gather

And, for the caregivers out there I hope this next bit helps you. 

We’re knee deep into the picky eater stage with our kids. And, oh, how we’re struggling to accept this stage in life as parents who like to eat! 

We have fond memories of taking our 2 year old to our favorite local spot (Grand Rapids friends…I’m talking Marie Catribs! Heart melt.)  for the kid’s salmon dinner and the beaming pride we had that he’d snubbed the other options. 

It’s long gone y’all. We’re in chicken nuggets on repeat phase. 

But, as always, books to the rescue to help introduce new foods, cultures and food history to our (cross your fingers) budding food enthusiasts.

Our favorite picture books about food: 

How to Feed Your Parents: I can’t say we’re actually reading this one anymore, because it’s pure memorized recitation as we turn those well-worn pages. Just last night, my 8yo told me he likes it when I read it because I “do” voices and I’m guessing he’s referring to my winey parents’ voice. It’s a funny story about parents who refuse to eat anything other than chicken nuggets, pizza delivered in a box, and powdered mac n cheese, and their food-inspired daughter who takes on the kitchen to win their tastebuds. We’ll never be without this book on our shelf! 

Magic Ramen: We have one that loves ramen and one that’s not interested in noodles of any kind. Regardless, our kids love this book and after gifting it to our nephew for his birthday, I picked it up from the library to glees of pure joy! The book centers on the creation of instant ramen and later Cup O Noodle by Momofuku Ando and his drive to create accessible food for those in his community struggling post WWII. Best part, is that it opened up a door of conversation with our oldest who asked “Mom, who bombed Japan?”

Anni Dreams of Biryani: My partner and I love Indian food and along the way one of our picky eaters (why can’t it be both?!) discovered a love for samosas and tamarind sauce (thanks Trader Joe’s). In an effort to expand their Indian tastebuds, enter Anni and her beloved rice dish, biryani. No, our kids aren’t begging us to biryani, but we’re hoping the next time we grab take out that they might just be willing to see Anni’s favorite dish in real life. 

The Best Kind of Mooncake: Our oldest declared food books before bed as torture because it just makes him hungry. Though my book, hungry for new foods, is a win! This mostly true story about the author’s family is of a young girl who learns the lesson that sharing her much beloved mooncake (think ornate pastry with dense filling) with a stranger in need is an act of generosity that is contagious. And now, we’re off to chase down some mooncakes to try.

I know it, someone is going to tell me that the chicken nugget phase is only a phase, but I’m hear to tell you that I don’t believe it. We have a 40 year olf friend that orders “clucks and fries” all the time and refuses a vegetable, so we’re all in on encouraging food exploration! 

For a full list of titles, check out our “Books about Food” list and comment below on titles we need to add to our reading line up. 

2 responses to “Diverse Picture Books & Documentaries for Food Lovers”

  1. We love “Dumplings for Lili” for a good picture book too!

    1. Oooo. We need to reread this one! Thanks for the reminder.

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Hi, I’m Elicia.

A former educator in search of ways to pursue justice intentionally in a noisy world through products that spark conversation, connection & a stack of books on my nightstand.

Find all our book favorites here.

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