Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Pass The Pandowdy, Please: Chewing on History with Famous Folks and Their Fabulo

Pass The Pandowdy, Please: Chewing on History with Famous Folks and Their Fabulo

Abigail Ewing Zelz
Illustrator:  Eric Zelz 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Tilbury House Publishers, 2016   ISBN: 978-0884484684

We all know that food is essential, and that we will die if we do not have enough to eat. The great thing about food is that in addition to keeping us alive, it also helps unite people around a table, it connects them with the past, and it allows them to share their cultural heritage with others. Our culinary preferences “provide a glimpse into our customs and our lives,” and the culinary preferences of people who lived long ago do the same thing. We learn a great deal about them and their times through the food that they ate.

In this unique book the author takes us into the lives of sixteen people from the past. She tells us about the foods and culinary traditions of their times, and she also tells us a bit about their personal lives. For example we learn that in Marco Polo’s lifetime (1254 to 1324) spices were highly valued to season the rich and strong tasting food that was popular at that time. Spices that we can easily obtain today were rare and expensive then, as they had to be transported long distances from distant lands to get to Italy, which is where Marco Polo was from. In addition to learning about foods of that time we find out that Marco Polo was an explorer who traveled thousands of miles across water and overland, and that he visited China where he worked for an emperor for seventeen years.

The food the painter Hokusai (1760 to 1849) ate was very different from that eaten in Italy. Like many Japanese people at that time, rice was a staple, and meat was not eaten often. For breakfast Hokusai would have probably eaten rice, miso soup with vegetables, and green tea. The midday and evening meals included rice again served with vegetables, noodles, tofu, or fish. These meals were eaten while seated at a low table, and Hokusai would have used chopsticks to scoop the food from bowls. Though Hokusai was a much loved artist whose prints were very popular, he, like so many creative people, doubted himself and was not sure if he was good enough.

Queen Victoria (1819 to 1901) ate large and lavish meals that featured a lot of meat, potatoes and what many people today would consider overcooked vegetables. The queen ate very fast and when she was finished the table was cleared, whether or not the rest of the guests had concluded their meal. Such was the prerogative of a monarch who reigned for sixty-three years and gave her name to an era.

In addition to reading about Marco Polo, Hokusai, and Queen Victoria, readers will learn about the culinary worlds of Cleopatra, Leonardo da Vinci, Christopher Columbus, Moctezuma

George Washington, Paul Revere, Napoleon Bonaparte, Sacagawea, Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Babe Ruth, Martin Luther King Jr. and Neil Armstrong.

Throughout this book, fact-filled sections of text, that often include humorous anecdotes, are paired with wonderful illustrations to give readers a unique glimpse into the lives of some of the world’s most famous people. At the back of the book the author offers us further information about the sixteen people mentioned in the book, a timeline of food and people, and a recipe for Pandowdy, a baked fruit dessert.