A couple of weeks ago a friend took several vacation days from work so she and her daughter (along with nieces and cousins) could spend days making ravioli – hundreds of them. It’s a tradition they’ve done every year a few weeks before Easter. A friend of my mom’s used to do the same with perogies prior to Christmas. Both of these groups have so much fun laughing, gossiping and catching up with each other.
The mix of food and family into various traditions is probably as old as the family unit itself. That’s the basis of this charming children’s book written by one of our fellow book bloggers, Jama Kim Rattigan. (Jama’s blog is Jama’s Alphabet Soup.)
The story is told by Marisa, a seven-year-old girl living in Oahu, Hawaii. She is so excited about the upcoming New Year’s Eve tradition. Every year her entire family comes together to eat the special Dumpling Soup. She’s super excited this year because she is finally old enough to help make the dumplings.
On the day before New Year’s Eve all the aunts gather at Grandma’s house. They work, and have fun, all day and into the night. Marisa is given a stack of dumpling wrappers, the dumpling filling, and her own little bowl of water so she can seal the dumplings with her wet fingers.
Her first dumplings don’t look like her mom’s and auntie’s and she’s disappointed. But, Marisa is such a sweetheart. I’m sure every reader wants to tell her they will be just fine.
On New Year’s Eve everyone plays games and there is fireworks, and hugs for Grandma. After midnight the Dumpling Soup is eaten as the first meal of the new year. Tradition says that if you eat soon after midnight you won’t be hungry the rest of the year.
There are so many good messages in this book for children and adults alike. I loved the loving, cohesive family and the shared work for a family feast. I especially liked the attitude toward diversity for which the author won the New Voices, New Words Award. Here’s a quote from the book that made me especially happy:
My aunts and uncles and cousins come from all around Oahu. Most of them are Korean, but some are Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, or haole (Hawaiian for white people). Grandma calls our family “chop suey” which means “all mixed up” in pidgin. I like it that way. So does Grandma. “More spice,” she says.
Isn’t that a wonderful environment for a young child to be raised in? It gives me hope for the future. I, of course, loved all the food in this book. Jama has a recipe for Dumpling Soup at her official blog here: Dumpling Soup I really wanted to try the recipe but I felt I needed a whole crew around me to pull it off. My next best idea was to make a beef broth with some veggies in it and add a couple of packages of those frozen pot stickers they sell at Trader Joes. But, of course, if I did that I’d miss out on all the fun that young Marisa had.
Look for this book at your local library. Our local children’s librarian told me it’s a very popular book with both children, parents, and, like me, the Nanas. So read it for yourself or with a special little friend. The pictures in the book match the spirit of the story. They were done by Lillian Hsu-Flanders.
This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature at Beth Fish Reads. Click the button below and it will take you there.