All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
In my typical fashion, I stumbled upon a very fun junior fiction book and can't for the life of me remember when I spotted the recommendation. (But whoever you were, thank you!) All Four Stars is the story of Gladys Gatsby, a young girl who has been introduced to the the exotic world of flavors and spices in her food through her aunt who lives in Paris. However, her home life is less desirable for her palate. Her parents, who admittedly are not good cooks, pick up dinner from local fast food restaurants every night of the week. Gladys develops a secret passion for cooking that she keeps hidden from her parents for some time, they unfortunately being afraid and/or mystified by most culinary things. Her secret is discovered when she sets fire to the kitchen curtains with a blowtorch while trying to brown the top of her creme brule. Gladys is grounded from all kitchen activities for some time and her parents hope that she will become interested in normal kid activities (ie., computer games, playing with friends, etc.) Gladys can't get food off her mind and even writes an essay for a contest for a major newspaper on it ... which is noticed by their food editor. Culinary highjinks ensue. : )
I found this book very original and refreshing and it's one that I hope my kids pick up one of this days. Gladys begins the book a little embarrassed about her hobby but by the end of the book she is bolder about admitting what makes her different is also a very good thing. If we all had the same hobbies, the world would be a very boring place, I think!
A couple of delicious quotes to whet your appetite for this book (puns intended!):
Although she couldn't quite finish even half of it, the dinner Gladys was served at the Singhs' went down as one of the greatest meals of her life. She wrote all about it in her journal the moment she got home.
When I first saw how much food Mrs. Singh had put on my plate, I couldn't believe my eyes. It smelled amazing, but how was I supposed to eat a mountain of rice with an avalanche of potatoes sliding down it? Not to mention a forest of cauliflower, endless fields of spinach, and a boulder pile of chickpeas? I decided that the best way to climb the peak would be to go in circles: start by using the roti like a shovel to pick up some chickpeas, then dig into the rice mountain with a fork(lift).
Gladys went on to describe how the samosa shell did a good job of soaking up the extra chickpea gravy, and how the minty yogurt cooled her mouth down when the spices tickling her tongue threatened to turn into a tornado. Before she knew it, she had written three whole pages, wrapping the review up with an exuberant: 4 1/2 stars (setting the standard for all dinners to come!)And this one, which I sometimes totally relate to:
Having to talk to that many people everyday was starting to make her feel like an empty coffee mug, with nothing but dregs left at the bottom.There is already a sequel out to this book and I'm eager to read it and see what comes next for Gladys and her culinary adventures.