Padma Lakshmi teaches children to eat healthy
Sharing her journey from celebrity chef to first-time children’s author, Padma Lakshmi sat down with Viking Children’s Books Editorial Director Tamar Brazis to discuss the upcoming release of her debut book. ‘images, Tomatoes for Neela (August 31). Their conversation took place Thursday, May 27 from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. ET during the US Book Show, presented by Weekly editors.
The idea for Lakshmi’s book came to fruition when, to her dismay, Lakshmi’s young daughter requested fresh pomegranates in July. “I was horrified; it’s midsummer and we only eat them when it’s cold, ”she laughs. Realizing that many children may not understand the origin of what they eat, she decided to put a pen on paper.
“I wanted to create a story that teaches my daughter to respect the seasons, about when things change and also where our food comes from,” she told Brazis. Growing up in the United States and India (where she spent her childhood summers), Lakshmi saw this book as an opportunity to take their weekly getaways to the local farmer’s market and create a story that celebrates her Indian heritage, her family and their sharing. love of food.
Plant the seeds
As far back as Lakshmi can remember, she has kept a personal library of cloth-covered notebooks containing recipes that she created with her mother and grandmother in their respective kitchens. “There was a big difference in their cooking styles and I wanted to make sure I saved them,” she said. “I added recipes every time we cooked, so I didn’t forget the nuances of what we created and why we loved it.” When her daughter decided to turn a diary she had received into her own cookbook, Lakshmi realized that she could start a tradition that would bridge the generation gap. “For our loved ones who couldn’t be here, it brought a pantheon into the kitchen,” she added.
In Tomatoes for Neela, the story revolves around the relationship between the mother and the daughter who go to the market and their emotional connection with the grandmother of the girl who lives in India. Lakshmi’s own grandparents were influential in her writing: her grandfather for instilling a love of books and her grandmother as a down-to-earth cook who created memorable meals for a large family on a two-burner stove. Tomatoes also play a prominent role in this book – not only as a ubiquitous ingredient in Indian cuisine, but for their place in Lakshmi’s cultural (and culinary) assimilation; she loves adding a frozen slice of beefsteak tomato to her BLT. In her book, Lakshmi shares easy-to-assemble dishes with young readers, including recipes for tomato sauce and tomato chutney.
Also included are fun facts about tomatoes and a tribute to the farmers who harvest the beloved vegetable – an idea suggested by the book’s illustrator, Juana Martinez-Neal. Lakshmi recognizes the disconnect between the tomato on the dinner table and the hands that picked it up. “This book is an attempt to shorten that distance. These people deserve to be well paid and to benefit from security conditions, ”she said.
While Lakshmi has already established a presence in the cookbook space, she is excited to enter the children’s book market. A longtime reader, she remembers NM Bodecker’s book of absurd poetry, Let’s get married, says the cherry, whose title poem she knows by heart. “The books I have the most connections with are children’s books. If you can influence the growth of a child in this way, your work will be really meaningful, ”she enthused.
Having enjoyed the whole process of watching his first book for young readers come together, Lakshmi hopes that Tomatoes for Neela will not be his last. Her fervent hope is that this book will not only help children become more interested in their food and where it comes from, but ultimately develop a healthy mind and body. “If a child grows up to be someone who is interested in what they eat, you will give them an appreciation for their own nutrition that will replace your presence in their life,” she said.