Monday, February 7, 2011

The Story of Noodles by Ying Chang Compestine

The Story of Noodles by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Yong Sheng Xuan

Rating: 4 stars

Confession: The only reason I checked this book out was to continue my current campaign for Lorelei to love noodles.

Sadly, she still just tolerates them, eating the exact number, and no more, to get past my dinner requirements.  Grrr.  At least she tries them.  This week we've tired yet ANOTHER type of pasta, selected by her at the grocery store yesterday.  That means that in our pantry we've got: spaghetti, shell-like orecchiette, bow-tie farfalle, spinach penne, colorful corkscrew fusilli, and now some colorful tubular variety.  This quest has involved several books including Strega Nona, but hasn't given me the result I want.


At least I found a really interesting book in the process.  This book is about the origin of noodles, which is China, not Lorelei's (and beloved Grammy's) beloved Italy.  A family in Beijing is going to make the same old delicious dumpling dish for a cooking contest until the mother leaves the boys in charge of the kitchen.  (My grandmother, who also had three boys, would have known better.)  Of course, they make a mess of things and end up making long sheets of rice, which they cut into long strips.  They enter the contest and, because the emperor had never tasted anything like that before, they win.

What I love most about the book is related to my quest.  The three boys have three different ways of eating noodles, something that I think is great because I'm always saying that there's rarely only one way to do anything.  (Sometimes Lorelei wants Ben to do something EXACTLY as she wants.)  First, there's "eating a drumstick," which involves rolling some of the noodles around the tip of his chopsticks and stuffing it into your mouth.  second, there's "sucking a worm," which means you put one end of the noodle in your mouth and suck/slurp like crazy until the whole thing is in your mouth.  Third, there's "cutting the grass," which allows you to stuff noodles in your mouth and bite off all the strands hanging out of your mouth with your teeth.  So fun!  As the messiest eaters in the family, Ben and I would definitely be happy to try all of these.

(By the way, if you've not gotten cheater chopsticks for your kid, they are so fun!  We have these.  Lorelei is a pro, though they frustrate Ben a bit.)

So this is a good book for a bunch of different reasons.  There's a whole other culture to explore (and the illustrations are definitely Asian in the best way), the origin of the best carbohydrate known to man, and techniques to eat those wonderful carbs.  We look forward to reading Compestine's other books--after checking out this book, I realized she wrote The Runaway Wok, a recent book that we really like.

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