Photo by Rocky Luten
Reading books about stone soup, and green eggs and ham were entertaining and fun when I was young, but as a Korean-American kid who grew up eating westernized suburban fare and injeolmi toast from my birth country, they barely resembled my culture and definitely didn’t reflect my family’s dinner table.
Still, I never questioned the lack of representation and the implications it had on my understanding of my own culture until I read Bee-bim-bop! last year as a full-grown adult. It’s a beautiful peek inside the vibrant and sensory details that make up a typical Korean-American family dinner, and resembled all the scents, sights, and sounds of a regular night at the Lee household growing up. Though I hate to admit how long it took me to find this book, I’m grateful for authors like Linda Sue Park who make me feel seen and proud of my culture.
Inspired by my own introduction to multicultural books about food, here are eight children’s picture books that celebrate food diversity coming your way in 2022. Feel free to enjoy them just as much as I did—yes, even as an adult with a capital A.
A very hungry caterpillar could walk so a hungrier dinosaur could run through the jungle in search of his next meal. Kinda sounds like a kiddo who missed snack time, don’t you think? This bilingual Spanish-English page turner is as fun as it is educational—your little ones might just start asking for plátanos.
Ever since she was young, chef Alice Waters believed in celebrating small farms and food growers for creating a bright and abundant local food system. This book turns the tables and celebrates Waters with an illustrated biography and ode to a leading voice in local, organic cooking.
Rice, salt, pickles, water! We’ve gone on quite the itinerary of global food adventures with our favorite Netflix duo, Waffles and Mochi. All aboard Magicart once again, this toddler-friendly cardboard book transports readers on the most delicious hunt for four different eggs. The lesson worth biting into? Eggs look and taste different around the world, but everyone eats—and loves—the simple protein.
What’s the point of having good food if you’re unwilling to share it with others? After all, food is only as good as the community it creates. In this modern reimagining of a traditional West African folk tale, Anansi learns that being greedy with a pot of stew can only lead to more selfish ways and a really bad tummy ache.
Try as they might, a trio of siblings can’t get their parents to love leafy greens in the same way they do. Centered around a hilarious turning of tables, the new children’s book by Adam Mansbach and Camila Alves McConaughey (yes, that McConaughey) champions the importance of veggies. But perhaps more importantly, the book illustrates how kids and adults can learn from each other and hold each other accountable.
Not all noodles are the same, but you can bet they’re all delicious. Through an alphabetized encyclopedia of sorts, little ones can learn all about the great big noodle world. Have a recipe or two at the ready because your little one will salivate for ramen, laksa, and cacio e pepe.
Andrea Wang’s semi autobiographical story of an introverted Chinese school girl seeking friendship in her ESL class is as heartwarming as the tea Luli drinks in the book. Read between the lines and you’ll discover that a common bond such as a love for tea can overcome any language barrier between cultures.
8. Thank You, Mama, Linda Meeker (April 5), $12.99
If you aren’t following the popular TikTok account @greyandmama, you’re missing out on adorable three-year-old Grey and how he says “Thank you, mama” every. single. time he eats. Linda Meeker aka Grey’s mama taps into her son’s unabashed love and gratitude for the multicultural dishes she cooks up as a vehicle for encouraging other toddlers and their parents to foster a similar relationship with food.