by Laura Mucha and Ed Smith
Laura: Ed, we have to write a blog for the CLPE.
Ed: Can you write it?
Laura: FINE. This is EXACTLY why you shouldn’t write a book with your husband. I suppose you want me to wash your socks while I’m at it?
Ed: Yes please. But I’ll make you a delicious lunch.
Laura: Ok, deal.
My name is Laura Mucha. I’m a poet and author. And my husband, Ed, is a cookbook writer. So I had the bright idea that we should write a children’s book together that travelled the world through food. But was it such a bright idea?
Ed: Well, now that it’s done, I’m glad we did it.
Laura: But there were definitely some, errrmmm… disagreements along the way.
Ed: I heard that.
Laura: That’s because Ed writes for adults, and he didn’t realise that writing for children is HARD.
Ed: For once, Laura, I agree with you. Writing for children IS hard. You have to visualise the book as you write it, you can’t assume knowledge, you have to write complicated things in a simple way. Writing cookbooks for grown ups is MUCH easier.
Laura: We began the writing process not by writing, but by talking about what we thought children (and adults) might need to know about food. We did this A LOT. Then we did some nifty tables to organise our thoughts. (We love nifty tables – something we used a lot when we were lawyers.)
Then we started writing. I say we… Ed came up with the food expertise, and then I would say things like, “That’s BORING!” or “WHAT does that even mean?!” or “I’m hungry can we have lunch now?”
Ed: And guess who made the lunch…
Laura: We tried to make sure the book was as accessible to someone in Mongolia or Kenya as someone in England or Italy. And we thought hard about what the book would look like. I say we, I mostly thought about that in the writing stage as Ed couldn’t really get his head round it.
Ed: I couldn’t. I understand cookbooks – recipe, photo of recipe, job done. I don’t have to think about how I might get the reader to look underground to see how root vegetables are grown or inside a laboratory to show how food will be made in the future. Or explore how different people make different ice creams.
Laura: Which reminds me… Did you know there is an ice cream that doesn’t melt?! We’ve both been to Turkey and LOVE Turkish food, but we still haven’t tried their non-melting ice cream, dondurma. So, we really need to sort that out!
I also want to try stinking toe fruit – because it STINKS. Apparently.
Ed: Between us, we’ve tried most of the foods in the book, but there are definitely some we need to eat ASAP. I particularly want to try Num Banh Chok — a breakfast noodle soup from Cambodia
Laura: Did you know that, on average, humans eat the weight of an adult in rice per year. That’s like you eating a parent or teacher’s worth of rice. That’s a LOT. And did you know there are up to 5,000 grains of rice in one bowl?! I don’t think I ever really appreciated just how much rice we eat and how much work goes into growing it until we wrote this book.
Ed: I did. But I didn’t know that the biggest ever potato was the weight of a newborn baby.
Laura: That’s a lot of potato.
Ed: Shouldn’t you tell them why they should read the book?
Laura: Oh yes. Good idea. Because it’s an adventure in food? Because it has fantastic illustrations?! Because it encourages empathy and curiosity instead of judgement and othering?
Ed: Because food is part of each of our lives. Because it can be the start of really interesting conversations between children and the adults in their lives.
And because what we eat has a huge impact on us and others, as well as the environment.
Laura: He’s right. We didn’t just want to set out a long list of food facts, we wanted to encourage critical thinking. Food is something we all share. And that makes it an invaluable way into talking about, welcoming, and celebrating different cultures and backgrounds – as well as thinking about climate chance, and health and wellbeing.
Ed: Right, I think that’s everything… We should probably stop talking now.
Laura: No, wait, I just want to take this opportunity to thank the CLPE for letting us loose on their blog.
Ed: Ok fine.
Laura: And for letting us use their library to research all the books we write.
Ed: Ok that’s enough now. A good writer knows when to stop...
Laura: Who said anything about being a good writer?!
Should we thank our parents? Our child? Librarians and teachers? Editors? Or maybe we should finish with something clever. Something funny. Something that makes everyone realise they should stop whatever they’re doing and read this book IMMEDIATELY.
Ed: This is why you’re always the last person at a party. Time to say goodbye.
Laura: Fine. And thanks for reading!
Ed: Now, shall we go and get some dondurma?
Laura: Is food all you think about…?!
And yes. YUM!