Thursday, August 19, 2010

It’s Not Easy to Eat Your Words

Food is basic. We get defensive about the foods we grew up with, the foods that define our very lives. My uncle, the droll historian, used to say the Civil War in this country was started over cornbread. One side said sugar was a necessary ingredient. The other side said, "Absolutely not!" I forget which.

That’s the thing about a food war, maybe all wars. It’s hard to remember who started it.

THE SANDWICH SWAP, by Her Majesty Queen Rania Ali Abdullah, with Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Tricia Tusa, Hyperion, 2010

In this book, the “war” starts over a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a hummus and pita sandwich

Salma and Lily were best friends until each criticized the lunch sandwich of the other. All the things these little girls did together did not prepare them for handling the differences in their lunches.

Salma and Lily watched each other at lunchtime for a long time before they reacted.

Then one said, “Ew. Yuck.”
The other said, ”Ew. Gross.”

Once these words were out, they were hard to take back. A wedge was driven.

And then there was a food fight.

Kids will love the illustrator’s vivid and active pictures. (Moms might not. Hopefully, they will be on hand to say their own “ew” and “gross” about the clean-up to come.)

How the girls resolved this will inspire young readers to think about how to bring conflicts to a delicious end. You can probably guess what they did, but read the book anyhow and ask your young reader what he or she thinks.

The Queen of Jordan says this cultural conflict actually happened to her. As UNICEF’s Eminent Advocate for Children, she is “dedicated to defending the welfare of children around the world.” She’s also recognized as a champion of cross-cultural tolerance and a campaigner for global education. Her Majesty collaborates with international organizations and grassroots projects in these areas.

Kids in school will warm to the idea of a cross-cultural classroom swap of sandwiches. How about us? Maybe it’s time for us to share a meal with a neighbor whose background is different.

Do you put sugar in your cornbread? Or not?


  1. What a delightful book!
    Joan, you are making my 'must read list' grow dangerously long!

  2. Great review, Joan.

    Peanut butter, hummus, cornbread - it's all good and good for us to celebrate our differences!


  3. How about: Eat a little, read a little.
    Works for me!


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