Book: “Eat It! Food Adventures with Marco Polo”
Author: Gracie Carvnar; illustrated by Anni Matsick
Publisher: S2P Press
The best part about a food adventure is the food. That may be why I struggled with reading the text before the recipes in the children’s book “Eat It! Food Adventures with Marco Polo” by Gracie Cavnar.
The premise has promise. Tavi, a young member of Marco Polo’s expedition in the 1200’s, discovers that traveling though foreign lands brings surprises, even at the dinner table. In the first quarter of the book, the author tries to make a case for “eating” as the adventure.
Tavi asks, “Why in the world would you eat this thorny thing?” The merchant whips out a cleaver and whacks the thistle in half then carves out the middle to reveal a delicate cream-colored interior.
“Because they hold this treasure,” the merchant says.
This description of an artichoke is meant to cast vegetables in a new light — provocative, mysterious, maybe even a bit dangerous. But, really, tales of adventure consist of “meatier” things, such as kidnappings, gold medallions and sea monsters.
However, the plot thickens (as do several hearty soups) in the recipe section, where readers are invited to put together rustic mushroom tarts. Now that sounds like a real adventure. Any cook will tell you that experimenting with a recipe consisting of more than 10 ingredients could get a little dicey.
In that recipe, Cavnar lays down the gauntlet, challenging the reader to assemble ingredients into a mise en place, after which we must saute leeks until they carmelize. If that is not exciting enough, we have to add vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove brown bits, a process called deglazing.
This isn’t kids stuff, and yet, it is. That is the real beauty of the book. Cavnar guides would-be Tavis and Marcos in the kitchen on the true adventure of good eating that comes from sound knowledge, experience, practice and joie de vie! Connecting readers with the source of food and its history makes this cookbook adventure, with 30 recipes illustrated by State College artist Anni Matsick, a unique journey.