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- ISBN-13: 9780375868320
- ISBN-10: 0375868321
- Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books
- Publish Date: January 2015
- Page Count: 44
- Reading Level: Ages 4-8
- Dimensions: 11.7 x 9.7 x 0.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-10-20
- Reviewer: Staff
In this inventive culinary history, Jenkins (Water in the Park) traces a single dessert through the centuries as four families—from 1710, 1810, 1910, and 2010, respectively—puree blackberries and whip heavy cream to enjoy blackberry fool after dinner. “What a fine dessert!” each cook exclaims. Blackall’s (The Baby Tree) scrupulously researched ink, watercolor, and blackberry juice (!) spreads document the dress, furnishings, and cooking methods of each family, and they repay close study and comparison; watching cream-whipping technology evolve is particularly enlightening. Unfortunately, an attempt at historical authenticity backfires as the 19th-century plantation family’s blackberry fool is made for them by their slaves. The African-American cook and her daughter are not permitted to eat the dessert they’ve made; instead, they serve it to the white family, and the two are left to lick the bowl in a dark closet. The historical facts are not in dispute, but the disturbing injustices represented in this section of an otherwise upbeat account either require adult readers to present necessary background and context or—worse—to pass by them unquestioned. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Nancy Gallt, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. (Jan.)
A sweet tale
Emily Jenkins will bring out the foodie in any reader as she traces the preparation of blackberry fool through four centuries in A Fine Dessert. Starting in 1710 in Lyme, England, a mother and daughter pick wild blackberries from the field surrounding their cottage. Then begins the labor-intensive process that includes milking the cow, skimming the cream, beating the cream with twigs, straining the berries through muslin to get rid of seeds and chilling the delightful blend of berries and cream in an ice pit in the hillside.
The recipe travels to mother and daughter slaves who serve up the dessert to their owner’s family on a Charleston plantation in 1810; to a metropolitan housewife and daughter in Boston in 1910; and finally, to a father and son from San Diego in 2010. Along the way, readers see the evolution of cooking, from picking berries to buying them at an open-air market. They also see the increasing role of technology as horse-drawn wagons deliver cream from a local dairy and cartons of organic cream are purchased at the supermarket.
Sophie Blackall’s folksy watercolor and blackberry juice illustrations depict further differences in clothing and traditions over time. But one thing never changes: wanting to lick the spoon! This is a picture book treat that will charm readers across generations.