Sunday, November 26, 2023

Q&A with David Rickert




David Rickert is the author and illustrator of the new children's graphic novel Pizza, Pickles, and Apple Pie: The Stories Behind the Foods We Love. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.


Q: What inspired you to create Pizza, Pickles, and Apple Pie?


A: I love food and I love to cook. I always wondered about what certain ingredients did.


For example, when I was making chocolate chip cookies I wondered what baking soda did. And why you needed eggs.


This prompted my curiosity about the history of foods and why we started eating them. I started with sandwiches, and it just grew from there.


Q: How did you choose the foods to include in the book?


A: I wanted to focus on foods that were commonly eaten. I didn’t want it to be a book that had an agenda to promote healthy eating, although I do touch on that a bit in the book.


Beyond that, I chose foods that had interesting stories behind them, and I tried to have a variety of food that came from different cultures. 


Some foods, like pretzels, didn’t make the cut for space considerations. Others, like ketchup and tacos, didn’t really have any interesting stories behind them. Not enough to fill a chapter, anyway. 


Q: How did you research the stories behind these foods, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?


A: I started with the internet to get a feel for which foods kids would be interested in learning about. I also got books from the library and ordered a few used books online that were really helpful.


Surprisingly, there aren’t that many books out there about the history of food, but I managed to find some good resources. And there were a few food experts I contacted that were able to help me. 


I wasn’t exactly surprised by it, but I did learn that many of the foods we eat today were born out of necessity and resourcefulness. They were made from what was naturally growing around communities, and served practical purposes, like the ability to travel long distances or lasting  a long time in the days without refrigeration.


We take it for granted that we have a large amount of choice in what we eat and can decide based on what sounds good to us at the moment. But for centuries, that wasn’t the case. 


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book called it a “broader perspective for readers who think no further than cupboards and fridges when asked where their food comes from.” What do you think of that description, and what do you hope kids take away from the book?


A: I’m happy with that. I’d love for kids to think about my book that way, and come away with a deeper understanding of how food is affected by culture and tradition. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: My next book is on medicine--all the reasons why kids might go to the doctor and how we figured out how to solve medical problems.

Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I just hope that kids and adults enjoy Pizza, Pickles, and Apple Pie


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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