“I promise to keep my mind open and my fork ready, to try each new food at least twice, and share what’s on my plate when someone doesn’t have enough.”
That’s the Taste Bud Pledge young culinary adventurer Kalamata has asked us to take since the Kalamata’s Kitchen team released its first book in 2018. Now, “Kalamata’s Kitchen,” written by Sarah Thomas and illustrated by Jo Kosmides Edwards from a concept co-created by Derek Wallace and Thomas is hot off the presses, thanks to a big publication deal with Random House Books for Young Readers. The book was released on July 20.
This is the fourth book in the “Kalamata’s Kitchen” series, which was founded in the Seacoast to bring kids into the kitchen, to the table and into the world of many cultures to explore with main character Kalamata and her “Taste Buds,” a club which kids could join. In her first book adventure from the Kalamata’s Kitchen team, Kalamata and her alligator pal Al Dente met Portland, Maine, chef Ilma Lopez and learned about dishes the chef’s abuelita made in her homeland of Venezuela. She then went on to two more adventures, one to visit Pittsburgh chef Trevett Hooper to learn about the many varieties of apples In “Kalamata’s Orchard Adventure” and in “A la Kalamata,” she discovers the flavors of Southern France though the eyes of famed chef Eric Ripert.
In this new book, the first with Random House, writer Sarah Thomas, a former sommelier at chef Ripert’s La Bernadin in New York City, introduces young readers ages 4 to 8 to the cuisine from her own Indian background. Kalamata is nervous about her first day in a new school and dreams of returning to a wonderful Indian spice market she visited with her Mama and Appa in the summer to help her remember to be brave when facing a new experience.
With a trip to India out of the question, Kalamata discovers that just opening the spice cabinet at home brings back memories of the sights, sounds and smells in that market and she and Al Dente are magically transported there. As her Mama makes dal in the kitchen, hills of cinnamon and cumin, chili and turmeric surround the duo and they continue to explore, traveling into a vibrant curry-leaf forest. Soon, mustard seeds explode as colorful fireworks and fluffy grains of rice fall like snowflakes. The illustrations are so rich with color and creativity, but also full of fun.
As her Mama serves that dal and rice, Kalamata tells her that while she was nervous about going into the market at first, she remembers what a wonderful, exciting adventure it was and how much she learned about new foods.
Becoming a fearless food adventurer is what the Kalamata books are all about, but it goes far beyond helping kids try new dishes and explore flavors. It’s about being brave enough to try new things, yes, but also that the openness to learning about new things helps us understand our fellow human beings, to empathize and to embrace all of the glorious diversity the earth has to offer. It’s also about compassion and understanding the importance of sharing what we have with others.
The book includes a recipe for dal and a bit about the ingredients and a bit about the many languages spoken in India. The Kalamata team also came out with some cool new merch including Kalamata and Al Dente plush characters and stickers, T-shirts with punny text like “Dal in This Together” and gift boxes filled with spices from Spicewalla to use in that dal recipe.
I urge everyone who has a kid in their life to get this book, give it to that kid or read along with them, cook that dal recipe and even visit one of the area’s Indian restaurants.
Every Tuesday, Congdon’s After Dark food truck park located on Route One in Wells, ME holds a “Tithing Tuesday” where each food truck donates 10% of their sales to a different charitable organization or community group. On Aug. 3, A House for ME will be the recipient of Tithing Tuesday. A House for ME is a Kittery based non-profit that provides supportive housing for people with Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorders.
At the event, in addition to providing information about A House for ME, there will be a raffle that includes a handmade quilt, a Maine themed yard or camp decoration and gift cards.
A House for ME was established as a 501c3 organization in 2016 with a mission to create safe, supported living situations that enable people with disabilities to fully integrate themselves into their local community. Their model uses Judith Snow’s “Circles of Support” and relies on friends, family members, and community volunteers to provide the supports the residents need to be successful. They have one full time live-in companion who assists the residents as needed.
For more information on the organization, visit ahouseforme.org/.
Find Congdon’s After Dark at Congdon’s Doughnuts Family Restaurant & Bakery, 1100 Post Road, Wells, Maine.
Congdon’s After Dark is open daily from 4 p.m. to at least 9 p.m. There is no charge for admission and parking is free. Guests are encouraged to go to the park’s website or social media pages for schedule details and to see the daily truck lineup. Visit cadfoodtrucks.com/.
Rachel Forrest is a former restaurant owner, reviewer and Seacoast resident, who now lives in Austin, Texas and Belize. She can be reached at [email protected].