Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pratham Books Chats with Yvette Garfield

Pratham Books got an opportunity to chat with Yvette Garfield, the founder of Handstand Kids cookbooks. We had mentioned the work done by Handstand Kids earlier on this blog and that very blog post led to an enquiry which finally led to a Skype chat to talk about Handstand Kids books, reading, books for children… and oh, food too!

So, after technology posed some problems and tried to hinder our chat with Yvette, Yvette went over to her friend’s house to come chat with us. Thank you Yvette! (Psst: Her friend even fed her some ‘upma’ while we were chatting).

And so we began…

Yvette was attending law school in California and was always interested in children’s rights. The organizations she has worked with have often had a child-based focus to it. Now, Yvette also loved traveling and whenever she would come back from her travels, her young cousins would ask her about the food she had eaten. Thus, the idea of Handstand Kids was born ( Incidentally, the idea sprouted on a flight back from India). She believed that food would connect people globally and with this belief the journey began.

Yvette worked on her first book throughout law school and when she finished, the choice was between publishing a book or practicing law. The decision was easy to make and her first book, “The Handstand Kids Italian Cookbook”, was published in 2007.

Hmmm, ‘Handstand Kids’? What is the story behind this name? “Well, I can still do handstands and it keeps me young. Secondly, it allows kids to take a stand in their community”, says Yvette. How so? The Handstand Kids website has a section called “Stir It Up” which encourages children to participate and engage with other organizations and charities. ‘The Handstand Kids Mexican Cookbook’ had the characters using their cooking skills to create a food fundraiser for Common Threads, a non-profit organization.

Yvette admits that she doesn’t have a background in cooking and is more of a reader (and an eater), but she does believe that food is a vehicle to connect people and a great skill to give back to the community.
The Handstand Kids are a diverse bunch of characters- Izzy is a vegetarian, Felix is a picky eater who also has a diabetic sister, Gabby is multilingual, Marvin is an aspiring chef and Ari uses her cooking skills to support charities. As the kids have different eating habits (like all of us do), the books strives to appeal to different kinds of readers and eaters. Some of the native language (for example: Italian, Spanish, Chinese) is incorporated in the book and reinforced in the recipes so that the kids walk away with a few words from that world. Apart from choosing her favourite recipes, Yvette tries to strike a balance in choosing the recipes so that they reflect the country the book is about.

And when Yvette is questioned about her own reading habits as a child, it is not surprising to learn that they revolved around food. Yvette recalls how she was allowed to take home a book to read when she was in elementary school and the first book she brought back home was a cookbook. She also loved a character called ‘Amelia Bedelia’ who always talked about lemon cakes and the work of Shel Silverstein.

As we wrap up the interview with talk of an Indian cookbook in the pipeline, Yvette discloses that ‘channa masala’ is her favourite Indian food (though chocolate tops her list of favourite food).

Future plans of Handstand Kids revolve around expanding its range of books, translating the books, doing more direct non-profit work and working with local kids to change their situations. With three cookbooks (Italian, Spanish and Chinese) out in the market, Handstand Kids Cookbooks are doing a great job in educating children about the global culture of the food they are cooking.

You can visit the Handstand kids website here.

1 comment:

  1. too good piece of information, I had come to know about your site from my friend sajid, bangalore,i have read atleast 7 posts of yours by now, and let me tell you, your web-page gives the best and the most interesting information. This is just the kind of information that i had been looking for, i'm already your rss reader now and i would regularly watch out for the new post, once again hats off to you! Thanks a lot once again, Regards, upma recipe

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