Summer of Yoko

One of our kids' favorite books (and one of mine, too) is Yoko by Rosemary Wells. It's about an adorably sweet Japanese cat named Yoko, who goes to school with a bunch of American kids (all other animals) who don't understand why she brings sushi for lunch. The other kids make fun of her, so her teacher decides to have International Food Day, when everyone will bring in food from a foreign country and try everything that everyone else has brought.

The first schoolday lunch described in the story is kind of a regular smorgasbord of American sandwiches — peanut butter and honey, egg salad on pumperknickel — and then there's Yoko on the next page, totally loving her sushi until everyone starts making gross faces and teasing her.

For International Food Day, everyone brings in delicious-sounding things like Nigerian nut soup and potato knishes and mango smoothies. I've always loved this book for the variety of foods described. It's a great book to read with a picky eater to give them a sense of the wider world of food. It's also just a charming story about friendship.

Kent asked me the other day if I could pack him some sushi for lunch sometime. I tried to gather myself up off the floor after being knocked over by the sheer impact of his request, and then I said brightly, "Sure!" This is hilarious to me because when we go out for sushi, he eats edamame, plain shrimp, plain rice, and/or fruit. When he was three, sometimes he ate nothing. If Jack and I even toss around the words "sushi restaurant" close to mealtime, Kent asks plaintively, "Do they have anything *I* like??" He thought he had hit the jackpot when we went to a sushi place last weekend and the kids' menu had a corn dog. The corn dog had also been on his list of foods he wanted to try, so he went for it.

Incidentally, why don't sushi places have a kids' bento box with edamame, fruit, rice, tempura sweet potatoes, shrimp, and other yummy stuff like that? IT WOULD NOT BE THAT HARD, PEOPLE. Parents everywhere would love you.

Anyway, Yoko has intrigued him, and I think he wants the experience nonetheless. I decided it would be silly to pack a bunch of sushi in his lunchbox that I knew he wouldn't eat, leaving him hungry for the rest of the day, but if he was home, like for the summer, and he, Dean and I could all try it together... then maybe we could try some of the other foods from the book, too... hmmmm. And thus, our plan for the summer. We will eat our way through Yoko.

Care to join us? I made you a handy PDF checklist, just in case. Order the book or get it from the library, print out your checklist, and make a plan with your kiddos, picky or otherwise. We'll probably skip around rather than trying to do it in order, but I think this should fill up our summer fairly easily since we won't want to do a new food every single day. I'm excited about trying some new recipes, and I'll try to remember to post here whenever we make something exotic like Nigerian nut soup or Caribbean coconut crisps. Vegetarians can look for alternatives to the Irish stew, use veggie dogs in the franks and beans, etc.

Personally, I think the main challenge for me is going to be the squeeze cheese on white bread. I might make my own gross face that day. But I also know there will be brownies with green tea ice cream... we might do that one more than once, just to be sure we really did it right.

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Call me a week before you do potato knishes and I'll be there!
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