Helen Dugdale

Meet The Ingreedies

This great book is a rather unique concept, it’s a food atlas that takes the reader on road trips around the world one lip-smacking recipe after another. Co-authors Zoe Bather and Joe Sharpe were inspired to write the book after growing tired of the same mealtime scenarios that occur all over the world: kids moan about the food on the plate and parents resort to bribery to encourage just one more bite.

Taking on mealtimes

As many parents will know, feeding kids can be a challenge – so we started to think about ways in which we could get them invested in the meals they were eating,” explains Joe, father to daughters Lottie and Tia. “We offered them a list of recipe options for the week they could choose from, we got them hunting for ingredients at the supermarket, gave them small jobs to help with during cooking and encouraged constructive feedback after we’d eaten. What we found was, the more involvement they’d had in the meal, the more likely they were to enjoy it.” This simple and rather obvious idea started to grow legs. “We cook a pretty eclectic range of meals from different countries around the world and found that one successful technique was to tell the girls the story behind the ingredients and flavours in each meal and get them to think about the origins of the food and the culture surrounding it,” he continued.

Like most things in life, personal experience is at the heart of a great brand or business and Joe and Zoe started to play around with the idea of creating a book. “There were several criteria we used to draw up a shortlist of countries, obviously getting a good geographical spread was important, but we also wanted to ensure that each recipe presented a key idea, ingredient, cooking technique or flavour combination that could be linked to an illustrated story about the related country. Mexico for example is all about the chilli, which is used in our Mexican street wrap recipe, while Sweden explains the techniques used to preserve food over winter and China is about cooking in a wok. We have several countries ‘up our sleeve’ that didn’t make the final selection – Jamaica, Spain, Ethiopia, Greece, Poland and Japan. Ultimately, we chose the thirteen countries that provided the best narrative, culinary and geographic balance for the book.”

You can teach children about the world around them through food - Joe Sharpe, Author

Meet the characters

The duo has created 10 characters that take the reader on a journey around the world readers get to meet Chai The Spice Guru, Tony the Dairy Maestro to Melvin the Seafood Freak and Larry the Meat Dude, plus many more. Each country is depicted with an eye-catching map and colourful food and ingredient facts about the native goodies available.

“Zoë and I are both designers, we knew we’d need to bring in an illustrator. After much searching, we found the third member of Ingreedies, Chris Dickason, whose illustrations had the perfect mix of humour, craft and personality that we felt would appeal to both kids and parents alike. Conceptually, the characters are built around specific food groups – veg, meat, fruit, dairy, fish, spices, herbs and the larder, along with Chef, who sets them challenges and oversees the results. What’s nice about writing recipes around the characters, is that it tends to pair them up in different combinations depending on the primary ingredients involved. This has allowed us to create different relationships between them based on their personalities and traits,” continued Joe.

Most people have at one time either been called or called someone a ‘fussy’ eater, The Ingreedies team are hoping the book will help to stamp this out. “We hope for kids that the Ingreedies spark genuine interest and love of food, and for parents that it broadens their repertoire of successful family recipes. I’m also very proud of the map spreads, that depict larger themes like immigration to the Americas and the spice route across Asia. Collectively these spreads represent what Ingreedies is about – how you can teach children about the world around them through food. There were books I remember growing up with, like Richard Scarry and Tintin, that I would devour from cover to cover – they were so detailed and full of facts that I still remember today. It would be lovely to think there might be kids who grow up and could tell you that the Mayans threw chillies at their enemies in battle, that rose petals are used in Iranian cooking or that the insects you find for sale in Chinese food markets could become much more commonplace around the world in the future.”

Joe and partner Zoe are obviously talented in the kitchen and so are avid campaigners of encouraging kids to try different foods while on holiday. “Food is an expression of local history and culture – absorbing a broad range of cultural experiences from different countries is enriching and exciting, whether you’re fortunate enough to visit in person, read about it in a book, or simply explore a specialist supermarket or restaurant. Learning about the origins of food opens a window into human history, from the ancient civilisations that first began to farm in Persia, or the evolution and influence of language along the spice route, to the present-day challenges of how to provide food more sustainably to meet the needs of a growing population. Not to mention the benefits of eating healthily and knowing how to cook and combine flavours.”

The Ingreedies is published by Laurence King Publishing and is available on Amazon.

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