By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Sep 21, 2022 at 11:01 AM

As a dining writer, I’m always on the hunt for thoughtful gifts for the children in my life which will encourage them to branch out, try new foods and hopefully learn something along the way. Often, those gifts come in the form of books.

Coincidentally, there are two such books on the docket in which local authors have harnessed not only their love for food, but also valuable lessons about community, diversity and self confidence.

“Our World of Dumplings”

It’s a joyous moment as Sylvia awakes to find that it’s Dumpling Day at her apartment building. She makes her way to the stairwell where she catches a whiff of garlic sauteing, ginger simmering and tomatoes stewing on a stovetop… 

And so her day begins. From kreplach and khinkali to Johnny cakes and jiao zi, Sylvia and her friends take a journey around the world through food, discovering and celebrating the unique flavors and techniques which their families use to make their beloved dumpling recipes. 

Creating intersections between food and culture is a natural for Milwaukee-based author Francie Dekker. For years, she worked as a youth gardening and nutrition educator. As the author of the quarterly “Kids’ Table” column for “Edible Milwaukee,” she explored the intersections of gardening, food and culture in children’s lives. 

She does much of the same in her picture book debut,  “Our World of Dumplings,” a book which takes readers on a voyage of culinary discovery and community building through the power of food. 

Francie DekkerX

Dekker’s book, which is geared toward young readers between the ages of four and eight, not only showcases the diversity of dumplings which are enjoyed around the globe but clearly illustrates the power of food in bringing people together in celebration of their differences. 

Interested in learning more? Boswell Book Company, 2559 N. Downer Ave., will be hosting an afternoon book talk with Dekker on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 4 p.m. Registration for the event is free and can be completed online. Signed copies of her book are also available to order through Boswell.

Dekker is also available for school visits, during which she offers interactive presentations focused on the power of connections through food, goal setting and more. 

“One Grillie”

Despite being made from the same components as the other grilled cheese sandwiches in Griddleville, Grillie never felt quite like she belonged. Her peers all seemed to have a purpose, whether it was diving into bowls of tomato soup or serving as an accompaniment to a unique side dish. But not Grillie. So, she makes the decision to leave Griddleville in search of something more.

Told from the perspective of a cheesy young sandwich, this beautifully illustrated book presents an unexpected lesson in self-discovery, offering subtle insights into the value of being unique and blazing one’s own path. It’s cute and clever, and yes there are a few grilled cheese puns dropped along the way. But at its essence, the book provides a keen reminder that comparing oneself to others is nothing more than a recipe for a meltdown.

Sandy ReitmanX

“One Grillie,” is the brainchild of author Sandy Reitman, a freelance writer and full-time copywriting specialist whose quest for meaning has landed her writing gigs in both New York and Milwaukee. When she’s not working, she spends her time exploring Milwaukee’s culinary scene and taking on creative pursuits which allow her to channel her passion for creative writing.

The name of her inaugural children’s book belies her Cream City roots, taking inspiration from the kitchen lingo used by workers at Kopp’s Frozen Custard who shout “One Grillie!” whenever a customer orders a grilled cheese sandwich.

“One Grillie” is slated for release in January of 2023, but can be pre-ordered online through Mascot Books for $18.95 (plus shipping).  

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.