Book review: “The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen”

14 Mar

Editor’s note: Originally published in Today’s Farm, a supplement to Sauk Valley Media, on March 11.

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Anna and Elise might not yet be old enough to understand the concept of farm-to-table; they are only 6 months old, after all.

But my darling twin girls soon will come to appreciate the incredible role that agriculture plays in our lives.

They’ll grow up with a garden in their backyard. They’ll watch teeny tiny seeds sprout and grow up into bountiful zucchini and pepper plants and rows and rows of lettuce and spinach.

They’ll grow up with fresh fruits and veggies at every meal – homegrown or picked up from the local farmers market, when possible. They’ll learn that the fresh stuff tastes better – and the homegrown stuff tastes best.

They’ll grow up with a healthy appreciation for cows and pigs, as some of Mama’s and Daddy’s favorite foods (and undoubtedly, what soon will be some of their own favorites) – cheese and bacon – come from those animals. They’ll hopefully see those items at the grocery store and be able to connect them with “moo” and “oink.”

But until then, Anna and Elise already have some idea of where their food comes from thanks to a boy named Patrick O’Shanahan and his Saturday-morning breakfast adventure.

“The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen”, a new children’s book by author and real-life farmer Diana Prichard, tells the story of a young boy, who always has known exactly where his food comes from: the refrigerator, via the grocery store, of course. Always, that is, until a stocky cow, a few gregarious chickens and some towering trees appear in his kitchen while his dad whips up a batch of his World Famous French Toast.

Prichard, a Michigan farrow-to-finish hog farmer, presents a sweet story that introduces children (It’s recommended for little ones ages 4 to 8.) to the idea that eggs, milk and maple syrup come, not from the refrigerator, or from the store, but from chickens, cows and trees.

She uses simple but sensory language: Patrick plucks a “warm brown egg” from underneath the chicken, draws “warm, frothy milk” into a measuring cup. Little readers can begin to grasp that fresh-from-the-farm eggs or milk look and feel different from those in the grocery store.

Illustrator Heather Knopf, a mother of two young boys, provides charming images – with a fuzzy-bordered, almost dreamlike quality, which lends to the whimsy of the story – to draw in the wee ones and help communicate the message.

Prichard says she wrote the book because she is passionate about the farm-to-fork connection.

“As a farmer, I’ve learned a lot over the years, not the least of which is that there is a fine line and very delicate balance between idealism and realism in food production,” she wrote in an email. “I really wanted this book to be a launching point for more conversation; not a lesson in and of itself, but something that encouraged kids and their families to seek out lessons and information.”

“And last, but not least, as both a mother and a farmer, I’m passionate about the future of food and our agricultural system. I hope that if there’s any legacy I am able to pass down to my kids it’s not just a farm, but a farm that they’re able to run in a time when their peers better understand and appreciate what it takes from them to do it.”

IMG_3261“The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen” is a poignant and punchy introduction to the idea that our food comes from the farm, rather than the grocery store.

“The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen” (Little Pickle Press, November 2013) is available at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com and bookstores nationwide.

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