Fresh Voices: Q&A with Victoria Grace Elliott, author of TASTY: A HISTORY OF YUMMY EXPERIMENTS
"Simultaneously dense with information and an utter treat, this is perfect for kids and tweens obsessed with food." —Booklist
"Deliciously educational." —Kirkus Reviews
1) What inspired you to write TASTY?
While working on YUMMY, I had to leave out some desserts that I was really curious about, like gelatin and gooey butter cake, which is a childhood favorite cake made almost entirely from boxed ingredients. Those were really the two main foods that spurred this new book. I grew up eating foods like that all the time: frozen dinners or boxed macaroni and cheese. And when I’d go to potlucks, an older woman would always bring this massive beautiful pink ambrosia salad. I never got a taste for it, but I was always like, “What is this?!”
Those foods from the Easy Food chapter are really the heart of TASTY. I had all these lingering questions after making YUMMY, and with my mind in that research mode, I kept questioning foods I was eating, common favorites for me like brie and kimchi, or foods I was remembering from my childhood, like ambrosia salad and gooey butter cake.
2) What was the most difficult part about writing the book? What part was the easiest?
I think the hardest thing with food history is always contending with the difficult histories that come along with it. You can’t really separate American or European foods from global imperialism, the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and the colonization of Indigenous American lands. And then, when you get into the history of Easy Food – the most important chapter for me – you have to contend with the horrors of World War II and all of the Cold War-era imperialism that came afterward. But we have to face that history in order to honor the people who survived and created meaningful food traditions through it.
The easiest part is when I finally get to draw the sprites interacting with the food! I have a lot of fun drawing the sprites excited about food and teasing each other, and I love getting to capture how pretty soda bottles are or nailing down the perfectly glassy, vibrant colors of gelatin cubes! That part comes the most naturally to me.
3) What element of the story do you identify with the most and why?
Easily the sprite’s excitement for food, haha. I’m always trying to channel my love for delicious food into each of the sprites as I write and draw, even if the food I’m writing about isn’t to my taste. I always think, “This could be someone’s favorite food,” so I want to honor that and have at least one of the sprites be really, really excited for the food that’s being talked about.
4) What do you want kids today to take away from this story?
A love for food! I think it’s easy to grow up finding certain foods disgusting because you just don’t have exposure to them, but that can be so hurtful to someone who loves those foods. It’s an ethos I took away from all the shows Anthony Bourdain made: he always wanted to honor the food he was eating all over the world, because that was food someone lovingly made or cared about. I hope kids come away from TASTY with a curiosity and excitement, rather than disgust, for foods they haven’t tried before.
5) What are you currently reading?
Right now, I’ve been really, really loving the webtoon After School Lessons for Unripe Apples by Soonkki! And after finishing the anime and seeing the The First Slam Dunk, I’ve been buying every volume I can find of Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue – I can’t get enough!