Have you ever eaten something that made you think you were somewhere else? Maybe a piece of saltwater taffy would instantly remind you of walking along the boardwalk at the ocean.
But what if food could take you somewhere you had never been? That’s what happens to the main characters in a new series of books called “Recipe for Adventure.” Emilia Bertolizzi, 12, and brother Alfie, 11, experience magical food that transports them to faraway places.
Giada (sounds like JAH-dah) De Laurentiis, the star of two Food Network shows and author of several cookbooks, was inspired by her family — most of whom work in the movie business — to write the series.
“They told us the most fantastic stories about the places they made movies,” De Laurentiis said by phone from Miami, where she was promoting the books. Those stories were often told during family gatherings that involved a lot of cooking.
After becoming a mom to Jade, who is now 5, De Laurentiis said she realized there weren’t children’s books that combined the things she loved. “There’s nothing out there that are adventure stories that have to do with food and friends.”
“Recipe for Adventure” takes readers to Naples, Italy, in the series’ first book, which was published this month.
De Laurentiis, who was born in Rome, Italy, but moved to California when she was very young, said her earliest memory of being in the kitchen was making pizza with her grandfather, who was from Naples. So the southern Italian city was a natural setting for the first book. While there, the characters explore the art of making pizza.
“In my opinion, the food there is the best in the world,” De Laurentiis said. “It’s the birthplace of pizza.”
Emilia and Alfie are loosely based on De Laurentiis and her brother, Dino. At one point in the book, Alfie calls Emilia “bossy, but in a good way,” and De Laurentiis, who is 43, admitted that she was bossy as a girl.
“I was the eldest of four children. So, yes, I was,” she said.
Her extended family while growing up included world-traveling Aunt Raffy, who was the model for the character Zia Donatella (zia means “aunt” in Italian).
Zia comes to visit Emilia and Alfie and exposes the American kids to home-cooked Italian food. A few bites of her doughnut-like zeppole (ZEP-o-lay) magically give them their first taste of adventure.
Book 2 takes Emilia and Alfie to cooking school in Paris, and Book 3 — to be published next year — takes place in Hong Kong. De Laurentiis is still writing the final book. Each includes two tear-out cards featuring recipes from the stories.
De Laurentiis said she hopes the books will encourage kids to cook, to travel and to meet new people.
“Sometimes I think kids become a little fearful of the unknown,” she said. “I want them to know that it’s fun to open your mind to all of that.”
Who: Dozens of authors for kids and grown-ups will talk about their work and sign books. Some kid favorites
who will appear include Katherine Applegate, KidsPost columnist Fred Bowen, Jennifer and Matthew Holm, Katherine Paterson and Jon Scieszka.
Where: The Mall between Ninth and 14th streets NW.
When: Saturday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5:30 p.m. Giada De Laurentiis will appear Sunday at noon in the Children’s Pavilion.
How much: Free!
For more information: A parent can go to www.loc.gov/bookfest or call 888-714-4696.