Review of Try It!: How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat

Try It!: How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat
by Mara Rockliff; illus. by Giselle Potter
Primary, Intermediate    Beach Lane/Simon    32 pp.    g
1/21    978-1-5344-6007-2    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-6008-9    $10.99

Go to a market today, and the range of foods is amazing. Thank produce pioneer Frieda Caplan for that. When she started working at the Seventh Street produce market in Los Angeles in 1956, the vendors (all men) sold bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, and apples “as far as the eye could see.” “Why not give something new a try?” thought Frieda. She began with mushrooms, and by 1962 when she opened her own produce market — the first woman in the United States to do so — she was introducing new foods: kiwifruit, jicama, Asian pears, dragon fruit, Buddha’s hand, donut peaches, star fruit, red bananas, yellow tomatoes, and purple asparagus. In 1979 she was named “Produce Man of the Year,” an honor she declined until it was renamed “Produce Marketer of the Year.” Rockliff’s wordplay is a perfect pairing with Potter’s folksy depictions of Caplan’s food-play, with alliteration (“mounds of mangosteen, heaps of jicama, and quantities of quince”), humor (“Everyone was all ears…Especially about the baby corn!”), and playful verbs (“Farmers dug for tips on what to grow…Cooks peppered her with questions”). Rockliff and Potter serve up a lively story of an independent woman of vision and the foods she shared with the world. Readers will enjoy the fruits of their collaboration. Further information on Caplan and a note on sources are appended.

From the January/February 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider
Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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