Column Description: Join Alicia Abdul each issue as she recommends a book or two through the lens of lifelong learning. Be it fiction or nonfiction, using a format like verse or graphic novel, books can teach us, inspire us, and reconnect us. So, what better way to pay tribute to the things that keep us reading just one more chapter past our bedtime or that we can’t see over when stacked tall as we leave the library than hyping them here?

Nestled neatly between Thanksgiving and December holiday festivities are this NYLA issue and a whole lot of food. Thus, this month’s brain food is literally about food, but not cookbooks; I am talking about a book featuring food as the main character. So there is no better one than Julia Child’s collaboration with her nephew, Alex Prud’homme, My Life in France. Yes, there’s much to learn from cookbooks because they’re instructional in nature, but it’s when an author deviates from this in expressing their intrinsic love of food that is appealing. 

You cannot escape conversations about food culture without Child’s name: she had a television show, multiple books, and even inspired a movie. Her career spanned forty years. Why? Because she had a deep admiration for the heavenly escape of the cooking process and the deliciousness of food, along with a zest for life alongside her husband. She loved food and wanted the viewer and reader to strive for it too. Plus she was the first to share that mistakes are bound to happen. Did anyone just think back to their first attempt at a Thanksgiving turkey a few weeks ago because they didn’t go to Mom’s house? Reflect on what Child said, “... no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” You only have to do a quick search of the news to know that since March, sales for yeast rose over 400% according to market research by Nielsen. Whether it was rage baking (it’s a thing and includes a controversy) or providing creature comforts, many stretched their kitchen skills. 

You can take inspiration when it’s safer to travel by visiting her kitchen on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. But in the meantime, you can find clips on YouTube with Child’s signature voice and antics. And of course, I’m recommending you set sail for France with her book. The finer moments of learning came from the way she shopped local markets, which we should all do this holiday season, and the way everyone’s curious nature made room for the luncheons in which people came together to learn from a chef and dine in good company: a salon featuring food. 

Child’s underlying message in all of these activities is best summarized in the book: “Remember, ‘no one’s more important than people’. In other words, friendship is the most important thing- not career or housework, or one’s fatigue- and it needs to be tended and nurtured.” How will you be intentional in tending and nurturing personal and professional relationships?

Alicia Abdul has worked as a high school librarian for the City School District of Albany since 2007. Her contributions to the profession include reviewing for SLJ, SLC, and VOYA, serving on YALSA committees, and presenting at local, state, and national conferences on books, programs, and graphic novels. She has a keen interest in writing and contributes to the Albany Times Union’s books blog and manages her own at along with being published with the Nerdy Book Club, SLC, and in SLJ. You can usually find her at home with her family drinking tea and baking while looking for a dress to buy.