Food Fight! A Mouthwatering History of Who Ate What and Why Through the Ages
by Tanya Steel (National Geographic Kids 2018) $19.99; 160 pp.


Your stomach’s growling. The last time you ate was ….how long ago? Three hours? Twenty minutes? Either way, you’re hungry again, and the last meal you ate is long forgotten. In Food Fight, you’ll read about other foods enjoyed in the past.

Imagine that you’re a cave kid that just got home from cave school. Like now, you’re starving and ready for an after-school snack. But chips haven’t been invented yet, and neither has ice cream or microwaves. In fact, until a million years ago, people couldn’t even control fire. No, for snacks and pretty much every meal, you would have gathered your food from bushes and rocks.

If you were a member of the upper class in Egypt, though, you might have dined well. A menu for King Merneptah then offered a feast of biscuits, “beef innards,” sheep, ducks, and fish. If you weren’t a friend of his or a member of royalty, well, it’s back to the bushes and rocks for dinner for you.

By the time the Roman Empire was in charge, things were different. Fire had been harnessed, and people knew how to enjoy food. Spices were available for families that could afford them, and meals were eaten at tables. The Romans had created tools for the kitchen, and cooking was something many enjoyed doing — even if some of the dishes created consisted of flamingo tongues or peacock brains.

If you lived during the late 1700s in America, you might have wanted to head back to those bushes. Starvation was a real possibility in the years after the Revolutionary War, but foraging was a way to survive: “common foods” then were things you could hunt or gather: oysters, squirrel, and wild pig.

And 50 years ago? Well, TV dinners, fish sticks and diet soda were all new. French cooking was something everybody wanted to learn to do.

Microwaves were starting to show up in American kitchens, Tupperware was cool, and if you went to one of those new fast-food restaurants, you could get ketchup in little packets. Eat up!

Years ago, you took pride in a child who was a “good eater.” Now make her a good reader, too, by finding Food Fight!

There are lots of reasons for a young diner or future chef to love this book. It starts with a wide look at food through the ages, told in sidebars and fun-to-know information, brief bits on history and everyday life, and lots of pictures, artwork, humor, and quizzes to appeal to the kind of kid who shakes things up by having dessert first. Then, for young foodies, this book goes even further with a list of safety tips to accompany thirty recipes your kids can try, and share.

For children ages 10-and-up, that’s like a multi-course meal that’s browsed at leisure and then served again later. It offers a varied menu for different kinds of readers, and it appeals to all tastes. For kids (and parents!) who love to eat, Food Fight! is yummy.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer