GUACAMOLE by Jorge Argueta
— Hoy les voy a hacer guacamole,
le digo a mi mamá, a mi papá
y a mis hermanitos…
‘Today, I’m going to make you guacamole,’
I say to my mother and father
and my little brother and sister.”
If I am lucky enough to become a mother some day, I would love to teach my children early the art of cooking and the art of language. My mother had me take French lessons in elementary school- but I soon swayed her into letting me out of them- and soon dance, field hockey and band took over- you know how it goes. Now desperate to know what my boyfriend and Spanish amigos are saying- I have been attempting poorly to pick up Spanish as well as French (for my dream and future adventure to Monmartre)- but it is proving quite hard as adult! I have Pinslar French & Spanish in my car that I try to listen too- but it soon gives way to NPR or silence – ahhh silence——try it.
Guacamole is author Jorge Argueta’s third contribution to a bilingual cooking poem series, preceded by Sop de Frijoles/Bean Soup and Arroz con Leche/Rice Pudding. In this book, the oldest of three siblings goes through all the steps to prepare guacamole. She and her family live in a gigantic avocado house with a gigantic cilantro ‘tree’ in the backyard. (Why does that sound so wonderful even has an adult?!) The characters are small enough in some of the illustrations to slide on freshly cut fruits, play under the kitchen faucet and frolic in salt the size of popcorn. Margarita Sada’s illustrations are warm and homey and her exuberant use of warm colour makes the book a visual pleasure. From the young chef twirling with her apron to the children using avocado halves as a slide, each picture expresses a sense of happiness and fun.
Cooking is presented as a joy rather than a chore (something I am only learning now as an adult). This book could inspire a sense of empowerment in a young child because it shows children, rather than adults, preparing food, although Argueta makes it clear that adults should help with tasks such as cutting the avocados in half. Since the poem goes through the procedure of making guacamole, it would be great as a simple cooking activity between parent and child (and that is what it is all about). In Argueta’s careful description, every step is detailed, down to washing the ingredients.
The end of the book finds the entire family enjoying the freshly made guacamole on the lawn outside in their unusual abode. This delightful book has parallel text in English and Spanish, although it is clear that it was originally written in Spanish. While the Spanish text loses a bit of its lyricism and repetition in translation, the overall effect will still be pleasing to children and the cooking poem is great for language learning as a read-aloud for parents with older preschool and kindergarten-aged children.
This vibrant and lively poem is perfect for encouraging children to engage with cooking and food preparation, advising them to “[s]ing and dance / because food tastes better / when you sing and dance” (p.25). The cheerful and bouncy tone of the poem is carried through to its concluding lines:
Guacamole, qué rico guacamole
verde tan verde
y tan puro como el amor…
so greeny green,
as pure as love.”