Lidia Bastianch may be known for her Italian cookbooks and restaurants, but she has another role that she deems just as (if not even more) important: grandmother. Bastianich’s five grandchildren will get a pretty cool gift this Christmas, when Running Press Kids publishes Nonna Tell Me a Story: Lidia’s Christmas Kitchen (October). Here, the author talks about writing for children, her childhood memories, and how she spoils her grandkids.

PW: Why did you want to write a children’s book?

LB: I have five grandchildren, and their favorite thing to do when they come over and we all pile up is to say, “Nonna, tell me a story of when you were a little girl.” Their curiosity is based in [my belief] that all children should get to know more about our relationship with food. Where does food come from? How does it grow? Children need to really respect the world, because the world--the Earth--feeds us. I talk about it with my grandchildren all the time. And I have this great platform where people are listening, and so I needed to share what I do with my grandchildren with all our children.

PW: How was writing a story for children different from writing cookbooks?


It wasn’t all that different. I set it up in a reality--this story is real--and I just kind of followed through in a more simplistic way. The recipes at the end are more for parents and grandparents. I wanted the story to linger on, for there to be something to be done, some interaction. Hopefully the interaction between mothers and grandmothers and their children and grandchildren will happen.

PW: Most grandparents spoil their grandkids—so what do you make for yours?

LB: Sweets and cookies are always a favorite. I make a lot of it, or we make it together. Or there might be a special fruit that I want them to taste at the perfect moment, in season. My son’s children are in Italy, and I just got an email from the middle one—he fell off a bike and cracked his jaw. I said to him, ‘When you come back, Nonna’s going to cook soft things for you.’ I’m going to make crepes for him.

PW: Do you have plans to write more children’s books?

LB: I have so many stories that I tell my grandchildren. One that’s on my mind is all about harvesting eggs from chickens, pigeons, and geese. But storytelling is something that’s very close and dear to my heart. Sharing stories with children, I see how much they enjoy them and benefit.

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