cover image Can I Eat That?

Can I Eat That?

Joshua David Stein, illus. by Julia Rothman. Phaidon, $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7148-7140-0

In a series of linguistically playful questions and answers about food, journalist and restaurant critic Stein suggests an exchange between an insatiably curious child and a good-humored parent. %E2%80%9CCan I eat... a potato? ... a tomato? ... a tornado?!%E2%80%9D reads one early question. %E2%80%9CNo, you can%E2%80%99t eat a tornado! It%E2%80%99s made out of wind,%E2%80%9D is the response, which goes on to highlight global dishes (tonnato sauce, tournedos, tostadas) that keep the freeform rhyme going. A spread revealing hidden opposites in everyday foods (%E2%80%9CIf there is... bacon is there... bacoff?%E2%80%9D) feels giddy in its sense of linguistic discovery, and some questions are unanswerable. %E2%80%9CIs this a faraway lime or a life-sized pea?%E2%80%9D writes Stein opposite a tiny green dot set in the middle of a lurid pink page. A closing list of labeled objects, edible and otherwise (%E2%80%9Cpea pear bee bear mousse moose mouse juice%E2%80%9D), reads like a poem. Throughout, Rothman (Hello NY) uses a vintage-meets-modern aesthetic to lovingly detail mismatched table settings, vats of pickles, and knobby chicken fingers, adding greatly to the book%E2%80%99s smarts-plus-style approach. Ideal for the Lucky Peach crowd. Ages 3%E2%80%935. Author%E2%80%99s agent: Nathaniel Jacks, Inkwell Management. (Mar.)