Today’s book in our picture books about food week is about a traditional Pakistani food: daal! A delightful story about young Bilal who excitedly and also a bit nervously introduces his friends to a family favorite meal. Come share the table with Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Anoosha Syed, 2019.
Bilal is out biking with his friends when his dad calls him to come help start dinner. His friends are surprised that they start dinner prep so early in the day, so Bilal and his Abu share how this daal takes time. The friends are invited to find out what daal is and to help. Bilal is excited to show them all the flavor options and how to put everything together. But then he starts to worry that maybe his friends won’t love his favorite food like he does.
Once they’ve started the dish, Abu sends them all out to play again while it cooks. More friends join and they all continue to wonder when it will be ready as hours go by. Finally, Abu calls from their door for them to come see if the dish is ready. The last ingredients are added and everyone pulls up to the table to taste the best thing in the whole wide world, and the best part: “sharing it with friends.”
I adore this book! Bilal and his friends are so sweet and yet also incredibly honest. His friends whisper and wonder about the smells and looks of the food. Bilal is excited and genuinely nervous all at once. The premise of the story is simple – cooking daal for a meal – and yet the pacing is wonderful and there is great fun in waiting and wondering with the friends how it will turn out and will they all actually like it!
There is a small author’s note in the back explaining a bit more about daal, as well as a recipe, which we cannot wait to try! A book like this is a wonderful way to not only introduce kids to a new dish, but more importantly, to introduce them to a different family and traditions that they might have as well.
I also greatly appreciated this book’s emphasis on time with cooking, something I feel the weight of as the primary cook in our home. There is a great deal of thought, planning, and care that goes into meals and books like this do a great job highlighting that.
I hope you are enjoying all these wonderful new food books! A great way to add culture to your bookshelf and your table! See you soon with the next one.