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‘Kalamata’s Kitchen’ aims to open up a whole new world to kids

Book and website teach about different cultures through the food choices of this young eater and her stuffed-alligator sidekick, Al Dente

The cover of the book "Kalamata’s Kitchen," the first of a series from Random House.
The cover of the book "Kalamata’s Kitchen," the first of a series from Random House.Handout

Kalamata, an adventurous South Indian girl, brings you on a journey through one of her country’s spice markets, where she revels in the enticing fragrances. The escapade takes place in her imagination and under her magical kitchen table in “Kalamata’s Kitchen.” The hardcover book ($17.99), the first of a series from Random House, accompanies an online platform, kalamataskitchen.com, to teach kids about the world and different cultures through the food choices of this young eater and her sidekick Al Dente, a stuffed alligator. There are various resources on the website, including activities to download and videos that help introduce kids to unfamiliar ingredients and flavors. Kids are asked to take a pledge: “I promise to keep my mind open and my fork ready, to try each new food at least two times, and share what’s on my plate when someone doesn’t have enough.” A guide to kid-friendly restaurants in 16 cities is here, too. Another compelling feature on the site is essays by nearly three dozen chefs. They share their family stories and childhood memories of food and cooking influences. One chef is Kristen Kish, a Bravo TV’s Top Chef winner and a former chef at Menton in Boston. Another, Karen Akunowicz, is the owner of Boston’s Fox & The Knife. The creators of “Kalamata’s Kitchen,” Sarah Thomas and Derek Wallace, had already self-published three books about Kalamata’s adventures before the deal with Random House. “I grew up as a kid who experienced life through food,” says Thomas, a former sommelier at the famed Le Bernardin restaurant in New York City and the daughter of Indian immigrants. “My childhood memories of the sizzling sound from the stove and spices roasting transported me. I created a character that Anthony Bourdain was to me.” For Wallace, wanting his son to develop a more curious and courageous palate sparked the idea for the stories. Wallace says, “Whether it’s something you’re eating or in life, kids can grow up learning that different is delicious.” The book is available on July 20 through the website, amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers.

ANN TRIEGER KURLAND

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Ann Trieger Kurland can be reached at anntrieger@gmail.com.