All For Stars by Tara Dairman

Gladys Gatsby is only eleven years old but she has already cooked 142 dishes from twelve different cookbooks. She loves cooking Vietnamese dishes, homemade hummus, tiramisus, curries, cakes with cardamom, Chinese sweets with green tea, soft cassoulets, and more. Despite her passion for cooking, Gladys leads a rather grey life in the suburbs of New York as the only child of a real estate agent and a tax collector. She is an introverted girl who chooses to stay at home and cook instead of going to summer camps, playing basketball or swimming like other children. She enjoys spending time in a Chinese shop that sells gourmet food and exotic spices and spends her money on the most expensive ingredients such as exotic spices, nuts from distant countries, the first vegetables of the season, and various herbs. Her aunt supports her passion, and they both love to visit Ethiopian restaurants, eat Jewish dishes, taste Antep baklavas, and enjoy dinners at her Indian friend’s house. Gladys also loves smelling basil from different countries. Moreover, she not only eats and cooks but also writes critiques of the food she eats in her journal, rating them with a four-star system like the one in the New York Standard’s food section, which is her favorite newspaper. She even takes her journal to school with her, thinking that writing about the food served in the cafeteria will give her more experience. Food is the color of Gladys’s life and her spice. It is her greatest adventure.

However, Gladys’s parents have no idea about her passion for cooking. They do not know that their daughter has been cooking at home since she was seven years old, setting a beautiful table for herself and writing derogatory reviews with notes on her own microwave dishes. Gladys has tried cooking with her parents a few times, but her father does not believe in following recipes and prefers to experiment with all the ingredients, calling it an “experimental” method, while her mother insists on buying low-fat and sugar-free ingredients. For them, eating is just a detail that needs to be done quickly. For Gladys, it is an art.

The book begins with Gladys trying to make creme brulee and accidentally setting the curtains on fire. When her family finds out, they ban her from cooking, reading cookbooks, and watching cooking shows for six months. That same week, the school assigns a composition task with the topic “What do you want to be in the future?” The winners will participate in a competition organized by the New York Standard newspaper, and the winner will receive a prize of $500. When Gladys hears about this competition, she writes a composition in the form of a job application to the food section of the New York Standard. However, whether it is luck or misfortune, her excellent composition is mistakenly sent to the food editor. On the day of this incident, the food critic of the newspaper becomes unable to taste food after burning his tongue while drinking hot chocolate. The editor is impressed by Gladys’ amazing job application and assigns her a task, not knowing that she is still a child.

The delicious recipes, tempting names of spices, and the glamorous names of chefs… The reader will be licking their fingers while reading the book. The words are so vivid that they fill your nostrils with the smell of freshly baked spicy sweets and exotic dishes that are still steaming. At the same time, it’s a book that will make children love food, showing that eating is not an obligation but a fun thing that can turn into an adventure.

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