Q & A with Barbara Barcellona Smith Author of Let’s Eat Snails!

Barbara Barcellona Smith
Let's Eat Snails

Let’s Eat Snails celebrates Italian-American culture through a story that introduces kids to its familial and culinary traditions. When Margie visits the Barcellona family home, she isn’t ready for what the Sicilian family is bringing to the table: snails! Margie embarks on a culinary adventure in harvesting, purifying, and cooking snails to find that they are, in fact, delizioso! Savor this heartwarming tale from author Barbara Barcellona-Smith’s childhood, delightfully illustrated by the prolific Karen Lewis. Let’s Eat Snails recognizes our differences and shows that what sets us apart also brings us together.

Q: When did you first think about writing a book about your family’s culinary traditions?
A: I began writing Let’s Eat Snails! along with three other children’s picture books about 15 years ago while my  daughter was in pre-school. At first, I thought I wanted to create a coffee table book with beautiful pictures of all the gorgeous and delicious Italian creations I was lucky enough to grow up eating and learning to make from my ethnic parents. My father grew up in Ramacca, Italy on the island of Sicily and my mother’s Cuban, Puerto Rican and Lebanese roots helped really spice things up in my childhood home! As I began to organize this coffee table book, I even named it, The Barcellona Gardens, I began to reminisce about my unique and fascinating childhood. These memories began to appear on paper, and voila, Let’s Eat Snails! poured forth with all its color, beauty, taste and important multicultural messaging.

Q: What made you take the steps to publish this book?
A: I thought when I’m old and in that rocking chair on the porch whittling away the forest of events in my mind, I didn’t want to look back and feel regret, regret for not writing, regret for not sharing some of these amazing childhood experiences, and regret for not sharing my beautiful and rich heritage. I wanted to see the single tree, my books, a focal point of success, that gave meaning to my life and that would ultimately leave a little piece of me behind when I exit this earth.

Q: When was the first time you ate a snail?
A: Young, very young, elementary school age! These crazy and happy memories of running around our big property on the Central Coast of California gathering up the average garden snail, learning how to purify them in cornmeal, and then prepare them to eat, brought back so many funny memories as I tried sharing my culture with my very American, “bland-paletted” friends during school-age sleepover adventures!

Q: What is your favorite snail recipe?
A: Sicilian snail stew, Babbalucci! We grew up eating snail stew and it was, and still is, of course, delizioso! My father and mother used plenty of pepper and home-grown herbs making it aromatic and simply mouth-watering. We ate the Babbalucci with fresh homemade bread, and fat, green garden onions!

Q: Do you have a preferred snail that tastes better to you?
A: In all honesty, we simply ate the common garden snail, the Helix Aspersa or Corno Aspersum. My father came from a poor family in Sicily and picking and eating snails was truly a way of life in the Old Country. He brought that delicious tradition with him to America and we’ve been enjoying them ever since!

Let's Eat Snails cover

Q: How did it feel to have such great national recognition for Let’s Eat Snails! which celebrates your family’s culture?
A: I am still on “Cloud 9” and will remain there after receiving such wonderful accolades from Every Child a Reader in New York (EveryChildaReader.net/cbw). This amazing organization, which focuses on making reading an accessible and daily part of children’s lives, listed Let’s Eat Snails! as a Super Power Book for Identity & Culture for Children’s Book Week, May 2021! I am honored because not only is Let’s Eat Snails! a culinary journey, but it’s a celebration of culture and diversity, a perfect multicultural message bringing us all together around the table where Food is Love, Food is Life, and Food is an Adventure!

Q: What is next for you? Are you planning to publish more books?
A: Stay tuned for my next Italian-American children’s picture book, Grandpa Geppe’s Gifted Tree, about the ancient art of tree grafting and recognizing our familial ties to one another through a pair of elementary-aged cousins’ eyes as they realize, like the grafted trees that produce many different fruits, they are in fact biologically connected and ultimately more similar than different. They resolve their petty disagreements all because of Grandpa Geppe’s Gifted Tree. I hope for this book to publish in 2023 followed by Sneaky Peekers and The Steps to Our House, visit my website BarbaraBarcellonaSmith.com for updates!

About the book:

  • Illustrations by Karen Lewis
  • Number of pages: 32
  • Hard cover
  • Reading age: 7 – 12 
  • Publisher: NewSouth Books
  • Publication date: January 12, 2021
Let's Eat Snails Book

 

Named 2021 Superpower Book for Identity and Culture by Every Child a Reader

Let’s Eat Snails takes young readers on an ethnic culinary adventure. In a Sicilian-American household, cooked snails are the ultimate treat, as one young visitor comes to delight in understanding. This captivating story serves up a lesson in the value of being open-minded and not being afraid of what you don’t know.

Available to buy anywhere books are sold. Get your copy today!