Type to search

Bridging the cultural divide is a job for the snails


By Al Kemp

In the new children’s book “Let’s Eat Snails,” a young girl named Margie broadens her culinary horizons to include a curious garden creature with help from her friend Nina.

But this is not really a story about snails.

 “Let’s Eat Snails” is illustrating a much larger story about a journey across a cultural divide, as seen through the eyes of a child.

Barbara Barcellona Smith’s new book, with whimsical illustrations by Karen Lewis, is a celebration of Italian culture, family and culinary traditions.

When young Margie first meets her friend Nina’s father, she wonders why he talks in another language and why he seems to shout.

“My dad’s from Italy, so he’s speaking Italian,” Nina explains. “As for the shouting – that’s how we talk. You’ll get used to it – my whole family shouts!”

As the journey unfolds, Nina and her shouting father introduce the somewhat-squeamish Margie to the process of picking snails from the garden, purifying them and preparing them for the table. Along the way, Margie learns a few Italian phrases and family traditions, and discovers a new way of looking at the world.

The story illustrates our differences and shows that what sets people apart can also bring them together. “Let’s Eat Snails” is designed to engage children in learning about the unique character of Italian culture through an encounter with a peculiar tiny creature.

“Let’s Eat Snails” is the first book by Barbara Barcellona-Smith, who grew up on the central California coast with her Italian father, Giuseppe Barcellona, and Puerto Rican/ Cuban/Lebanese mother, Emily. Today she lives in Enterprise, Alabama, and works in television advertising.

 She says growing up in her ethnic household was unique in providing her with a lifetime supply of entertaining and valuable stories she is excited to share with young readers today.

The book is available through local and online retailers, and can be ordered via ipage.ingrambook.com

Stay up-to-date with our free email newsletter

Keep a pulse on local food, art, and entertainment content when you join our Italian-American Herald Newsletter.