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Q&A: Julie Van Rosendaal and Pierre A. Lamielle on their Alice in Wonderland cookbook

In a unique confluence of literary and culinary categories, Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook (Whitecap Books) pairs kaleidoscopic illustrations by Vancouver artist Pierre A. Lamielle with recipes and food photography by Calgary chef and author Julie Van Rosendaal (Spilling the Beans), interspersed among the full text of Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice in Wonderland.

Lamielle, an illustrator-turned-chef, and Van Rosendaal, a CBC food columnist and cookbook author, spoke to Q&Q about their new creation.

What inspired the cookbook?

Van Rosendaal: I’ve always wanted to do storybooks that have a recipe component because I have an eight-year-old who wants to do whatever he reads in a book. I figured most kids want to do the same, and it would encourage them to get in the kitchen and cook.

Pierre had the idea to use Alice in Wonderland. There are so many whimsical characters and you can just have so much fun with it. As an illustrator, it’s a perfect vehicle for him to play with.

Lamielle: I collect a lot of kids’ books. I think I have four or five different versions of Alice and always thought that there were so many food references. I didn’t actually realize how many there were until I sat down with the idea of doing a cookbook.

Who is the intended audience?

Lamielle: There isn’t really a target audience. We’ve talked to people who have looked at the book and read through it, and it never occurred to them that it would be a book for kids. Some people just assume it’s a book for kids. So I think it’s something that we’re just putting out there, and we’re letting people decide.

Van Rosendaal: When we were shopping it around to publishers, some of them said, We don’t know what to do with this, because we don’t know if it’s a kids’ book or a cookbook. People kept getting hung up on what shelf to put it on in the bookstore. So some publishers turned it down. I like that it appeals to kids, because it’s colourful and fun and it’s got this storyline, but it’s not chicken fingers and pizza or the idea of kids’ food that so many people have. It’s something you can do with your kids, so it appeals to parents, too.

Are you aware of other cookbooks with similar literary themes?

Van Rosendaal: There are so many cookbooks out there right now, how do you make yours stand out? I like that it’s a different idea, even though it can be detrimental when people don’t understand what to do with it. Once we started working on this, we started thinking of more: Pierre wants to do Aesop’s Fables next, and he has all of these different tie-in ideas. Those old fairy tales are really in right now, so it’s good timing.

This interview has been edited and condensed.