Try It! How Frieda Changed the Way We Eat by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Giselle Potter


Try It! How Frieda Changed the Way We Eat 
by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Giselle Potter
Review Copy from Simon & Schuster
I was almost to the end of this deliciously delightful book when an enormous light bulb clicked on for me. The purple clad Frieda Caplan of Try It! How Frieda Changed the Way We Eat is THE FRIEDA whose name is on the purple labels of the speciality fruits and vegetables I have been buying for decades! Rockliff and Potter partner to perfectly, charmingly tell the story of this amazing woman who made the kiwi (it was originally called a Chinese Gooseberry and Frieda came up with a better name) an everyday fruit, among many others. Focusing on the foods that Frieda embraced and wisely marketed (with explanatory stickers and recipes), back matter expands on Caplan's many accomplishments and firsts. 

Working in the Seventh Street produce market in 1956, first as a bookkeeper then as the lone woman among men selling produce, Frieda got her start selling mushrooms that other salespeople couldn't move. Soon, she was selling so many mushrooms she was known as the Mushroom Queen. With her own spot at the market, Frieda was the person to turn to for fruits and vegetables that were anything but the apples, bananas, potatoes and tomatoes the other stalls were content selling. Rockliff tells readers that Frieda would get a "funny feeling in her elbows when she tasted something new and special, something she was sure people would like to try."

Frieda started her own produce company in 1962, with many of the new fruits and vegetables that she brought the shelves of grocery stores back then (jicama, blood oranges, sugar snap peas, Asian pears) becoming common items in the produce aisles today. While the kiwi is the most famous fruit Frieda made popular (Caplan ate so many that she developed an allergy!) Potter illustrates a parade of delights that she is responsible for bringing to the shelves, including the habanero pepper in 1990 and the dragon fruit in 1994, which have made their way into candies, chips, smoothies, and jellies, to name a few. The Buddha's hand, mangosteen, fresh lychee, star fruit, nopale, passion fruit, the purple potato and the donut peach are other fruits and vegetables that gave Frieda that special feeling in her elbows.

The final pages of Try It! How Frieda Changed the Way We Eat is show Frieda and her daughters running the business, the now familiar purple labels on the boxes of green cauliflower and purple asparagus they are stacking in their warehouse. Frida Caplan passed away in January, 2020 (probably after this book had gone to print) at the age of 96. You can read a great obituary that details her stellar marketing and business talent (the company was worth $50 million in 2003) here. Today, Frieda's Specialty Produce is run by her daughters and granddaughters 

Just bought some Frieda's Terrific Turmeric the other day!

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