Charlotte and the Chimpanzees

Thirteen teenagers may hit the “best seller” list with their cookbook

dog and cookbook

Fargo and Ruth reading the new cookbook.

May Day, 2014, I found myself in a theater in Portland, Oregon with 13 little girls, my son and another parent. The girls wanted to see a movie about chimpanzees and Jane Goodall.

My son and his family live Portland with 14-year-old Charlotte and 11-year-old Lane. I visit a couple times a year. I’ve watched some of the 13 girls grow up since their moms played with them in the nearby park with tubs of Cheerios for the kids to stir, throw at each other, and eat with gusto as young toddlers. The moms called them “Sensory Tubs,” I think.

I have cheered them on the soccer fields, in plays, and at birthday parties. I know a few of the parents and visited with several of their grandparents. By invitation, I attended one girl’s Bat Mitzvah. Last time I visited I learned about Ultimate Frisbee at Charlotte’s game.

That movie convinced the girls to raise money for the animals. They decided they would collect recipes from famous cooks and chefs and include a few of their family recipes for a cookbook. They wrote letters to renowned chefs and celebrities. Most Friday nights they met at various houses where they would prepare and taste the recipes before writing evaluations for those selected for the cookbook. The girls started Roots and Shoots of Portland, established worldwide by Jane Goodall for young people to help preserve ecology. The girls titled the book Saving Pan, updating their website with each step.

When I visited last spring, a professional food photographer had volunteered to shoot the food photos for their book. Charlotte and her mom met with the photographer for her photo while I was there. Parents with connections found a reasonable publisher and public relations professionals.

My son notified me that the cookbook launched in early December 2017 and sent an article from the Portland Business Journal about the successful unveiling. Would I like a copy of the cookbook for $25? It arrived, as attractive as any dazzling Betty Crocker cookbook. They learned about people, the ecology, the publishing process, and ate healthy, vegetarian food. Michelle Obama and Jane Goodall submitted recipes along with many others.

I called my granddaughter. “Charlotte, I am so proud of you. Your cookbook is gorgeous. What was the most difficult part of sticking with the project? It took such a long time.”

She said, “Staying focused. It was lotsa fun! I’m so excited about it.”

“What was best about it?”

“I had a lot of fun cooking, and it was really cool trying out a variety of techniques for each different recipe. It was really amazing so many people contributed, and so many cared about the cause and willing to contribute was absolutely unbelievable.”

Although she’s a very picky vegetarian, she tasted food she would never have touched or tried. Mostly, she likes macaroni and cheese. The thirteen girls attend different high schools now, but continue their neighborhood friendships.

When the parents sold 400 books in one week with minimal advertising in a few restaurants they added a “purchase” button on the girls’ website It’s a great gift for anyone. All profits go to the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center. Order now  before it hits the New York Times, best seller list.