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“The joys of the table belong equally to all ages, conditions, countries and times; they mix with all other pleasures, and remain the last to console us for their loss.” (Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin)

Talk about a kid in a candy store. As soon as my copy of Joys of the Table arrived, I polished my silver soup spoon, donned my nattiest bib (velvet trim, don’t you know), licked my chops, then ever so intently sipped, munched, chewed, relished and savored each and every poem in this tasty tome.

What a marvelous feast! The 100 or so poems (some with recipes) by 75 poets from around the country are served up in six courses: Amuse Bouche, What We Eat, Food and Love, Geography of Food, Kitchen Memories, and Food and Mortality. It was nice to see quite a few familiar favorites (Diane Lockward, Sharon Auberle, Barbara Crooker, Andrea Potos, Jacqueline Jules, Susan Rich, Annelies Zijderveld), as well as discover many new-to-me poets whose delicious verses left me craving more of their work (Lisa Kosow, Eric Forsbergh, Katharyn Howd Machan, Dianne Silvestri, Anne Meek, and Christie Grimes to name a few).

“Interior with Phonograph” by Henri Matisse (1924)

In a publisher’s interview, Editor Sally Zakariya was asked why she decided to put together an anthology of food poems:

I wondered that myself more than once! But really, food in its many aspects—personal, sentimental, sensual, universal—is a natural subject for poetry. I realized I had written a number of poems about remembered meals, nurturing cooks, and food as a symbol of communion and contentment, and I found that other poets I know had, too. And because food is so basic to our relationships with family and friends and lovers, I thought many poets would like to have such an anthology on their own shelves—and perhaps to give copies to their favorite cooks.

There certainly was no shortage of submissions — Sally received hundreds of additional poems worthy of being included — but ultimately her criteria for selection was subjective. I do like her taste in poems, noting that there was a higher percentage of poems that resonated with me in this anthology than in others.  (more…)

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#52 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

*

“Isn’t that the only way to curate a life? To live among things that make you gasp with Delight?” ~ Maira Kalman

A.

Ah-hA!

TheRe You Are.

Are you ready
to REAd the

Alphabet?

perhAps you should
put on youR
ThinKing
CAP
(but don’t think too much)

Pretty much everything Maira Kalman does makes me gasp with delight.

I don’t know how she does it, or why it happens, but with each new book that delight intensifies. I am convinced she must eat magical cakes or a proliferation of napoleons prepared by exceedingly handsome mustachioed pastry chefs, or as in the case of this particular picture book, artfully burnt toast and ginger tea (steeped in whimsy).

In Ah-hA to Zig-Zag, her new alphabet book written especially for kids and the forever young at heart, the letter A stands for CAP, F for a hat From France that is “fluffy and frothy and fantastic and funny,” and Q for “quite the toaster.”

Though the book cleverly spotlights “31 Funny Excellent Beautiful Surprising Helpful Amazing Objects” from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in NYC (to celebrate its re-opening in December 2014), only three objects actually begin with their corresponding letters — Pocket, Umbrella, and Zig-Zag (Chair). 

But that’s just what makes this book so totally Maira. Instead of the conventional, “A is for Apple” format, this alphabet à la Maira is an idiosyncratic commentary, an affectionate conversation with YOU where she free associates with her chosen objects in funny, unexpected, and surprisingly profound ways. We get a good dose of those 26 beautiful letters alright, along with a fascinating design history primer spanning centuries.

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You know the old saying, “Good things come in small packages?”

Check out The Little Big Cookbook for Moms (Welcome Books, 2012)! This chunky, 6-1/2″x 6-1/2″ charmer is chock full of good ideas for busy young moms wishing to make delicious, healthy meals for their kids with the least amount of fuss. In addition to 250 nutritious recipes (Breakfast, Soups and Sandwiches, Snacks and Small Bites, Dinners, Veggies and Sides, Desserts), there’s oodles of practical advice and dozens of cool vintage illustrations, making this a perfect baby shower or new mom gift.

The 20+ page introduction sets the stage for the delectable cooking adventures to come. There’s advice about general nutrition, choosing whole and organic foods, stocking the pantry, food safety and storage, herbs and spices, making homemade baby food, food allergies, and the Top 10 Ways to Get Your Child to Eat Better. 

The authors have included their own family favorites as well as kid-friendly classics (Broiled Salmon, Chicken with Garlic and Shallots, Vegetable Lasagna, Sloppy Joes, Southwestern Chicken Tacos, Macaroni and Cheese, Chicken Fingers). As busy moms themselves, they appreciate one-pot meals and the accommodating slow cooker, and like to think in terms of making ahead and freezing on the weekends, as well as creatively using up leftovers. They know that a well-stocked pantry is a godsend for those days when they need to get something quick and nutritious on the table without giving it a second thought.

I was happy to see a lot of veggie recipes and an emphasis on trying to expose kids to a wider variety of foods. If they are given the opportunity to taste things like baba ganoush, vegetarian brown rice sushi, shrimp curry, quinoa with fennel and pine nuts, or Chinese greens with oyster sauce, they will grow up to become more adventurous eaters — even moreso if when old enough they are encouraged to help Mom in the kitchen.

(more…)

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Fancy a plate of ants and worms, a bowl of lilac nectar, or some crabs and shrimp?

Maybe a bowl of chili or a BLT on whole wheat is more to your liking. :)

Whatever your pleasure, just come right in and take a seat! No reservations required. A good appetite, healthy curiosity and sense of humor are all you need to enjoy If an Armadillo Went to a Restaurant, a delectably charming picture book by Ellen Fischer and Laura Wood (Scarletta Kids, 2014).

I must confess this book had me at the cover. I was instantly intrigued by all the possible scenarios suggested by the title, and how often does one see a lovable armadillo noshing on a plate of spaghetti and meatballs?  I could already tell this would probably be one funny feast.

(more…)

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Ohayoo gozaimasu! Good Morning!

Please help yourself to a nice warm cup of Genmaicha (green tea with brown rice) and a piece of chi chi dango mochi. I remember many a time when my mother made a pot of Genmaicha after a good meal — a soothing way to cleanse the palate and set the stage for some lively ‘talk story.’

A couple of weeks ago, I searched Lee and Low’s website for books I hadn’t yet read and found the perfect picture book to share for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Cool Melons — Turn to Frogs!: The Life and Poems of Issa by Matthew Gollub and Kazuko G. Stone was first published in 1998, so many of you are probably already familiar with it. How did I miss it? I’m so glad I finally read it, as now it’s one of my favorite haiku picture books ever.

Issa wrote this haiku when he was just six years old.

I love how every aspect of this book embodies the essence of haiku — its complex simplicity, beauty, elegance, and ability to open the eyes, refresh the mind, and inspire contemplation.

(more…)

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