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Archive for the ‘weekend cooking’ Category

These days, I’m all about Laura Ingalls Wilder.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been enjoying Pamela Smith Hill’s online course, which compares Wilder’s Little House books with her soon-to-be published autobiography Pioneer Girl, and I must say all that talk of traveling to and from Walnut Grove in a covered wagon has made me hungry for some down home country food.

That’s why I was especially happy to see Melissa Gilbert’s recently released My Prairie Cookbook: Memories and Frontier Food from My Little House to Yours (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2014). I’m a longtime fan of the “Little House on the Prairie” TV series and always picture Melissa whenever Laura’s name is mentioned. Can you believe it’s been exactly 40 years since the series first aired on NBC?

My Prairie Cookbook is a must-have for Little House fans. In this scrapbook-cookbook, Melissa shares nearly 80 recipes and lots of wonderful behind-the-scenes photos, memorabilia, and personal recollections. She answers frequently asked questions from fans, lists her top ten favorite LH episodes, comments on LH bloopers and goofs, and writes so lovingly about Michael Landon, whom she considered to be her second “Pa” ( her own father died when she was just 11).

For those of us who’ve watched the series for many years, that image of a freckle-faced, somewhat fearless minx in pigtails and calico is so firmly entrenched in our minds that we might not realize that in real life Melissa raised four boys and liked nothing better than cooking lots of soul-nourishing comfort food for her family and friends.

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Ciao a tutti! Hello Everyone!

Today we’re happy to be celebrating the official release of Spaghetti Smiles by Margo Sorenson and David Harrington (Pelican Publishing Co., 2014).

This playful, lip-smacking story has been cooked up with just the right ingredients: a book lovin’ boy, a crazy-fun uncle, lots of savory, tomato-y, kiss-your-fingertips Italian food, the joys of reading with family, and the importance of a close-knit community.

But more about the book in a minute.

First, a few party accoutrements. :)

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Guess who had a birthday this week?

Yes, the 6″ tan teddy bear who frequents this blog turned 26 on Wednesday. Back in September 1988, he winked at me from a booth at the Fall Teddy Bear Show in Timonium, Maryland.

He promised to be good so I brought him home. Mr. Cornelius turned out to be an avid reader and a good baker but has quite the knack for mischief. You may have noticed that he loves to have his picture taken (he’s not happy unless he has at least one blog close-up every week). I must say he keeps me very busy answering all his fan mail. :)

Just for Poetry Friday, he selected three favorite poems from Bears∙Bears∙Bears: A Treasury of Stories, Songs and Poems About Bears compiled by Mary Pope Osborne (Parachute Press, 1990). He had fun finding just the right vintage photos to go with them.

And just to make sure you don’t go hungry, he’s whipped up a batch of Lemon-Glazed Tea Cookies from Winnie-the-Pooh’s Cookie Book. Wrap your lips around a few while you enjoy the poems. :)

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Dear Mr. Firth,

You must allow us to tell you how ardently we admire and love you.

To celebrate your 54th birthday, we’re serving up a 3-course repast here at Alphabet Soup: a brand new picture book, a spot of tea, and you.

Whether as Fitzwilliam Darcy or Mark Darcy, you truly take the cake. May we be so bold as to say you are stunning wet, dry, and everything in-between?

And boy, can you rock a cravat and waistcoat.

We remain your loyal fans, wishing you the best birthday ever.

With deep affection and hearts a-flutter,

Every female in the world with a pulse
xoxoxoxo

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♥ FIRST COURSE ♥
Goodnight Mr. Darcy by Kate Coombs and Alli Arnold

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an earnest writer and a department store sniffing artist in possession of talent and wit must be in want of a good parody.

For award winning author Kate Coombs and award-winning illustrator Alli Arnold, a send-up of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice à la beloved children’s classic Goodnight Moon was just the thing to set their bonnets a-twirl.

In the great ballroom
There was a country dance
And a well-played tune
And Elizabeth Bennet –

So begins this tidy tale of moonlight and romance, as all are gathered at the Netherfield Ball — Lydia and Kitty looking pretty, Mr. Darcy surprised by a pair of fine eyes, Jane with a blush and Mr. Bingley turned to mush, and let’s not forget a certain gossiping mother and a father saying ‘hush’.

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Those familiar with Pride and Prejudice know that the Ball is a crucial scene — where Darcy has singled out Elizabeth, and caught off-guard, she agrees to dance with him. They are allowed to engage in unchaperoned conversation (gasp!), their unguarded repartee ever-so-temptingly weakening their resolve.

In Goodnight Mr. Darcy (Gibbs Smith, 2014), Kate has retained the simple rhyming structure and lulling cadence of Brown’s Goodnight Moon, but with a brilliant tongue-against-blushing cheek makeover that outlines all the delectable aspects of the prim and proper Darcy/Lizzy conscious coupling from ‘cute meet’ at the dance to mutual mooning over each other at home to happily ever after. The Mr. Bingley and Jane pairing adds a bit of ‘mushy’ humor boys will appreciate, while the whole concept of a fancy dress ball with tipping of top hats, flitting of fans and oh-so-civilized how-de-do’s will have special appeal to girls.

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Remember when I shared Diane DeCillis’s exquisite poem, “Opera Buffa”?

I’m still sighing over “gnocchi lifted itself off the fork” and that lovely Panna Cotta — “silky, quivering cream adorned with fresh berries.” Remember silly Antonio, who wasn’t interested in ordering dessert? You simply cannot trust a man who doesn’t like sweets!

After reading “Opera Buffa,” I yearned for more of Diane’s poetry, which is why I was ecstatic when her debut collection, Strings Attached (Wayne State University Press, 2014), was released in May.

What a beautiful, lush, finely crafted feast of brilliance!

Her 60+ poems tease the intellect, warm the heart, please the ear, whet the physical and spiritual appetites, and nourish artistic sensibilities with their worldly elegance, lyricism, surprising turns-of-phrase, and evocative narratives.

I love how Diane’s passions for art, music, literature, food and family inform structure, theme, cadence, image, and metaphor. As in “Opera Buffa,” the food-related poems are infused with tantalizing sensory detail, whether she muses about her Lebanese grandmother’s stuffed grape leaves or leban (yogurt), “ethereal profiteroles filled with crème de la moo,” or terrapin soup à la Babette’s Feast.

Pop culture and high art happily co-exist in the layers of Diane’s imagination as she riffs on the likes of Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, Magritte, Duncan Hines Pineapple Cake Mix, Tab Hunter/ Sandra Dee in a fleabag motel, Chopin, Debussy, Rilke, Gertrude Stein, “Like Water for Chocolate,” “Punch Drunk Love.”

Stuffed Grape Leaves via Jean Rivot

Diane brings her own brand of self-deprecating humor to these poems (“What Would Hitchcock Do?”), but there are also poignant notes of longing for an absent father (“Finding Fathers”), the push-pull dynamics of generational clashes (“Milk”), the vagaries of love, the liberation of dreams, the richness of cultural heritage.

Today I’m happy to share one of several prose poems from Strings Attached, perhaps the “foodiest” in the collection. I love how Diane has composed this sensorial symphony of sounds, colors, flavors, aromas and textures, lovingly capturing a cherished moment in time. A masterful culinary canvas!

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