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Archive for the ‘weekend cooking’ Category

Not too long ago, I was innocently browsing online when a jar of Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves spoke to me:

Don’t you love my beautiful lines and shading? Look at my luscious rosy watercolors, my checkered lid. Do I not stand out from the hundreds of food illustrations you see every day?

The jam was spreading it on thick, but it had a good point. There was something pure and serene about its singular beauty. Detailed and realistic, it had that charming handmade quality I always fall for.

“Bonne Maman” is by Boston-based artist, illustrator and graphic designer Kendyll Hillegas, whose work “focuses on capturing the emotional and narrative significance of food and everyday objects.” Using a combination of colored pencil, gouache, and ink, she creates a delectable world of ooey gooey cakes, cheery popsicles, tempting doughnuts, cupcakes, and reach-out-and-bite-me muffins, breads, and bagels.

She invites us to appreciate anew the pleasing design of a bottle of San Pellegrino or Heinz Ketchup, the rumpled comfort of a bag of King Arthur Unbleached Flour. A bowl of soup, a stack of pancakes, a double scoop ice cream cone — we all have emotional connections to these familiar foods and like to hear and share good stories about them.

 

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Since moving to Virginia, I’ve become quite the Presidential buff. It’s easy to do since eight Presidents were born here, and I bump into fascinating history wherever I turn.

That’s why I get excited whenever a new children’s book comes out profiling a single President, or, as in the case of Marilyn Singer’s fabulous new poetry collection, all 43 of them.

In Rutherford B., Who Was He?, Marilyn introduces our fearless leaders in chronological order via succinct, thought-provoking poems, blending critical facts, historical references and fascinating human interest tidbits.

All but eight (grouped together for spirited discourse) are featured in single poems. With just a few masterful strokes, she highlights the subject’s claim to fame and illuminates character and personality, so we can better understand the why’s and wherefore’s. She does not shy away from foibles, failings, controversy or scandal, and I love the sense of continuity from one administration to the next, giving us a broad sweep of Presidential history from Washington to Obama.

Paired with John Hendrix’s witty, exuberant caricatures and crackerjack hand-drawn typography, these verses pulse with verve and vigor — a showcase of poetic forms (a Nixon reverso!) with clever, innovative rhymes that truly bring our Presidents to life.

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“Earth is crammed with heaven.” ~ Emily Dickinson

Please help yourself to Emily’s rice cakes and a cup of green tea.

Hello Spring, is that really you? :)

Today we’re greeting the somewhat reluctant, much-awaited season of renewal, rebirth, and regrowth with a little help from esteemed poet Emily Dickinson.

I’m sure you know she was fond of sending friends and acquaintances fragrant bouquets with notes or verses tucked in them, sometimes with a gift of food.

What could be sweeter than homemade gingerbread or coconut cake, nasturtiums and peonies from her garden, and a heartfelt verse she’d penned just for you?

From the New York Botanical Gardens Emily Dickinson Exhibit (2010)

Though she may have eschewed personal contact with people outside the family, Emily was able to sustain longstanding friendships and express romantic inclinations on her own terms. She cultivated and excelled in all three of these pursuits — gardening, baking, writing — as a normal course of each day, all of them requiring practiced skill, time and devotion.

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“I have to be seen to be believed.” ~ Queen Elizabeth II

Roll out the red carpet and practice your curtsies. Polish your tiara if you like.

A very special guest is joining us for tea today!

Mr. Cornelius has been a fan of Her Majesty the Queen for a long time. He likes that she loves animals and chocolate, lives in several beautiful royal residences, always wears the best hats, and has reigned for an amazing 60 years!

A tea party lover from the start: Princess Elizabeth with her parents Queen Elizabeth and King George VI.

Needless to say, he was beside himself when she accepted our invitation. We spiffed up the dining room, stocked up on Earl Grey and Darjeeling (reputedly her favorite), and made finger sandwiches and cake.

She’s so photogenic!

We were a little nervous but she immediately put us at ease. Imagine our great surprise when she brought Charles, Camilla, William, Kate and Harry with her! They were such a jolly group and didn’t seem to mind dipping in hot water. :)

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“Surely a pretty woman never looks prettier than when making tea.” ~ Mary Elizabeth Braden (Lady Audley’s Secret)

“Tea” (George Dunlop Leslie, 1894)

I’ve been having fun looking at late 19th and early 20th century paintings depicting people drinking or serving tea. Most of the subjects are beautifully decked-out, in-the-garden or fancy-sitting-room women who seem to have all the time in the world.

I love imagining their intimate conversations — secrets shared, pride in their children, juicy gossip. I also like the women taking tea alone in quiet contemplation, and covet the lovely tea sets and table settings.

“The Tea Set” (Claude Monet, 1872)

I had to look harder for male subjects, since when it comes to tea drinking in fine art, women reign supreme. What would the great artists of the world do without us to sit for them? It’s not easy lounging about and looking gorgeous all the time. :)

Hope you enjoy these different settings, social and cultural contexts, and thinking about how the ritual of sharing tea fosters a special brand of intimacy. It’s always fascinating to try to read different personalities via facial expressions and posturing. Since there are so many good tea paintings out there, it was hard to pick just 40. Each of these tells a wonderful story.

“At the Tea Table” (Konstantin Korovin, 1888)

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