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“Life is too short to miss out on the beautiful things like a double cheeseburger.”

 

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Imagine a sumptuous Chinese banquet with thirteen enchanting fairy tales on the menu — centuries-old stories of gods, ghosts, noblemen, monks, peasants, farmers, and merchants all motivated by some aspect of food — having or not having it, growing, cooking, relishing, transforming it.

Each tale is served alongside a tempting recipe and lovingly flavored with gorgeous folkloric illustrations (a visual feast in itself), making this literary banquet something to savor with family and friends across generations time and again.

Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook (Crocodile Books, 2014), is a delightful trifecta of tales by master storyteller and award-winning Canadian author Paul Yee, mouthwatering recipes by Judy Chan, and charming illustrations by Shaoli Wang. While this book is perfect for celebrating the Lunar New Year this week, it’s equally satisfying any time you wish to nourish the mind, heart, body, and spirit.

This is the third in the literary cookbook series following Fairy Tale Feasts (2009) and Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts (2013) by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, books that have my name written all over them, as they explore and illuminate the fascinating connections between stories and food. As Jane Yolen says in her Foreword for Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts, the ability to make things up, to tell stories, distinguishes us from other animals:

And the connection between food and stories is profound and clear. Both are infinitely changeable, suiting the needs of the maker and the consumer.

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Today serving Mrs. Patmore’s Pudding Tea

Mr. Cornelius, a diehard Downton Abbey fan, was beside himself the other day when four members of the Crawley Clawley family accepted his invitation to tea.

He’d been going on and on about how much he’s enjoying Season 5 because it’s mainly about love, romance and secrets. He likes the warm and comfortable relationship between Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, is happy Isobel is hooking up with Lord Merton (nice digs!), is relieved Tom Branson said goodbye to annoying Miss Bunting, loves that handsome Atticus is eyeing up Rose, and is tickled pink about Dowager Countess Violet’s secret past with Russian Prince Thing-a-ma-jig. :)

While Lady Mary’s hotel assignation with Lord Gillingham had Cornelius tsk-tsking for a few days (scandalous! loose woman! how risqué!), he gradually came around and revealed his own secret: he’s had a crush on Lady Mary since Season 1 (boy can she rock a pair of opera gloves).

He’s not intimidated in the least by either Tony Gillingham or Charles Blake. They can jostle all they want for Mary’s affections. Cornelius will charm her with his secret weapon.

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“I don’t give up. I’m a plodder. People come and go, but I stay the course.”

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While looking for handmade Christmas ornaments last Fall, I happily discovered Puffin Patchwork on Etsy and instantly fell in love.

Fifi the Poodle

Who could resist the beautifully crafted felt owls, kitties, Airedales and poodles (all with charming names)? Or the quaint little houses and layered hearts? I could tell by the meticulous attention to detail — the lovely embroidery and appliqué work — that everything was made with a lot of love and pride. I like Sylvia’s color sense and how she incorporates vintage fabric scraps and buttons in her pieces. And I like her endearingly neat stitches that give each item a distinctive handmade look.

In addition to felt ornaments, Sylvia makes wonderful wallhangings, coin purses and phone cases. She does all the designing, cutting, sewing, and decorating in her seaside home in South-west Ireland, and draws inspiration from the dramatic landscapes and colorful fishing towns. Sounds like an idyllic setting for an artist, don’t you think?

I’m so pleased to welcome Sylvia (a fellow Beatrix Potter fan!) to Alphabet Soup today. She’s been making and selling handmade for 30 years, and I know you’ll like hearing more about her inspirations and process. Thanks for visiting, Sylvia! :)

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