Posted in book reviews (all genres), picture books, tagged children's books, concord, cooks, food, historical fiction, illustration, judith byron schachner, picture books, ralph waldo emerson, transcendentalism on July 1, 2014 |
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“Your work should be in praise of what you love.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
The best cooks know that sometimes it’s those intangible ingredients that can make or break a recipe.
A certain slant of light, a sprinkling of happy anticipation, a generous cup of love. Two people can prepare the same dish with notably different results. That’s because cooking is a transformative process — part magic, part spiritual, part meditative. Every cook brings his or her own je ne sais quoi to the table.
In Mr. Emerson’s Cook by Judith Byron Schachner (Dutton, 1998), we see what happens when Irish cook Annie Burns finally discovers what special ingredient she must use to help employer Ralph Waldo Emerson regain his appetite.
Emerson lived at “Bush House” from 1835-1880. Here, he raised his family, wrote his most important works, and entertained leading transcendentalists like Thoreau, the Alcotts, and Elizabeth Peabody.
Fact and fiction are interwoven in this beautifully written gem of a story, which takes place at Emerson’s home in Concord, Massachusetts, where he lived with his second wife Lidian and their three children.
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Posted in book reviews (all genres), picture books, poetry friday, tagged book reviews, children's poetry, food poems, gardening, illustration, lena anderson, mary q. steele, poetry, summer, vegetables on June 27, 2014 |
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Mr. Cornelius Cucumber
While looking for more children’s books illustrated by Lena Anderson, I was happy to discover Anna’s Garden Songs – a whimsical, light-hearted collection of 14 fruit and veggie poems written by Mary Q. Steele.
Garden favorites like peas, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, beets and onions take their place in the sun with playful rhyming verse and Lena’s fanciful pictures. I may as well confess right now that I’ve always had a thing for giant vegetables, so when I saw how Lena fiddled with scale in this book I squealed with delight. :)
Blond, mostly barefoot, bespectacled Anna is just adorable as she plants, harvests and shares the garden’s bounty with her friends, grandfather, and large pet rabbit, who happily scampers through the pages and almost steals the show (he’s especially good at nibbling and napping).
From the moment I opened the book and saw Anna hiding in that big pea pod, I knew I was in for a real treat. I can’t decide which I like most — Anna sitting atop a giant beet, relaxing amongst the tomato plants, or wearing a dress made from lettuce leaves.
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Posted in book reviews (all genres), more dessert recipes, picture books, tagged alexis soyer, ann arnold, biography, book reviews, chefs, culinary history, food, food history, illustration, picture book biographies, recipes, rice pudding on June 24, 2014 |
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If 19th century French chef Alexis Soyer were alive today, he’d likely have his own cooking show. His name brand sauces, cookbooks and kitchen utensils would fill store shelves, velvet berets would be all the rage, and lines of fans would snake around the block at all his public appearances.
Though he was deliciously famous during Victorian times and has been called the first celebrity chef, today Soyer is curiously the man history forgot.
I’ve been fascinated by his life and work ever since reading Ann Arnold’s beautifully written and illustrated picture book biography. You may know Ann as the illustrator of Alice Waters’s now classic Fanny at Chez Panisse, which is ‘the book’ that got me hooked on illustrated cookbooks.
In The Adventurous Chef: Alexis Soyer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002), Ann outlines Soyer’s life from his humble beginnings in the tiny French town of Meaux-en-Brie (1809), till his death from Crimean fever in London at the age of 48. He was quite a colorful and flamboyant character who enjoyed amusing people — not only a celebrated chef with a social conscience, but also an inventor, entrepreneur, and prolific cookbook author.
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