[lipsmacking review] Delicious!: Poems Celebrating Street Food Around the World by Julie Larios and Julie Paschkis

What’s your pleasure? Polishing off piroshki in Saint Petersburg, sipping a quick cup of saffron tea at a Mumbai train station, or nibbling on crunchy deep-fried scorpions in Beijing?

In Delicious!: Poems Celebrating Street Food Around the World (Beach Lane Books, 2021), my two favorite Julies — Julie Larios and Julie Paschkis — tempt readers with sweet and savory treats sure to rouse appetites and stir wanderlust.

There’s always something special about grabbing a quick bite al fresco, whether you’re wandering a city street or byway, browsing a busy outdoor market, or sitting in a stadium cheering on your favorite team. Few can resist the tantalizing aromas emanating from a well appointed food truck and ordering something cooked right on the spot by a friendly vendor. 

The fourteen short, 4-6 line poems feature an appealingly diverse mix of familiar as well as exotic eats. Our culinary journey begins right here in the USA, with a nod to the immigrants whose various foods, cultures and traditions have informed our palate and enriched American society. 

CARTS IN THE PARK
New York, New York, USA

Syrian shawarma wrapped in a pita?
Biryani? Pork carnitas?
Maybe I’ll get a hot falafel.
Schnitzel? Pretzel? Sesame noodles?
Cajun? Lebanese? Cuban? Thai?
So many choices! What should I try?

Julie L. serves up a savory mouthful with delectable words — food names are fun to read aloud and a nice reminder that while it may be wonderful to visit faraway places, we can enjoy so many mouthwatering vittles without ever leaving the country.

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nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Happy May! April showers bring May flowers, so here’s a pretty bouquet just for you, compliments of UK artist Louise Pigott. 🙂

Can’t think of a better way to celebrate the new month than with Louise’s cheery, colorful pictures. 

Louise lives in Cambridge and has been working as a freelance illustrator for about a decade. She’s done children’s books and has created art for the greeting card and stationery industries.

She’s inspired by nature, animals and all things magical, and likes countryside walks, making crystal jewelry, meditating and playing guitar. She also practices astrology and reads Tarot cards.

Also cool: she’s a “self-controlled” chocoholic with “occasional, willing relapses.” My kind of girl! You can’t help but feel happy when looking at her art. 

For more info and to purchase prints, check out her Official Website and Etsy Shop.

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2. New Book Alert!! Officially out today: Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle by Cathy Ballou Mealey and Kelly Collier (Kids Can Press, 2021):

A speedy squirrel and a sleepy sloth try to get the job done in this funny, heartwarming tale of two lovable, but unlikely, friends. Though Sloth and Squirrel are good friends, they have different ways of doing things — and different speeds of doing them.

So, when Squirrel gets them jobs as pickle packers to earn money for a new bike, things don’t go according to plan. It seems that the contrasting skill sets of a fast-as-lightning squirrel and a slow-as-molasses sloth can make for a mess of an outcome, and before long, the friends are shown the pickle factory’s door, along with the 677 1/2 jars of pickles they packed incorrectly! Now the pair are bicycle-less, with only pickles to show for themselves. Or so they think — until the resourceful pair come up with an ingenious plan!

This delightful story from Cathy Ballou Mealey is a celebration of friendships of all kinds and a testament to ingenuity and hard work. Packed with funny details that aren’t in the text, Kelly Collier’s engaging illustrations are full of personality and silly, emotionally expressive humor. Together they create a hilarious picture book that’s perfect for a fun and lively read-aloud. At the same time, the positive themes in the book highlight a growth mindset and character education lessons on teamwork, perseverance and initiative.

I’ve read the PDF of this one and it’s rollicking good fun. 677 1/2 jars of pickles ain’t nothing to sneeze at! Have I mentioned that I have a thing for sloths? Just like Sloth in this story, I am s-l-o-w (but still adorable). Love the alliteration in the plucky text and the fun illustrations. Only one pickly problem: My mouth keeps watering and my lips won’t stop puckering. But I love this book. Whether you go fast or slow, score your own copy pronto. Just curious: dill, sweet, or bread-and-butter for you?

Congratulations, Cathy and Kelly!!

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Three Poems from Nikki Giovanni’s Make Me Rain

It’s always a good day when poet, activist, and professor Nikki Giovanni showers us with the power and wisdom of her words.

I love her latest book, Make Me Rain: Poems and Prose (William Morrow, 2020), which is by turns celebratory, conversational, tender, soul nourishing, and ablaze with fierce conviction. Her heart and refreshing honesty are on display whether the subject is deeply personal or politically controversial. She begins with this lyrical restorative gem:

MAKE ME RAIN

make me rain
turn me into a snowflake

let me rest
on your tongue

make me a piece of ice
so I can cool you

let me be the cloud
that embraces you

or the quilt
that gets you dry

snuggle close
listen to me sing

on the windowsill

make me rain
on you

What a beautiful way to invite us into this collection! As a poet and person, she is wholeheartedly in service of language and its critical role in the healing and nurturing of humanity. Water, which sustains every living thing, is a recurring theme in the book.

The book’s cover is an homage to Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album, recently ranked #1 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

There are other joyous and life affirming poems about family, friends, mentors, and dreams to soothe the spirit. She often uses the quilt metaphor not only as a symbol of comfort and safety, but as a way of stitching together precious memories and illuminating the uncommon strength that comes from unifying diverse elements.

“Pictorial Quilt” by Harriet Powers (1898)
(From Nikki's poem, “Quilts”):

Some folk think
a quilt is leftover
clothes
but we know
it is made up
of loved pieces
we have saved
then sewn
together . . . 

America is a quilt
made up of different
folk
we came together to build
something warm
and good

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possessed by jaye schlesinger’s paintings

Go ahead, take a bite. You know you want to.

As soon as I spotted this sandwich created by Michigan artist Jaye Schlesinger I was a goner.

Those of you who nosh here regularly know I have a penchant for photorealistic paintings. Especially of food. It’s a good calorie-free, guilt-free way to indulge (my eyes are always happy to do the chewing). 🙂

What’s interesting about Jaye’s formal training is that she holds MFA’s in both Painting and Medical Illustration (both from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor). When I read that she worked as a medical illustrator for fifteen years, producing art for textbooks and journal articles, I thought, aha! — that accounts for her precision.

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a sampler of poems from Marrow of Summer by Andrea Potos

Imagine spending a stimulating Saturday evening visiting Gertrude Stein’s famous Paris salon at 27 rue de Fleurus. You’d wile away the hours hobnobbing with the likes of Picasso, Hemingway, Matisse, Fitzgerald, and other artistes et écrivains d’avant-garde célèbre.

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas with Matisse, Hemingway, and Picasso (Brett Kaufman/bkbiography)

Alice B. Toklas might serve her famous Mushroom Sandwiches with Clear Turtle Soup, a lovely Violet Soufflé, and A Fine Fat Pullet, followed by a Tender Tart or even Custard Josephine Baker (what, you were hoping for Haschich Fudge?). 🙂

Wisconsin poet Andrea Potos revels in a similar scenario with her whimsical poem, “Imagining Heaven,” just one of the many finely crafted gems from her latest poetry collection, Marrow of Summer (Kelsay Books, 2021).

In some ways a companion to Mothershell (Kelsay Books, 2019), where Andrea lovingly distills fond memories of her mother Penny, Marrow of Summer is written “For all the beloveds, gone on,” honoring not only Penny, but her grandmother, father, and lost friends.

With intuitive insight, Andrea captures small revelatory moments, where gratitude, joy and hope eclipse the weight of loss and longing. It could be the whirring of hummingbird’s wings, the somber sound of the cello, or the startling flame of cardinal feathers: she is always fully present to wonder and willing to embrace the miraculous. 

John Keats portrait by Joseph Severn (1821-23)

A fascinating aspect of Andrea’s work is how she cultivates a romantic, ever blossoming interior landscape — fertile ground where art, music, history, travel, and literature happily commingle to inform her poetic process. Her affinity for John Keats, the Brontës, Emily Dickinson and Renoir makes it easy to picture her thriving in a century gone by.

19th century colorized engraving of Charlotte Brontë by William Jackman

I thought it would be fun to share several poems from Marrow of Summer that speak to her writing and the beloved creatives who inspire her. I thank Andrea for sharing a little backstory for each poem along with personal photos. I must admit, her idea of heaven is pretty close to mine. 🙂

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