What, you’re back again?
I was sure visiting all those restaurants last time would have kept you satisfied for at least two days, what with dinosaurs, a wild menagerie of zoo animals, Chinese take-out, greasy bugs, sprinkly seaweed and a mountain of cherry pies.
*looks at you and recognizes lean, hungry look*
Well, I can’t really blame you, because we seem to have the same habit: we like to eat every day. No problemo. I’m happy to take you on another restaurant tour. Hope you’re in the mood for more Chinese, some burgers, wild tigers, a troublesome bee, and a stampede of oinkers. Oh, and you have to mind your table manners.
Come and get it while the food is hot!
DIM SUM FOR EVERYONE by Grace Lin (Knopf, 2001). It’s impossible to resist the inherent charm of “many little dishes” on carts and tables brimming with such delicious treats as egg tarts, turnip cakes, fried shrimp and steamed dumplings. Enter a busy Chinese restaurant and sit down with this family of five as they choose their favorites and eat their fill. Little ones will get a good sense of the bustling atmosphere and lively talk that defines this beloved tradition. An author’s note provides a little history and describes several interesting yum cha (tea drinking) and dim sum customs. The endpapers alone are worth the price of admission ☺!
FRIDAY NIGHT AT HODGES’ CAFE by Tim Egan (Houghton Mifflin, 1995). It’s Friday night and all the regulars are gathered at Hodges’ Cafe, a cozy spot known for its delicious desserts and one crazy duck. Despite the “No Tigers Please” sign on the door, three menacing tigers saunter in, dressed in expensive-looking clothes and talking with fancy words. They set the customers a-tremble, but the duck stands up to them. Until. The biggest tiger wants “Sautéed Duck in an orange glaze.” A wild chase ensues, with friends tossing cheesecakes and rhubarb pies. The tiger catches the duck. Who will save him? Expect understated humor, a tense moment or two, and a duck diving into a large raspberry tart. Food to tame the savage beast. Chocolate soufflé, anyone?
HAMBURGER HEAVEN by Wong Herbert Yee (Houghton Mifflin, 1999). Sometimes you just crave a good burger. But not just any burger. Certainly not the same old cheesburgers they’ve been serving at Hamburger Heaven. No wonder fewer customers have been coming. Pinky Pig can’t afford to lose her job (she wants to buy a new clarinet), so she comes up with a new menu to keep the restaurant open. Take a seat and enjoy Pinky’s highly original toppings. Bet you’ve never had a burger topped with fried worms and slugs, or crawling with beetles. Lively rhyming couplets make for a good read-aloud and a customized meal.
WHEN THE PIGS TOOK OVER by Arthur Dorros, pictures by Diane Greenseid (Dutton, 2002). Sí! This riotous tale of two brothers will have you jumping out of your seat and cheering. Alonzo is the little brother: he plays the violin and is sensible about most things. His older brother, Don Carlos, who owns the only restaurant in town, is always wanting more more more of everything. Yes, he is crazy that way. One day he reads about a fancy French restaurant serving snails, and decides he wants to serve them in his restaurant. So the brothers gather all the snails in the village — pails and baskets and wheelbarrows full of them.
Right. The snails run amok, eating everything in sight. The panic-stricken villagers attract birds to eat the snails (Hitchcock would be proud). Yes, well, the birds do a good job of eating the snails, but they’re everywhere, flapping and flutterin’ and droppin’ stuff on people’s heads. Can’t have that — what they need now are pigs! Surely they’ll chase the birds away. Uh-huh. The oinker invasion is catastrophic! GARUMPF, ERRR, ERRR, ERRR! How do they deal with the pigs and restore peace to the village? Leave it to little Alonzo. More is not always a good thing, but it can be when it comes to música. Greenseid brilliantly captures all the madness and mayhem with her bright, eye-popping palette of fuschia, magenta, peacock blue, purple and neon orange. A sprinkling of Spanish and onomatopoeia makes for a great multi-sensory, multi-flavored meal. Magnífico!
FROGGY EATS OUT by Jonathan London, pictures by Frank Remkiewicz (Viking, 2001). “Be neat, be quiet, and don’t put your feet on the table.” Froggy tries really hard to remember his mother’s words, but a few little “mishaps” occur at a fancy restaurant. He doesn’t mean to knock over that glass of water or flip that spoon into the waiter’s head. But fidgeting and squirming and hopping and singing are things he just can’t help doing. Uh-oh. Is that pretty Frogilina? Wait till you see what a very embarrassed Froggy does when he sees her. Don’t copy Froggy. But you can, if you want to! ☺
UNCLE PHIL’S DINER by Helena Clare Pittman (Carolrhoda Books, 1998). For those who enjoy family-centric, heartwarming meals, try tagging along with Ruthie and Papa as they hike ten blocks on a Sunday morning to have breakfast at Uncle Phil’s Diner. Despite an icy wind and newfallen snow, Ruthie and Papa are able to keep warm with their anticipation of Uncle Phil’s blueberry pancakes and recalling some of the fun things they did during the summer. “Remember how hot it was the day we put up the blueberries with Aunt Ida?” With thoughts of buns and muffins, cookies and bread, rugelach, apple strudel, turnovers and muffins, days at the beach, and lying under the stars on warm summer nights, father and daughter bond, share special memories and brave the elements in order to observe their Sunday ritual. The illos are presented as a photo album and a recipe for Uncle Phil’s Blueberry Pancakes is included. Yum!
TWO EGGS, PLEASE by Sarah Weeks and Betsy Lewin (Atheneum, 2003). How do you like your eggs? Sidle up to the counter and place your order with the foxy waitress. Chances are good that if you frequent this diner, you’ll be joined by a rhino who prefers his sunny-side up, a bass-playing mouse (over easy), a pelican (scrambled), two doggy police officers (soft-boiled and hard-boiled), a mama gorilla (on a roll if you please), a ram (fried, side of bacon, hash browns, corn muffin, sausage, OJ, lightly toasted sesame-seed bagel with cream cheese), and a crocodile and snake (poached, and raw). Whew! You’ll all look at each other, as different as can be, with eggs fixed in various ways, and realize, eggs are eggs. The vibrant, cartoony illos and speech balloons convey the message about similarities and differences in a totally eggs-ellant way. A real crack up!
IN ENZO’S SPLENDID GARDENS by Patricia Polacco (Philomel, 1997). Time to dine al fresco and join all the fun as one thing leads to another and another. This cumulative romp begins when a boy drops a book to watch a bee, and a waiter trips over the book. And then — a matron dressed in pink, ladies foo-foo and shee-shee, a man falling on a dessert cart, a chef jostling a pot, and Enzo chasing his cat are all inadvertently pulled into a riotious chain of events. Each page turn features something more outrageous than the one before as the diners are amazed, amused, and aghast at what’s happening. A tribute to the author’s husband, Enzo, who makes the best spaghetti in Oakland, California, this uproarious, rollicking feast serves up a huge helping of suspense, giggles, flying food, and characters throwing up their hands in surprise with mouths making big Os. Wear waterproof gear when you read this one to avoid getting splashed with pasta sauce.
Copyright © 2009 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.