kate coombs brings a hot dish

#19 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2011.

Hola! ¿Qué pasa?

The lovely and brilliant Kate Coombs, Ms. Book Aunt herself, is here to spice things up! I just learned she speaks fluent Spanish and comes from a very cool multiethnic family — a blend of Caucasian, Korean, Filipino, and Samoan. I’d call that a pretty tasty mix, wouldn’t you? Think about it: pancakes for breakfast, japchae and kimchi for lunch, pancit for dinner. Yum!

Today, Kate’s sharing three poems inspired by her teaching experiences in a primarily Latino district near downtown Los Angeles. They are from an unpublished bilingual collection called Street of Songs, and will whet your appetite for pupusas and tamales. Hot stuff!

Pico-Union street scene

Kate: Street of Songs/Calle de Canciones is a group of poems about the life of a third grader named Lily Quiñonez who lives in L.A.’s Pico-Union neighborhood. My inspiration was teaching elementary school for five years in that part of L.A. — actually Koreatown, but the local population, not the working population, is predominantly Latino.

Then I became a teacher for the school district’s home/hospital program. I was invited to the children’s homes for birthday parties while at the grade school, and I’ve spent a lot of time since in Latino homes as a teacher of seriously ill students — cancer and post-surgery patients, among others. I’ve met so many terrific kids, and mischievous kids, you name it. I wanted other people to meet them, too! So I began writing about them, and I ended up with the Lily poems.

via Andrea

by Kate Coombs

Corn grows along the fence
of my godmother’s house,
a row of green Aztec feathers.

Inside each ear,
yellow pyramids yearn
to step up to the sun.

© 2011 Kate Coombs. All rights reserved.


via mattmadden123

by Kate Coombs

Have you ever bitten
into a chili like a dragon’s smile
and breathed out a red sun?

© 2011 Kate Coombs. All rights reserved.


via Andy Hagedon

Ay caramba! My mouth’s on fire. Good thing Kate brought a poem to cool things down. Ahhhhhhh!

via Matushka Elizabeth

by Kate Coombs

I chase the little cart breathless
with my three quarters and choose
a hidden treasure from its cold heart.

Now the mango ice slides
down the stick like rain
down the stem of an orange flower

as I try to eat my paleta lick by lick
before the sun can swallow it.

© 2011 Kate Coombs. All rights reserved.


Paleteria in Northeast L.A.

I’m quite jealous as I’ve never had a paleta before. And I love mango! Lucky Lily. The collection sounds wonderful and I hope to see it in print sometime soon. But now, tengo hambre (I’m hungry)!

Kate: I will admit I’m usually writing or teaching rather than cooking, but this is one of my sure-fire recipes. I got it from a friend of the family. It is astonishingly tasty and, better yet, extremely easy to make.




1 (15 or 16-oz.) can of chili; I use Stagg’s Turkey Ranchero
1 (8 oz.) package of cream cheese


Put the chili in a microwave-safe dish and plop the cream cheese on top. Heat till the cream cheese melts about halfway and stir mixture; then heat another 30-60 seconds (depending on your microwave). Stir to blend well. The dip should have a creamy consistency and be pale orange in color. Let cool for five minutes.

Serve with tortilla chips — blue corn if you want to get fancy.

Note: Try to avoid eating the whole thing yourself!

Well, I couldn’t resist trying this dip and served it on Easter. The unanimous reaction: Es la bomba! Kate was absolutely right. Really tasty, lipsmackingly delish, and very addictive. I imagine depending on the brand or hotness of the chili you use, flavors could vary quite a bit. Only one thing to do — try lotsa different chilis till you find the one that titillates your tortilla chips. ☺

Author, poet, teacher and Curriculum Specialist Kate Coombs writes for children and teens, and has published an original folktale, The Secret-Keeper (Atheneum, 2006), and two middle grade comic fantasies, The Runaway Princess (2006) and The Runaway Dragon (2009), both released by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Honors include ALA Notable Book and Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year for The Runaway Princess, and Junior Library Guild Selection and Parents’ Choice Recommended Book for The Secret-Keeper.

Kate has been writing poems, plays and stories since childhood, and began writing fairy tales right after college. Her most recent publication is a short story, “Impossible Quests,” in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress XXV. She has three more books in the pipeline: a retelling of the Grimms’ folktale, Hans My Hedgehog (Atheneum, 2012), a book of ocean poems, The Water Sings Blue (Chronicle, 2012), and another picture book from Atheneum called The Tooth Fairy Wars (pub date TBD). Kate is currently revising her first YA paranormal, and is planning a third Runaway book. You can find Kate online at her official website, book review blog, Book Aunt, and at Miss Rumphius’s Monday Poetry Stretches. She’s also a regular Poetry Friday participant and has been known, on select occasions, to flicker her nostrils with abandon (well, she does cavort with dragons). Correction to blog title: Kate Coombs IS a hot dish!




Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.


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