munching with maira, or, what do you want to be when you grow up?

#8 in an eclectic collection of notable noshes to whet your appetite and brighten your day.


When I was four years old we moved away from my first home, where the family gathered for lunch each Saturday singing songs around the table. We flew over the ocean to this hard gray city, and one of the first things I smelled was onions frying.          I FELL IN LOVE with the coffee shop. The squeak of the stool. The shine of the aluminum. The stainless steel. The griddle. The toaster. The steam that rises. The noise. The choice. The confidence. And presiding over the frenzy? An eight-armed octopus called the short-order cook whose name is Barney March. Half a yawn past dawn, Estelle the waitress throws out the orders loud and fast. “ADAM AND EVE ON A RAFT. WRECK ‘EM!” (Could I kindly have scrambled eggs on toast?) “WHISKEY DOWN WITH A STRETCH!” (Rye toast with a Coke, please.)            HE     GRABS     EGGS. (360 a day.) He poaches, fries, scrambles, boils soft, boils hard. He flips flapjacks. Sizzles bacon. He is the morning greeter, counter whizzer, white-apron wearer who toasts that white, rye, whole wheat, bagel, bialy. He is a hash slinger, potato masher, egg-cream whipper, onion chopper, plate stacker, burger slider. People say, “Hello, how ya doin’? Hiya. Howarya?” It’s a jazz combo. The soup slurper. The doughnut dunker. The pickle cruncher. The cash register rings. The phone rings. “CHICKEN SOUP, BOOTS!” (Chicken soup to go.) The deliveryman grabs the brown-bagged soup, dashes out past the accordion player on the corner and rings the bell of the finicky and persnickety . . .



  • To pursue a career in the growing field of donut product marketing


  • I believe I am highly suited to this career because I’m eager to taste many kinds of fillings and I’m very curious about sprinkles.


  • Harvard University summa cum laude
  • Major: Leisure Food Technology
  • Minor: Beverage Management
  • Junior Year Abroad: Bomboli Program, Florence, Italy
  • Senior Thesis: “Crullers: The Myth and Meaning”

~ from Chicken Soup, Boots by Maira Kalman (Viking, 1993)



This tasty tidbit is brought to you by a blogger who also likes chicken soup, boots, taking naps, snacking, donuts and cafés, and who took time off from balancing an egg on its end to type this post. Still trying to figure out how to grow up to be Maira.



Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

10 thoughts on “munching with maira, or, what do you want to be when you grow up?

  1. Call it serendipity, but I am reading this while eating a beautiful chocolate iced cake donut from a favorite place. I bought it this am to save for a lunch dessert, sat down to eat some good things & reward myself with the chocolate, & then I was double rewarded by Maira’s beautiful post. Love those descriptions of Barney March. How do they do it! And how beautiful are the pictures. Thank you Jama & Maira for my second dessert.


    1. Chocolate iced cake donut? Share please! I think Maira’s sending hypno donut spirals out to Colorado today. You sound like you have the best lunch desserts!!


    1. Glad you liked the excerpt. I always go to Maira when I need a lift, a bright spot, inspiration to think outside the box.


  2. Love this. And I have donuts in my house this week! I had a lemon one last night, AND I dribbled a bit of chocolate on it. Mmm.


  3. Donutssss… these donuts look perfect! Now you’ve started my donut craving :p

    Thanks for the follow!


  4. I am a Maira Kalman convert, thanks to you Jama. I should find Chicken Soup, Boots soon (alongside those delectable glazed doughnuts).


    1. Yay! You’ll probably also like Jessie Hartland’s work, which I’ll be featuring during Julia Child week. She also has a whimsical, offbeat style and uses handwritten text in her picture books.


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