Nibbling on Eric-Shabazz Larkin’s A Moose Boosh (+ a recipe!)

“Poetry is food for the soul, food is poetry for the tongue. So read a delicious poem that makes your soul feel young.” (ESL)


amuse-bouche: a small complimentary appetizer offered by the chef just before dinner.

a moose boosh: an appetizing little poem about food to be read aloud just before dinner or any time at all.

If you invite Brooklyn-based author/illustrator and creative director Eric-Shabazz Larkin to a party, chances are good he’ll bring a tasty, fresh-baked poem as a gift.

Keep your eye on him as he enters your kitchen, cause he’ll break out in some very cool dance moves. If dinner is part of your plan, Shabazz will gladly read his poem aloud — a literary amuse-bouche sure to whet the appetite and elicit instant happiness. What better way to set the table for a juicy meal to please and tease both tummy and tongue?

In A Moose Boosh: A Few Choice Words About Food (Readers to Eaters, 2014), Shabazz celebrates growing, eating, cooking, and sharing food with 40 fun, zippy, zesty, sassy, spirited mostly rhyming verses served up with playful “vandalized” photos. Some, like “Slippery Noodles,” will have you beboppin’ to its joyous rhythm as it promotes some serious slurping:

Twirl them, whirl them,
slop them, slip them,
twist them, curl them,
whip them, flip them,
sip them, slurp them,
chew them, beat them.
But you must use a fork
when you eat them.

Slurp it up, mash it up
cut it up, clap it up,
look it up, pass it up,
turn it up, flap it up,
shake it up, make it up,
smell it up, love it up.
But do not use your hands
when you eat it up.

As with all of Shabazz’s poems, a good read aloud maximizes flavor. Can’t sit still. Don’t be surprised if your totally amused mouth thanks you for the invigorating workout.

What else? Well, who can resist a poem about runaway beans on the subway, Gramma’s magic Jamaican recipes, a mango thief, a $100 apple, or a girl named Ruby Loo who drooped when she pooped? Uh-huh.

Lest you think Shabazz is only about stuff and nonsense, consider some of his daily specials like “The Saddest Happiest Meal,” “Ashley Won’t Eat It If She Can’t Spell It,” and “Lab-Coat Corn,” where he takes on fast food, additives, and GMOs.

In “Do It For Dr. King,” he’s all about eating your greens, and there are poems about city kids dreaming of having a farm or wanting to grow clay pot veggies on a tiny apartment windowsill. I’m sure I would enjoy meeting “Doctor Food,” who “never prescribes medicine,” but “always prescribes a recipe.” I’ll have another serving of that Vitamin D-rich salmon fillet, if you please. 🙂

You’re probably wondering about graffiti-loving Shabazz, who obviously had too much fun doodling on his photographs. These scribblings and drawings very much represent the child’s perspective — an extra layer of imagination, irreverence, and humor superimposed upon an urban landscape.

Do you remember being taught not to draw on the walls of your bedroom or in the pages of a library book? Well, here the reader gets to engage in a little vicarious mischief-making by seeing someone who broke the rules and turned doodling into a good thing — a simple art form that can convey opinion and commentary in just a few strokes and squiggles. Use what you have in front of you — a Sharpie and some Wite-out. Mark it up, make something new. Above all, have fun. There’s power and ownership in that, and who doesn’t love a chewy, inventive visual feast?

Shabazz’s accessible, talk-on-the-street style effectively shows kids some of the delightful and surprising possibilities of poetry. It’s a good way to start a conversation about paying attention to what you eat, learning about where your food comes from, and appreciating the stories food likes to tell about history, culture and society.

Moreover, these poetic tidbits are a great way to inspire families to sit down to dinner together (“a family that eats together speaks together”). It’s a sad fact that these days many families do not have that critical end-of-the-day breaking of bread with loved ones. Bring dinnertime back! Bring back the clatter of plates and clinking of glasses, that happy taste, talk, tell — that sipping, slurping, sharing.

Though Shabazz recommends reading these poems just before dinner for best taste, they’re great for noshing anytime. Just make sure to keep your pet cabbage on a leash, and it wouldn’t hurt to practice balancing baguettes, crumpets and chapati on your head every day. To make sure you’ll come back for seconds, this spoken word of a meal literally ends with a bang (never underestimate the power of that last pea on the plate). 🙂

And now, a little Moose Boosh Sampler just for you. Special thanks to Shabazz for sharing a favorite recipe. Is it soup yet? You bet.




She wanted to try the soup,
but the soup was just too hot.
She blew and blew and whistled and huffed,
but she could not cool the pot.

She decided to sip it anyway.
She could not, would not wait!
But when she burned her tongue
it (sort of) set her straight.




My father is a painter,
but he doesn’t use a brush.
My plate is his canvas,
the colors are so lush.

Purple cabbage and red kimchi,
yellow curry and green kale.
The tastes are the brushstrokes
that tell their own tale.

There’s tart and nutty.
There’s bitter and spicy.
There’s savory and minty.
There’s sour and dicey.

My father is a painter,
but he doesn’t use a brush.
This meal is a masterpiece
I wouldn’t dare rush.




I lost my pet cabbage, but how is that?
I dressed it with a feather upon its hat.
It used to be round and purple and plump,
but then it got squishy and smelled like a dump.

I left it alone with my mom one day.
She said it ran off when she looked away.
But I don’t think that could be true
’cause that’s just not something my cabbage would do.




I’d sooner lick the cat
than eat more beets.
I’d sooner kiss the dog
than eat more beets.
I’d rake the lawn
and clean the gutters
for our whole street.
I’d sooner do anything
than eat more beets.





I think my favorite recipe at the moment is Kenyan Fried Collards Greens and Ugali.

This is a fun dish to make for a few reasons:

1. The name is deceiving – They are way less fried than most foods you’d ever eat.
2. They have a story and a wonderful person I can’t help but think of when I make them. In this case, my friend from Kenya taught me how to make this in his basement apartment in College. We ate it, the traditional style, with our hands.

I think food with a story is my favorite.

Here is how you make it:




  • chopped tomatoes
  • chopped onion
  • chopped garlic
  • chopped cilantro
  • one bushel of finely chopped collards
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Remove the thick stems from collards before chopping.

Add just enough olive oil to cover most of pan and place on medium fire.

Add all the chopped stuff.

Stir in salt and pepper (and anything else fun).

Flip greens around till they are shrunken down, soft and delicious (around 10 minutes).

UGALI is cornmeal cake.

You boil water in a pot and slowly add cormeal until it becomes like a cake. Then you flip the pot over so that it slides out. On its own – it’s horrible but with some stewed beef and fried collards – it’s amazing.



A MOOSE BOOSH: A Few Choice Words About Food
written and illustrated by Eric-Shabazz Larkin
published by Readers to Eaters, October 2014
Poetry for ages 10+, 96 pp.
*2015 ALA Notable Book*



poetry fridayBuffy Silverman is hosting the Roundup at Buffy’s Blog. Stroll over with your pet cabbage and check out the full menu of poetic goodies being shared in the blogosphere this week. Happy Weekend!




wkendcookingiconThis post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best bibs and aprons and come join the fun!





Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

51 thoughts on “Nibbling on Eric-Shabazz Larkin’s A Moose Boosh (+ a recipe!)

  1. I first saw Eric-Shabazz Larkin’s illustrations in FARMER WILL ALLEN AND THE GROWING TABLE, one of my favorite recent picture books, so I was eager to read A MOOSE BOOSH. We have so few books on issues of food justice/social justice (drawing attention to the “food deserts” of poor urban communities, etc.)–and we need more. I also LOVE the whimsical poems and the videos he’s created. Wonderful post, Jama!!!


    1. Farmer Will is amazing too. Yes, we do need more books about food justice and politics. There is much we take for granted about food production and the responsible ways to make these resources available to everyone.


  2. Had to LOL at the guy playing trumpet in the beans video.
    Enjoyed all these poems. I think “My Father is a Painter” is my favorite. (And the name of the book is great.)


  3. This is such fun, and I too know Eric-Shabazz Larkin’s work from Farmer Will Allen, clever and interesting to see & read. Now thees poems and more delightful art, wonderful! This is a must have for classrooms and now for my granddaughters who like to cook with their mom, Jama. Thank you!


    1. This book is an excellent springboard for all kinds of discussions across the curriculum, not to mention a wonderful mentor text for writing poems.


  4. This looks like such a great read aloud! And I can’t resist a moose ;). Thanks, Jama & congrats to Eric!


    1. Tons of fun to read aloud. Some of it reminds me of stuff I’ve heard at poetry slams. 🙂 Hatley the Moose sends his regards.


    1. I love the energy too — when you come across a poem like “Slippery Noodles,” you HAVE to read it aloud. If you can sit still through that one, you’re probably dead. And that beans video is a tooty toot hoot, i.e., a real gas. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a great dinner guest Eric Shabazz Larkin must be! I’m going to have to return to read and watch more closely–these are so much fun. And I’ll be sharing the beet poem with my husband (who is a beet lover who is married to a beet hater…too much borscht in my childhood!)


    1. That beets photo is one of my favorites! While I’ll eat beets, I won’t go out of my way for them. I’ve never had borscht!


  6. It’s wonderful! I love the food/poetry combo and the illustrations, too. My favorite here was “Slippery Noodles” with all the repetition. Thank you for sharing about this book.


  7. Great review–I think I need this book! What fun! I love the whole vibe of it and the poems are just perfect nibbles of fun for any age–especially love Hot Soup and No More Beets. 😉 And, I totally want to go to that Food Book Fair too. (I wish.)


  8. Totally delightful poems, art, video and review. Why should kids have all the fun, I need that book. And your little moose is so cute.


  9. What a wonderful, wonderful book! I’m off to order copies for the grandchildren. Thank you so much for this posting. I hope the author sees it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay! Glad to hear you’re getting copies for the grandkids, Nan. You’ll have fun reading these poems aloud to them. 🙂


  10. LOVE this. And particularly love “My Father Is a Painter” — what a great poem. Plus the drawing on photos is too much fun. And love collards so, yeah, trying the recipe. Oh and the bean video? LOLOLOLOL


    1. Drawing on the photos is wonderfully irreverent, isn’t it? It’s like we’ve been given permission to play and express ourselves however we want. Can’t help loving the musical fruit either. 😀


Comments are closed.