When it’s snowy out, and the world has turned into a frosted fairyland, it’s nice to keep warm indoors and read a tasty picture book.
What could be better than cuddling up with your favorite blankie on a comfy sofa, while a pot of homemade soup gently burbles on the stove? Oh, that tempting aroma wafting through the house. Mmmmmm!
I’m definitely in the mood for Blue Corn Soup (Sleeping Bear Press, 2017), how about you? Written by the late Caroline Stutson and illustrated by Teri Weidner, this cozy rhyming picture book will warm the cockles of your heart and send you straight to the kitchen.
It all begins one snowy day when Mouse, a.k.a. Abuelita, decides to make a pot of soup.
Whiskers wiggle. Eyes grow bright.
Mouse peeks out. The canyon’s white.
Snow — she blinks. She’ll grind dried corn.
Blue corn soup will keep her warm.
Abuelita fills her pot.
She’ll make sopa — not a lot;
just enough for one small mouse,
cozy in her sagebrush house.
As her soup begins to cook, its savory aroma drifts around the canyon, making her neighbors curious and hungry. She continues to taste and add more ingredients, convinced something is missing.
Meanwhile, the good smells prompt Chipmunk to leave his woodchopping. Is it sopa? He must find out.
Rabbit, who was drawing water from the well, can’t resist either. Sniff, sniff. Is it sopa? He, too, must find out.
The delicious aroma even awakens Old Bear from his winter nap. He’s a little grumpy, but when something smells that good, he decides he must investigate.
As Mouse stirs and tastes and adds chopped pepper, pine nuts and onion, Chipmunk, Rabbit and Old Bear follow the scent to Mouse’s house, hoping for a taste.
But when she greets them, they can plainly see she’s only made enough soup for one. Just when they turn to go, Mouse calls them back.
‘Wait!’ Mouse follows. ‘We can share.
Bring some food to Old Bear’s lair.’
Chipmunk brings a squash, Rabbit, a bucket of potatoes, and Old Bear, a chubby pumpkin. When they combine their ingredients, a little becomes a lot. But since these four friends have made something new together, it’s not plain blue corn soup anymore. They decide to call it Friendship Stew. And it’s so delicious!
As they enjoy their stew, the mystery of the missing ingredient is solved:
Neighbors gather on the floor,
sip their stew, and ask for more.
Nothing’s missing; all can see:
Food tastes best with company.
Thanks to Stutson’s jaunty, perfectly cadenced rhymes and skillful use of repetition, this take-off on the classic Stone Soup is a joy to read aloud. We are introduced to each of Mouse’s neighbors with the couplet:
Piñon smoke drifts through the wood.
Someone’s cooking something good.
Then with slight variations for each animal (Chipmunk chatters, Rabbit bounces, Old Bear grumbles), there is the line “Is it sopa?/He’ll find out.”
As Abuelita is cooking, there is the catchy refrain:
Abuelita stirs her pot.
The sopa bubbles, thick and hot.
She will taste a tiny bit.
It is easy to imagine kids chanting along, and the rule-of-three motif, with a sprinkling of Spanish words for added flavor, make for a fun and engaging story of friendship, sharing, and teamwork.
Teri Weidner’s watercolors, rendered in soft, subdued tones, are gentle, warm and welcoming. Her animal characters are adorable and cuddly without being overly cutesy. Simple articles of clothing — a scarf for Mouse and Old Bear, a vest for Rabbit, a hat for Chipmunk — humanize them just enough to make them distinctive and accessible.
The billowing clouds of piñon smoke drifting through the pages and enveloping the characters with its irresistible scent add a dreamlike quality to this wintry tale.
I especially love the pictures of Mouse cooking. She may be small, but she manages to grind what to her are giant kernels of blue corn, chop a huge bell pepper and slice a big onion. Kids will enjoy the contrast between her tiny cast iron pot and Old Bear’s large one, noting that someone so small can be friends with (rather than afraid of) someone that big.
My favorite spread is probably the one with the four animals eating their soup, holding big spoons to their mouths. Deep bowls of soup and good company on a cold winter’s day. Who could ask for anything more? A recipe, you say? Yes, the book ends with a lipsmacking recipe for Blue Corn Soup. 🙂
🥄 A TASTE OF BLUE CORN SOUP 🍲
Blue Corn (hopi maize) was an interesting choice for the author to make, and I imagine she knew it would instantly arouse the curiosity of readers who are used to eating only yellow or white corn.
I had certainly seen it, but thought of it mainly as ornamental. It’s definitely in keeping with Stutson’s Southwestern theme, and since making the recipe, I’ve learned, to my delight and surprise, that blue corn is quite a healthy option. It has about 20% more protein, more iron and zinc, and less fat than its white and yellow counterparts, and the protein is more complete due to its amino acid profile.
Alas, I could not find blue cornmeal after trying three different grocery stores, including Whole Foods, which I was sure would carry it. Perhaps it’s more widely available out West. But Whole Foods did carry blue corn tortilla chips, so I got to taste those and feel less guilty about eating chips. 🙂
The recipe only calls for three tablespoons of blue cornmeal, so I knew substituting with yellow cornmeal wouldn’t alter the taste of the soup.
Much like vegetarian chili, this soup is hearty and satisfying, just the thing for lunch or dinner after a day outside playing in the snow or braving the chilly winds of city streets. With black beans, corn, butternut squash, potatoes, green pepper and onion, and spices like chili powder and ground cumin, one can be assured of a zesty, nourishing pick-me-up any time.
The tantalizing aroma did indeed arouse the curiosity of the resident leprechaun/occasional sous chef. “What smells so good?” Len asked. My blue corn soup, which I had on a gentle simmer on a Sunday afternoon, enticed him to come downstairs to investigate. We enjoyed a yummy bowl that evening with a fresh baguette and butter, and I had some for lunch the next day with blue corn tortilla chips.
Make this soup soon to see what new friends will knock on your door. 🙂
BLUE CORN SOUP
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons blue cornmeal (may substitute with yellow or white cornmeal)
- 5 cups vegetable broth
- 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, with juice
- 2 cans (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups frozen corn
- 2 cups chopped butternut squash
- 2 cups chopped potatoes
- Toppings: grated cheese, toasted pine nuts
- Heat oil in a large soup pot. Add onions, garlic, and green pepper. Season with chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft.
- Add the blue cornmeal, broth, tomatoes, black beans, corn, squash, and potatoes. Bring to a simmer, cover pot, and cook until squash and potatoes are tender — about 40 minutes.
- Top with cheese and toasted pine nuts.
- Share with friends.
~ from Blue Corn Soup by Caroline Stutson and Teri Weidner (Sleeping Bear Press, 2017), as posted at Jama’s Alphabet Soup
BLUE CORN SOUP
written by Caroline Stutson
illustrated by Teri Weidner
published by Sleeping Bear Press, August 2017
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.
*Includes Blue Corn Soup recipe
📘 SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY! 📘
The publisher has generously donated a copy of Blue Corn Soup for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, please leave a comment at this post telling us what your favorite soup is no later than midnight Wednesday (EST), January 31, 2018. You may also enter by sending an email with BLUE CORN in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only, please. Good Luck!
HAPPY NATIONAL SOUP MONTH!
🥄 🥄 🥄
The lovely Carol Varsalona is hosting the Roundup at Beyond Literacy Link. Sashay on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week. Happy Weekend!
This 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 aprons and bibs and come join the fun!
*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2017 Caroline Stutson, illustrations © 2017 Teri Weidner, published by Sleeping Bear Press. All rights reserved.
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**Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.