munching on “Short-Order Cook” by Jim Daniels

“Man who invented the hamburger was smart; man who invented the cheeseburger was a genius.” ~ Matthew McConaughey

 

“Cheeseburger” by Tjalf Sparnaay (oil on linen, 2012)

 

SHORT-ORDER COOK
by Jim Daniels

An average joe comes in
and orders thirty cheeseburgers and thirty fries.

I wait for him to pay before I start cooking.
He pays.
He ain’t no average joe.

The grill is just big enough for ten rows of three.
I slap the burgers down
throw two buckets of fries in the deep frier
and they pop pop, spit spit  . . .
pssss . . .
The counter girls laugh.
I concentrate.
It is the crucial point —
they are ready for the cheese:
my fingers shake as I tear off slices
toss them on the burgers/fries done/dump/
refill buckets/burgers ready/flip into buns/
beat that melting cheese/wrap burgers in plastic/
into paper bags/fried done/dump/fill thirty bags/
bring them to the counter/wipe sweat on sleeve
and smile at the counter girls.
I puff my chest out and bellow:
Thirty cheeseburgers! Thirty fries!
I grab a handful of ice, toss it in my mouth
do a little dance and walk back to the grill.
Pressure, responsibility, success.
Thirty cheeseburgers, thirty fries.

~ from Places/Everyone (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1985)

“Bakje Patat” by Tjalf Spaarnay (oil on linen, 1999)

 

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Nothing beats the good feeling of a job well done. As Philip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield once said, “Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.”

Flipping burgers, a minimum wage job — nothing out of the ordinary. Yet it’s not every day one is asked to fill a thirty cheeseburger/thirty fries order, and I like how this particular short-order cook pulled if off with such aplomb.

Not letting the counter girls distract him, keeping his nerves in check, orchestrating every move as he jockeys burgers, cheese, buns, fries, wrapping and bagging — quite a feat. He had a system and it worked. Yes, he should be proud, munch on that ice and do a little dance!

There is no job too small to warrant our full attention. We make our own rewards. Chances are, none of the counter girls could have done what the short-order cook did, or as well. Sure, he had probably cooked dozens of cheeseburgers before, just not thirty all at once. But when the need arose, everything he had done up until then prepared him to meet that challenge.

The masterful cheeseburger and fries paintings in this post were created by Dutch megarealistic artist Tjalf Spaarnay. Yes, they look like photos, and give us the chance to re-examine ordinary foods we take for granted. I love how he has elevated fast food, showing it off in beautiful, meticulous, mouthwatering detail (french fries just happen to be Spaarnay’s favorite).

In his poem, Jim Daniels gave the often overlooked or undervalued fast food worker a moment in the spotlight, a good reminder to relish small victories because they keep us going and growing.

Okay, now I really want a cheeseburger with fries . . . and a little dessert, of course. 🙂

“De moorkop,” by Tjalf Spaarnay (2009)

 

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 🎉 BOOK GIVEAWAY WINNERS! 🎈

We are pleased to announce the following giveaway winners:

For a copy of DREAMING OF YOU by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Aaron DeWitt, the winner is:

 🎨 DIANE MAYR!! 🌺

And for a signed copy of DUMPLING SOUP by Jama Kim Rattigan and Lillian Hsu-Flanders + a $50 Amazon gift card, the winner is:

  🥢 KELLY D! 🍲

WooHoo! Congratulations to Diane and Kelly!!!

Thanks to everyone for all the great comments. Especially appreciate all the nice Happy Anniversary wishes. 🙂

More giveaways coming soon, so stay tuned!

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Erin is hosting the Roundup at The Water’s Edge. Twinkle toe on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Happy Reading!

 


Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

[review] Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans by Tina Cho and Keum Jin Song

Much of what we hear about North Korea on the news these days is dire and distressing.

While we may not be able to fully imagine daily life in this Communist dictatorship, we do know that more than half of the population lives in poverty without adequate nourishment.

Situations like these are especially difficult to explain to children, but the right stories, appealing to our common humanity, can have a positive impact. In Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans (little bee books, 2018), we learn how a group of refugees and church volunteers in South Korea clandestinely delivered packets of rice via helium balloons to hungry North Koreans.

Debut picture book author Tina Cho (who currently lives in South Korea) based her story on an actual mission she herself volunteered for. This fascinating account of courage and compassion shows how ordinary people created their own miracle of hope for their starving counterparts.

As the story opens, Yoori, a young girl who lives in South Korea, travels with her father (Appa) to the border between the two countries. She explains that “Beyond that wall and across the sea live children just like me, except they do not have enough food to eat.”

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[review + giveaway] Dreaming of You by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Aaron DeWitt

Put on your onesie and grab your favorite stuffie. You’re just in time to cuddle up with a sweet and soothing new bedtime picture book!

In lyrical rhyming verse, Dreaming of You by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Aaron DeWitt (Boyds Mills Press, 2018) helps us imagine what some of our favorite animals might dream about at night.

Tonight may you dream sweet animal dreams.
Tonight may your dreams all run free.

Tonight may you dream of what animals dream.
When they sleep, what do animals see?

While kittens dream of lapping fresh milk, chipmunks dream of digging deep burrows, fishes of tasting new plants, horses of wild, windy rides, and bunnies of napping in thickets.

VanDerwater includes ten different animals in all, featured in well crafted ballad quatrains with abcb end rhymes and the same repetitive word pattern in the first three lines — a perfect lullaby, calming and incantatory as it lulls the reader to slumberland:

Turtles are dreaming of cool, muddy beds.
Turtles are dreaming of learning to run.
Turtles are dreaming of basking with you
on a rock in a river in hot summer sun.

Kids will love all the charming details and activities, while observing the animals in their natural habitats. Best part is discovering that all their animal friends are ultimately dreaming about them!

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nine cool things on a tuesday

1. How about a pop of color and whimsy? Love the charming crochet assemblages created by Finnish textile artist and teacher Tuija Heikkinen.

A far cry from the kitschy crocheted doilies of yore, Tuija’s designs and illustrations consist of separate crocheted elements arranged in fun, pretty, cheerful ways. Nice to see how she’s reimagined the craft!

See more at her Instagram, where you can also check out her sewing and embroidery projects.

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2. Coming Soon! Look out for Margo Sorenson’s YA/crossover adult novel Secrets in Translation, to be released October 19, 2018 by Fitzroy Books.

In this celebration of Italian life and culture, seventeen-year-old Alessandra returns for the summer to Italy, where she grew up. Pressured by her parents into babysitting a rebellious twelve year old—ruining holiday plans with newfound American friends—Alessandra resigns herself to a tedious summer in Positano. Her babysitting gig, however, turns out to be anything but boring! Not only does Alessandra fall for the handsome son of the Bertolucci family, renowned for their limoncello production, but when a body mysteriously turns up on the beach, the influence of organized crime in Positano becomes frighteningly real. As Alessandra is drawn further into an elaborate conspiracy, she must risk everything to protect herself, her family, and those she loves, and in the process finds herself—and her Italian heart.

I read this one over summer break and loved it! It was the perfect escape from all the madness. I’m still sighing over Margo’s beautiful descriptions of Positano and enjoyed meeting the interesting and intriguing characters in her story. Happy to report that Margo will be doing a guest post here at Alphabet Soup during pub week. Limoncello, anyone? 🙂

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Continue reading

Macbeth, Adverbs, and an Extra Meatball: Edwin Romond’s “Dream Teaching”

“Teach them the quiet words of kindness, to live beyond themselves. Urge them toward excellence, drive them toward gentleness, pull them deep into yourself, pull them upward toward manhood, but softly like an angel arranging clouds. Let your spirit move through them softly.” ~ Pat Conroy (The Prince of Tides)

Another September, another school year. A time of new school supplies and textbooks, new teachers and classes, making new friends. 🙂

Are you familiar with Edwin Romond’s Dream Teaching (Grayson Books, 2004)?  This collection is truly a gem; the 34 funny, insightful, and poignant poems (written from the POVs of both student and teacher), were inspired by his 32 years as a public school English teacher in Wisconsin and New Jersey.

I’m happy to share the title poem from the book today — it brought back fond memories of my own English classes, particularly the years I taught high school English in London. You don’t have to be an educator or current student to enjoy Romond’s poems — we’re all lifelong learners, right?

Now, at last, we know what English teachers really dream about. 🙂

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DREAM TEACHING
by Edwin Romond

I am first in line for coffee
and the copier is not broken yet.
This is how dreams begin in teaching high school.

First period the boy who usually carves skulls
into his desk raises his hand instead
to ask about Macbeth and, for the first time,
I see his eyes are blue as melting ice.
Then, those girls in the back
stop passing notes and start taking them
and I want to marvel at tiny miracles
but still another hand goes up
and Butch the drag racer says he found the meaning
in that Act III soliloquy. Then more hands join the air
that is now rich with wondering and they moan
at the bell that ends our class and I ask myself,
“How could I have thought of calling in sick today?”

I open my eyes for the next class and no one’s late,
not even Ernie who owns his own time zone
and they’ve all done their homework
that they wave in the air
because everyone wants to go to the board
to underline nouns and each time I turn around
they’re looking at me as if I know something
they want and, steady as sunrise, they do everything right.

At lunch the grouchy food lady discovers smiling
and sneaks me an extra meatball. In the teachers’ room
we eat like family and for twenty-two minutes
not one of us bitches about anything.
Then the afternoon continues the happiness of hands
wiggling with answers and I feel such a spark
when spike-haired Cindy in the satanic tee shirt
picks the right pronoun and glows like a saint.

And me, I’m up and down the room now, cheering,
cajoling, heating them up like a revival crowd.
I’m living only in exclamatory sentences. They want it all
and I’m thinking, “What drug are we on here?”
Just as Crusher Granorski screams, “Predicate nominatives
are awesome!” the principal walks in
with my check and I say, “That’s okay,
you can keep it.” When the bell sounds
they stand, raise lighted matches
and chant, “Adverbs! Adverbs!”
I drive home petting my plan book.

At night I check the weather without wishing for a blizzard,
then sleep in the sweet maze of dreams
where I see every student from 32 years of school days:
boys and girls, sons and daughters who’re almost mine,
thousands of them stretching like dominoes into the night
and I call the roll and they sing, “We’re all here, Mr. Romond!”
When I pick up my chalk they open their books,
look up and, with eager eyes, ask me to teach them.

~ from Dream Teaching: Poems by Edwin Romond (Grayson Books, 2004)

“The Teacher’s Coming!” by Emanuel Spitzer (1887)

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Nice bit of serendipity:  About a year ago I featured a donut poem by Seattle-based poet Martha Silano. Just so happens Mr. Romond was Martha’s ninth grade English teacher. She wrote a lovely post about it at her blog Blue Positive. It wasn’t until she took his class that she became aware of “all the possibilities of a life devoted to literature.” Four years ago, they read their poems together at the Barrons Art Center in Woodbridge, New Jersey.

Mr. Romond has also written a wonderful donut poem, which I’ll share here soon. Poets and donuts, a nice way to come full circle, isn’t it? There’s something deliciously inspiring about that. 🙂

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Edwin Romond is a poet, playwright, and composer. His work has appeared in numerous literary journals, college text books and anthologies, and has twice been featured on National Public Radio.

He has written eight books of poetry, two musical plays, and was a public school teacher for 32 years in Wisconsin and New Jersey. Romond now works part-time in the poetry program of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and is also on staff at the Ruggiero Funeral Home, Pen Argyl, PA. His most recent poetry collection is Alone with Love Songs (Grayson Books, 2011).

A native of Woodbridge, NJ,  he lives in Wind Gap, PA with his wife, Mary, and their son, Liam.

More at his official website.

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The lovely Carol Varsalona is hosting the Roundup at Beyond Literacy Link. She’s featuring a sneak peek of her upcoming summer gallery of artistic expressions. Click over to check it out along with the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week.

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HAPPY SCHOOL YEAR, ALL!

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ~ William Arthur Ward


Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.