[author chat + recipe] Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill and Jaime Kim

 

This week most of us will be gathering with family and friends for some serious feasting. We’ll travel from points near and far, bringing homemade dishes, stories to tell, and lots of good cheer.

As we take our places around the table, we can express gratitude for our many blessings, strengthen bonds, forge new connections, and enthusiastically lick our chops. 🙂

We’re especially delighted to welcome Minnesota author Melanie Heuiser Hill to Alphabet Soup today, as her debut picture book celebrates all the joyful deliciousness that comes with sharing a good meal with loved ones.

Around the Table That Grandad Built (Candlewick, 2019) is Melanie’s delectable take on the classic cumulative tale, “This is the House That Jack Built.”  A young girl first describes how her family sets the table with items that have special significance: “sunflowers picked by my cousins,” “napkins sewn by Mom,” “glasses from Mom and Dad’s wedding,” “forks and spoons and knives — gifts from Dad’s grandma long ago.”

 

 

And then (my favorite part!) she describes the mouthwatering menu:

This is the squash that took over our garden.
These are the potatoes and peppers we roasted.
And these are the beans, overflowing the bowl!

Yum! And there’s more — foods to reflect the diversity of her family, including “toasty tamales” and “samosas, spicy and hot.” This is all topped off with Gran’s homemade bread, Dad’s huckleberry jam, their traditional rice pudding, and lots of P-I-E-S!! 🙂

 

 

Jaime Kim’s exuberant mixed media illustrations, rendered in warm and cheery autumnal colors, burst with all the busyness and excitement of pitching in for a special feast.

Each step of the way, as Grandad’s handcrafted table is lovingly adorned by little hands laying on all the objects, ending with plates “red, orange, and yellow,” we can feel the wide-eyed, open-mouthed anticipation building.

By the time we see the finished table in all its glory, we share in the characters’ satisfaction of a job well done, where each has played a significant role. Build a table, build a meal, build a family.

Though this book is perfect for the holiday season, it speaks to any festive gathering of family and friends, where togetherness and convivialty reign supreme. Hungry munchkins will enjoy this lively read aloud as they identify and count objects, recognize colors, observe facial expressions, and pick out interesting details in all the pictures.

Now, let’s find out more from Melanie — can you smell her homemade bread baking in the oven? Mmmmm. 🙂

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a childhood thanksgiving memory: “américa” by richard blanco

“The Cup of Coffee” by Cuban artist Lorenzo Romero Arciaga (1940)

 

When Presidential Inaugural Poet, author and civil engineer Richard Blanco was growing up in Miami with his Cuban-exile family during the early 70’s, he longed to be a “true American” like one of the kids in “The Brady Bunch.”

He describes it as living between two imagined worlds:

One world was the 1950s and ’60s Cuba of my parents and grandparents — that paradise, that homeland so near and yet so foreign to where we might return any day, according to my parents. A homeland that I had never seen . . .

The other, less obvious world was America . . . Typical of a child, I contextualized America through food, commercials, G-rated versions of our history in textbooks and television shows, especially The Brady Bunch. More than a fiction or fantasy, I truly believed that, just north of the Miami-Dade County line, every house was like the Brady house, and every family was like them.

Much of Blanco’s poetry centers around his search for cultural identity. Over and over, he asks the questions, “Where is my home? Where am I from? Where do I belong?”

When he was a graduate student at Florida International University, he wrote the following poem, inspired by a childhood memory of wanting an “authentic” Thanksgiving meal.

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chris neale’s welsh blues

 

 

Come along, Chris Neale seems to say, come along and follow this path by the sea with me.

Today we’re featuring the work of Welsh landscape artist Chris Neale, who, as you can plainly see, has a thing for the color BLUE. *sigh*

Somehow his gorgeous paintings found me; I imagine it was inevitable since the last few years I’ve been thinking blue, believing in blue, and voting blue (hooray for Virginia turning blue on November 5!).

 

 

 

Thought we needed a good blue fix this week, by escaping across the pond to a land far away, to places that have funny sounding names, like Pwll Deri, Carreg Lafain, and Rhosson Ganol. I have no idea how to pronounce any of them, but judging by Neale’s depictions, these spots are likely beautiful in person.

 

 

 

 

Neale’s love of painting began in childhood; he was drawn to the play between blues and ochres early on. Painting, however, remained on the back burner as he studied and then established a career in graphic design, which seemed a much more practical pursuit.

In 2002, he returned to painting, and has been indulging his passion for the Welsh landscape — Pembrokeshire and North Wales in particular — ever since.

 

 

 

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“November Eyes” from Richard Blanco’s How to Love a Country

 

Do you remember how you felt right after the 2016 Presidential election? How the world as you knew it suddenly upended? I was devastated and filled with such dread — but I never imagined it could get this bad.

In this powerful poem, Presidential Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco describes our new reality in painful detail.

 

“Small Town Diner” by Layne Cook

 

NOVEMBER EYES
by Richard Blanco

I question everyone, everything, even the sun
as I drive east down Main Street — radio off–
to Amy’s diner. She bobby-pins her hair, smiles
her usual good mornin’ but her eyes askew say
something like: You believe this? as she wipes
the counter, tosses aside the Journal Times
the election headlines as bitter as the coffee
she pours for me without a blink. After a cup
and a blueberry muffin I remember my bills
are due by the fifteenth — so I cross on Main
to the post office. Those American flag stamps
are all Debbie has left. I refuse to buy them:
a never mind in my eyes which she dismisses
with a gesture of suit yourself. Bills can wait,
but not my dog’s treats or the milk I’m out of
— so I drive up Main again to the Food Basket.
Paper or plastic, Jan asks me at the checkout,
but it doesn’t matter. What matters is this:
she’s been to my bar-b-ques, I’ve donated
to her son’s football league, we’ve shoveled
each other’s driveways, we send each other
Christmas cards. She knows I’m Latino and
gay. Yet suddenly I don’t know who she is
as I read the button on her polyester vest:
Trump: Make America Great Again, meaning
she doesn’t really know me either. We manage
smiles when she hands me my change, but
our locked eyes say: nothing — so I dash off —
go see Tom at the bank to cash a measly check
from some grand magazine for some grand
poem of mine loaded with some grand words
like transcend, as if my inked verbs could bend
a river’s will, shuffle stars, change the fate of
our nation, or the blur in Tom’s eyes thinking
what I think of our reflection on the bullet-
proof window, asking: So now what, Mr. Poet?
I can’t answer. I can only remember today
I’m supposed to buy a rake, lightbulbs, nails
to hang my aging mother’s photos — so I swing
by Union Hardware, see Dan who knows me,
and what I need. He rings me up, doesn’t say
Goodbye, says Good luck, as if his eyes can see
the uncertainty in my own, worried about:
my immigrant cousin, factory jobs, groped
women, hijabs, blacklists, bans, the church,
the deep state, cops, race, and which lives
matter, hacked votes, refugee camps, dead
children, missiles, suicide bombers, carbon
footprints, polar bears, sunk islands, my gay
marriage, the bills for my preexisting ulcer
flaring, guns at malls, guns at schools, guns
at clubs, more guns, more corporate rights,
soulless cubicles, the empty Supreme Court
seats, the border wall, bullying, the demise
of language, news, the silence of suspicion,
the uneasy guessing, the surprise of who’s
who, the cheers and gloating, or jeers and
swearing, the final picking of sides, right or
left, red or blue state, city, or town, but no
grey today except for the November clouds
looming over Main Street with all the rest
of our unrest, arrested in our eyes clashing
against each other’s glares, ready for battle.

~ from How to Love a Country (Beacon Press, 2019)

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[delectable review + giveaway] What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street? by Felicita Sala

 

Something smells good at N. 10, Garden Street. Delicious, actually!

 

Oh yes! Those savory aromas wafting from the windows of that charming apartment building are making my mouth water. Who lives there? What are they cooking? Better still, may we have some? 🙂

In her new picture book-cookbook, What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street? (Prestel Publishing, 2019), award-winning author/illustrator Felicita Sala invites us into the kitchens of some of the Garden Street residents so we can see for ourselves just what they’re up to.

 

 

We first meet Pilar, who’s preparing a batch of Salmorejo, a purée consisting of tomatoes mixed with stale bread, garlic, olive oil, and salt that originated in southern Spain. Smiling to herself, she seems quite content wielding her immersion blender, confident that the finished dish will be delicious.

Next door, Mr. Ping stir fries broccoli while his nephew Benjamin looks on. Benjamin calls broccoli “little trees.” Across the hall, Maria is mashing avocados for Guacamole, while upstairs, Señora Flores squeezes lime juice into her pot of Black Bean Soup.

 

 

As we turn the pages, we meet more neighbors, all busy slicing, stirring, chopping, and combining ingredients. Some of these home cooks appear pensive and contemplative, while others are blissful or playful, but all are enjoying themselves, whether they’re working alone or with helpers. Perhaps young Josef and Rafik, who are rolling Meatballs, are having too much fun (Josef is spooning something onto Rafik’s head). Or what about impish, red-headed twins Jemima and Rosie arguing over “who took the last banana”? Their freckly-faced smiles promise all will be forgiven once their Banana and Blueberry Bread comes out of the oven.

 

Though there’s a vanilla pod shown in the ingredients, the recipe doesn’t specify when to add it.

 

When all the cooking’s done, everyone takes their dishes downstairs for a big pot luck feast in the back garden. What a large, glorious table, set with homemade specialties from around the world! Rest assured, all these lovingly prepared foods taste even better because they’re being shared in the happy spirit of fellowship and community.

 

 

 

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