Celebrating Susan Branch’s Latest Books with Tasty Words, Pics, and Potato Chip Cookies

“Never let anyone tell you magic doesn’t exist or that fairies aren’t real. It isn’t cynicism that will change the world. Do your best to believe in yourself, and even if you don’t, keep trying to and never give up. If all else fails, use your imagination and pretend.” ~ Susan Branch (Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams)

Though I’ve been a Susan Branch fan for decades, until I read her 3-part illustrated memoir I knew only a little about her personal life or how she started painting, writing, and publishing.

It was love at first sight when I discovered her greeting cards, calendars and illustrated cookbooks back in the late 80’s — I just couldn’t get enough of her beautiful handwritten recipes and inspirational quotes, the cozy, quaint watercolors of old fashioned baskets, bowls, and quilts, those scrumptious fruits, veggies, cakes and pies. Oh, the checkered floors! The Laura Ashley hats and exquisite floral borders! That iconic vintage stove! I wanted to inhabit the world of her homemade books; they were charming, unique, and most important, personal.

You may remember how much I adored A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside (review here). It convinced me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Susan was even more of a kindred spirit with her love of Beatrix Potter, the Yorkshire Dales, afternoon tea, the Cotswolds, Emma Bridgewater, and the Queen!

But it wasn’t until I read the prequels to A Fine RomanceThe Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams  (both based on her diaries) — that I gained a true appreciation for how this self-taught artist built her career from scratch, how the first seeds were actually planted in childhood, and how she’s been able to effectively elevate the various facets of homemaking (cooking, sewing, gardening, interior decorating) to a fine art.

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celebrating roald dahl’s 100th birthday with a foodie alphabet and an orange raspberry victoria sponge

#53 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

HAPPY ROALD DAHL DAY!

It’s time to polish off a few tummyticklers, plushnuggets and globgobblers. Wash it all down with a big tall glass of frobscottle and you’re all set (no whizzpopping, please).🙂

I was actually introduced to Roald Dahl’s writing by one of my high school students in Wimbledon. Danny M. (who made good chocolate chip cookies and scoped out a yummy bagel shop in Queensway) raved about a collection of Dahl’s adult short stories called Kiss Kiss. Though I do not have a taste for the macabre, I found the stories addictive and loved the surprise endings.

After I read as much of his adult fiction as I could find, I moved on to Dahl’s children’s books, impressed by the eyebrow-raising irreverence and sardonic wit, delighted by the clever, inventive wordplay and generous servings of lickswishy, delumptious treats. He was unlike any author I’d read in my childhood. There was nothing Pollyanna or namby pamby about any of his magical stories, and I liked his recurring themes of child empowerment, justice and retribution. He made it okay to be a nonconformist, appealing to the inner rebel in all of us.

Whenever I’m asked about my favorite food-related children’s books, the first that comes to mind is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Here was every child’s dream come true — a world where everything was sweet and edible. I want my own Oompa-Loompas, and even if Mr. Wonka wouldn’t approve, just once I’d like to drink from his river of hot melted chocolate.

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friday feast: “For the Chocolate Tasters” by Diane Lockward (+ a recipe!)

“Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food.” ~ Michael Levine

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Small Batch House Truffles via Chocolate Chocolate DC.

 

Please don’t wake me. I’m in the midst of a chocolate truffle dream. I’m surrounded by beautiful bonbons and it’s my job to taste them. One by one, I wrap my lips around the scrumptious hand-shaped orbs, savoring each note of exquisite flavor as they slowly melt on my tongue.

Deep Milk Pleasure with its creamy milk chocolate buttery center takes me back to the after school treats of my childhood. With the rich white chocolate of Coconut Rum Paradise I’ve washed up on the shores of Hawai’i, while the Original Dark, with its chocolate liquor and handsome dusting of Scharffen Berger cocoa, speaks of men in tuxedos waltzing in dimly lit ballrooms.🙂

With an Irish last name, I’m entitled to an Irish Cream Dream. I breathe in the heady aroma of Bailey’s Irish Cream before gently sinking my teeth into the rich Valrhona chocolate shell, my taste buds tickled by those sprinkles of coffee-infused El Ceibo. It’s like meeting Aidan Turner at the corner pub. Pure ecstasy!

Since I am serious about my chocolate, I save the best for last: Uber Dark and Decadent. Dangerous and devilish, this one is capable of bringing even veteran tasters to their knees. This is how it is with 70% cacao and sassy cinnamon– one small taste and you’re hooked. Come over to the deepest darkest dark of the dark side.🙂

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[tasty review + recipe] I Love Cake! by Tammi Sauer and Angie Rozelaar

 

Mmmmmmm . . . “Sniff-sniff. Is that what I think it is?”

My highly sensitive olfactories are picking up traces of vanilla buttercream and luscious lemon. No, wait. There’s also deep dark chocolate with just a sprinkle of Oklahoma pecans. Yes! And bless my crumbs, even more: strawberry and cherry and carrot and coconut!

Could it be c-c-c-c-a-k-e? 😍

Lucky us, just so happens it’s something even better — a BOOK about cake!!🙂🙂🙂

Just last week, inimitable picture book queen Tammi Sauer (who’s previously cavorted with cowboys, chickens, ducks, cave boys, chipmunks, aliens, princesses, and sharks) officially served up the freshly baked I Love Cake! (HarperCollins, 2016). Charmingly illustrated in cheery candy colors by Angie Rozelaar, this clever comedic confection stars three lovable characters: Rabbit, Porcupine, and Frog MOOSE!

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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)

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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.

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