[mouthwatering review + recipe] The Fabulous Tale of Fish & Chips by Helaine Becker and Omer Hoffmann

“Fish ‘n’ chips!
Chips ‘n’ fish!
Such a crispy, tasty dish!”

It wasn’t until I moved to London in the late 70s that I tasted authentic fish ‘n’ chips for the first time.

Whether cod and chips from a neighborhood chippy, or a plate of divine lemon sole at Geale’s in Notting Hill, it was all so good. Nothing could compare to those golden brown fillets, fried up light and crispy in a beer batter, each crunchy bite yielding to tender, flaky fish inside. Is there any meal more quintessentially British?

Naturally, I assumed fish ‘n’ chips was invented by an Englishman. But after reading The Fabulous Tale of Fish & Chips by Helaine Becker and Omer Hoffmann (Green Bean Books, 2021), I surprisingly learned it was a Jewish immigrant named Joseph Malin who opened the very first fish ‘n’ chips shop in the UK. Established in 1860, Malin’s of Bow in London’s East End remained in operation for over a century. Now that’s a lot of fish and taters!

In her flavorful fishtory, Becker surmises how fish met chips to become “one of the greatest and most popular dishes of all time.”

Young Joseph Malin loves everything about fish — catching, selling, and especially, eating it. Though his entire family works from dawn to dusk in their fish shop, they struggle to make ends meet. 

One day Joseph has a brilliant idea — what if they try to sell cooked instead of raw fish? After all, he loves his grandmother’s delicious fried fish — a special family recipe handed down through several generations. Her secret is coating the fish in flour, dipping it in beaten egg, then coating it with matzoh meal before frying it in hot oil. 

Because of its crispy crust, the fried fish is just as tasty the next day when families like Joseph’s, who are forbidden to cook on the Sabbath, can eat it cold.

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[tasty talk + giveaway] Cynthia Cliff on Pie for Breakfast: A Baking Book for Children

Good Morning. Please take a seat and put on your fanciest bib, because today we’re having Pie for Breakfast!

We’re so pleased to welcome Virginia author, illustrator and graphic designer Cynthia Cliff to talk about her debut children’s book — a beautifully illustrated picture book-cookbook featuring 13 scrumptious recipes for kids to make with their families.

Young Hazel, who loves to bake with her father, organizes a bake sale to raise money for the school library. She asks her friends to bake delectable treats to sell at the school’s fair, and they come through with international delights such as Pumpkin Empanadas, Basbousa Cake, Apple Custard Muffins, Mini Pineapple Truffles, and Nankhatai Cookies. YUM! 

Her friends and their families are a wonderfully diverse, multigenerational group working in their home kitchens, shopping at the grocers or farmers’ market, and harvesting produce from their own gardens. 

The recipes accommodate different skill levels and special diets (gluten-free and vegan), with directions laid out in easy-to-follow steps.

Cynthia’s charming illustrations are warm and folksy, brimming with details providing clues about the characters’ personalities and family dynamics. The final double page spread showing everyone at the bake sale gloriously celebrates the book’s overarching themes of food, friendship, diversity, and community. 

What a delectable reminder of how food connects and unites us — whether we grow it, shop for it, cook it, share it or eat it together.

Enjoy our chat — lucky us, Cynthia is also sharing a favorite recipe. 🙂

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[chat + giveaway] Ashley Wolff on How to Help a Pumpkin Grow

Today we’re happy to welcome back Ashley Wolff to talk about her latest picture book, How to Help a Pumpkin Grow (Beach Lane Books, 2021).

This delectable charmer about gardening and unexpected friendship is the perfect way to celebrate fall and will definitely make you want to wrap your lips around a piece of freshly baked pumpkin pie. 🙂

The star of this toothsome tale is an amiable, dedicated dog farmer — a handsome border collie modeled after Ashley’s own dog Rufus. Decked out in a red bandanna and matching yellow gloves and boots, Dog eagerly plants his pumpkin seeds in spring, then carefully protects, feeds, weeds, waters, and guards his precious sprouts from any barnyard creatures who may wish to take a nibble.

When hungry Crow eyes up the sprouts, Dog asks him if he wants to “help a pumpkin grow,” so Crow helps with weeding. As time passes and the plants get bigger, Dog also asks Rabbit, Duck, and Goat if they’d like to help too. As the new friends work together, they take pride in vining, twining, and watching their beautiful pumpkins flourish until it’s time to harvest them.

The fun continues as they then gather in the kitchen to “roast,” “toast,” and roll out dough for perfect pumpkin pies. After feasting on them, they happily carve jack-o-lanterns in time for a glowing Halloween.

With its spare, pitch-perfect rhyming text and richly hued and textured acrylic gouache illustrations, How to Help a Pumpkin Grow is sure to become a favorite autumn read aloud (observant munchkins will also love following a wee mouse from spread to spread). With its gentle themes of patience, industry, friendship, cooperation, and pride in accomplishment, this heartwarming story also reminds us that sometimes perceived enemies can turn out to be good friends.

Big thanks to Ashley for stopping by (yes, she’s also sharing a favorite pumpkin recipe). Enjoy!

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[review + author chat] Margo Sorenson on Little Calabash

Aloha, Friends! If you’re in the mood for a little taste of sunny Hawaii, you’ve come to the right place: Margo Sorenson is back to talk about her latest picture book, Little Calabash (Island Heritage, 2020).

This sweet and satisfying story, illustrated in vibrant, fruity colors by Anneth Lagamo, will delight young readers who enjoy anthropomorphic characters, lively wordplay, and kicking back in the kitchen. 🙂

It’s Keoki’s birthday, and his mom is busy making some delicious treats for his party: haupia pudding, starfruit cookies, and mango cupcakes with guava frosting. As she stirs, mixes, grates, rolls, and pours, she uses a number of different kitchen utensils and calabashes.

But not Little Calabash. He wants to help too, but so far he’s been left out. Is he too small to be of use? Does this mean he isn’t special like the other calabashes?

Some are not so sympathetic.

“Stop your whining,” said the goblet.

You need to chill out,” the refrigerator said, frostily.

“Quit trying to stir up trouble,” said the wooden spoon.

Little Calabash felt a tear form.

Yet others are supportive and encouraging, like the coffee pot, who whispers, “Perk up, kid. You are special. Keep believing in yourself. You’ll see.”

Little Calabash keeps his hopes up, determined to be used for the party. He’s stuck in the back of the shelf, behind the bigger calabashes. Keoki’s mom won’t use him if she can’t find him, right? So he gradually wiggles his way to the front of the cupboard shelf, inch by inch, paying no attention to naysayers like the frying pan, toaster, and teaspoon, who says, “You just don’t measure up.”

Will Little Calabash’s initiative finally pay off? How does Little Calabash make Keoki feel like a big kid on his birthday?

While Margo shows off her skills as an enthusiastic punster, Anneth fills the kitchen with cheeky, emotive culinary characters who sparkle with personality. Kids will never look at kitchen paraphernalia the same way ever again, not after they’ve heard the cocoa mug, mixer, and colander have their say.

Everything has a face, and the various expressions make each piece distinctive. Kids will love poring over the illustrations to check out every tiny detail. Who wouldn’t be tickled by laughing eggs and chopsticks, adorable marshmallows, and an entire platter of smiley fruit? The can opener appears to be quite friendly, while the colander is decidedly aloof. Even the little cork in the olive oil bottle is grinning, while the other calabashes, in all their winsome brownness, come off as warm and lovable.

Kids will root for Little Calabash as they’re reminded that everyone counts, no matter their size. They’ll enjoy pointing out all the different pieces of kitchen equipment and will likely have a good chuckle over the punny dialogue. They can also find out more about the island treats mentioned in the story in the lip-smacking glossary.

Now, let’s hear what Margo has to say about writing the book. We thank her for sharing lots of personal photos and a favorite recipe from Hawaii. And yes, she has her very own calabash!

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love me some biscuits

“Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.” ~ Carl Sandburg

Hello Friends and Hello 2021!

Nice to be back, and I must say, you’re even cuter than you were last year. How is that even possible? Maybe it was all those cookies you ate over the holidays. 😀

I was so happy to toss out 2020 and turn the page on a brand new Susan Branch calendar. Marking the days, weeks, and months with her charming art, quotes, photos, and recipes is how I like to roll. I think of her as a good luck charm; her optimism and positive energy really keep me going.

If January is any indication, we’re all in for a BIG year. Huge challenges, yes, but I’m hopeful that with our new President, Vice President, Democratic Congress and our collective faith in the power of BLUE — we’ll be able to heal, restore, build, and move forward for the good of all.

2021 will be one heck of a feast, and I’m anxious to dig in, so please pass the biscuits!

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via JaneCBaker
IN RHAPSODIC PRAISE OF BISCUITS
by Joan Leotta

Biscuits transubstantiate from
buttermilk or Lily brand flour and
Clabber Girl baking powder
into a heavenly delight.
So, it is only right that they
are the first item passed
after prandial prayer.
Plucking one from the basket
passed to me,
my fingers tingle as they brush
the lightly crisped top.
Slowly, I separate the still warm
bread of perfection
into two perfect halves,
tamping down the steam 
with a pat of real butter
and a swirl of honey.
I lift one section to mouth
and savor the
sweetness of the topping,
aided and abetted by the salty,
creamy butter amid the
biscuit crumbs.
Edible perfection.

~ from a broadside sponsored by Poetry in Plain Sight (Winston Salem, December 2019)

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