[poesy + receipts] Three Cups of Tea with Miss Emily

“If we love flowers, are we not born again every day . . .” (Emily Dickinson to Mrs. George S. Dickerman, 1886)

Happy Good Friday and Happy Passover!

We are celebrating this rejuvenating season of renewal, reflection and rebirth with our dear friend Emily Dickinson.

Ever since Spring donned her yellow bonnet and tiptoed into our woods, I’ve been immersed in Emily’s words. Rereading her poems fills me with the same wonder and elation as seeing those first daffodils pop up or the dogwoods proudly showing off their white blossoms. 

Her inimitable voice remains fresh, clever, startling, a little subversive. For someone who once wondered if her verse was “alive,” she could never have imagined that it has remained so to millions for over a century.

A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown -
Who ponders this tremendous scene -
This whole Experiment of Green -
As if it were his own!

Although she normally shies away from company, the Belle of Amherst couldn’t resist Mr Cornelius’s invitation to stop by (he has a way with 19th century poetic geniuses). She agreed to share a few of her poems if we provided tea and treats.

We were happy to oblige, quite anxious to try several recipes from the new Emily Dickinson Cookbook: Recipes from Emily’s Table Alongside the Poems That Inspire Them (Harvard Common Press, 2022). Arlyn Osborne’s charming compendium contains 50+ recipes – several Emily recorded, dishes she and her family enjoyed, plus others typical of the New England of her time – all adapted for the modern home cook. 

Our three cups of tea represent the triad of Emily’s existence: Garden, Writing, Home and Family. We have selected YOU as our society, so put on a clean white dress or shirt, place a crown of dandelions in your hair, and ring when you’re ready for your first cup of verse and victuals.

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[now serving] Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes “the French Chef” by Alex Prud’homme and Sarah Green (+ a giveaway!)

“Those early years in France were among the best of my life. They marked a crucial period of transformation in which I found my true calling, experienced an awakening of the senses, and had such fun that I hardly stopped moving long enough to catch my breath.” ~Julia Child (My Life in France, 2006).

When it comes to big appetites, Julia Child is hard to beat. 

Beyond food, Julia craved knowledge, adventure, and travel, and she thrived on excellence. Large in stature with an outsized personality to match, Julia took a big, juicy bite out of life and wholeheartedly shared her largesse. 

In this delectable new picture book biography, Julia’s grandnephew Alex Prud’homme highlights Julia’s early years in France, a time when she found love, discovered her true calling, and worked hard to achieve her goals of becoming a good cook and beloved teacher.

We’re first introduced to Julia McWilliams as a physically active, 6’2”, voraciously curious force of nature. Because her parents had a cook, she never saw the point of spending any time in the kitchen.

I was born hungry, not a cook.

She’d “always dreamed of having adventures and becoming a famous writer.” During WWII she volunteered as a clerk typist for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Ceylon. It was there that she met her future husband, Paul Child, a painter, photographer, and bon vivant who had lived in Paris and could speak fluent French.

They got on very well despite their differences: he was ten years older, shorter, and “much quieter.” But they bonded over a mutual love of “food, books, and travel.”

Paul encouraged Julia to try foods from around the world; she encouraged him to take an elephant ride. She still couldn’t cook, but she did create her first recipe – for shark repellent!

After the war, Julia and Paul moved back to America and got married. Determined to be a good wife, she took cooking lessons to impress Paul. Her first meal, cow brains simmered in red wine, was a disaster because she’d rushed through the recipe. This only made her more determined than ever to become a better cook.

A couple of years later, they traveled to France for Paul’s new job at the U.S. Embassy. En route to Paris, they stopped at La Couronne in Rouen for lunch. Not just any lunch, of course, but the famous sole meunière meal that would prove life changing.

Julia inhaled the wonderful aroma of fish cooked in butter. Then she took a bite of the sole, experienced ‘a magnificent burst of flavor,’ and closed her eyes. She had never tasted anything so fresh and delicious. She tried to chew slowly, to savor every morsel, but the lunch was so good that she gobbled it down.

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nine cool things on a tuesday

1. Bright cheery colors and a big shot of joy are just what we need to counter the winter doldrums. 

“Daydream painter and magic maker” Julia Eves is a folk artist based in Mississippi who draws her inspiration from nature, her love of animals, and the rich culture of the South.

Julia uses mixed media and bright acrylics to create her pieces, which pulse with life and energy. She paints on both canvas and wood panels. Frida Kahlo is her muse and favorite person to paint.

Visit her Etsy Shop to purchase originals and archival prints. Some of her prints are available at select Home Goods stores. For the latest, check out her Instagram. 

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Outlandish Fun with Bannocks and Biscuits, Parritch and Kilts (+ a holiday blog break)

Don your kilts and pour yourself a wee dram.  Today we’re serving up a little festive cheer à la Outlander.

Sláinte Mhath! Cheers!

While others may be channeling elves, sugarplum fairies, and red-nosed reindeer, we in the Alphabet Soup kitchen are getting our Scots on. 

Je suis prest. Et vous?

Ever since experiencing a long Scot summer binge-watching the Outlander TV series and taking a deep dive into Diana Gabaldon’s novels, all we can think about is men in kilts fascinating Scottish history time traveling between the 18th and 20th centuries.

Central characters Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) contemplate potatoes.

You can really work up an appetite falling through the stones and zipping around places like Boston, Inverness, Edinburgh, Paris, Jamaica, and North Carolina. Thank goodness for the fortifying recipes in Theresa Carle-Sanders’s Outlander Kitchen cookbooks

Based in Pender Island, Canada, chef and diehard Outlander fan Carle-Sanders has done a wonderful job of creating cookbooks true to the series with a blend of historical recipes adapted for modern palates, along with her own creative, period appropriate dishes that reflect two centuries and the cuisines of several different countries (no small feat!). 

Whenever whisky appears in this post, you must sip!

Suffice to say, Gabaldon’s generous bounty of culinary references in the series is a literary feast par excellence. Characters wet their whistles with ale, grog, tea, hot chocolate, brandy, wine, cider, and of course, lots and lots of whisky. 

The Fraser family at the Ridge, North Carolina.

They feast on pheasant, venison, beef, ham, oysters, hares, lamb, chickens, mussels, boar, fish, eels, and haggis, as well as Hershey bars with almonds, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruitcakes, crumblies, tatties, pasties, sausages, nightingales (!) and rolls stuffed with pigeon and truffles, to name a few.

Claire Fraser serves 20th century PBJ sandwiches to her 18th century family (via Outlander Cast).
Jamie eats his with a knife and fork (via Outlander Cast).

Whether a bowl of restorative cock-a-leekie soup cooked in a big kettle outdoors at Lallybroch, or an elaborate, multi-course supper at the Palace at Versailles, Outlander food is its own character, telling stories of people, places, history, culture and heritage. Truly sensory-rich and satisfying! 

Dining at Versailles.

So, are you up for a few poems, a nourishing breakfast, a modest afternoon tea? Relax, enjoy, and give your bagpipes a good squeeze!

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[tasty review + recipe] Be More Vegan by Niki Webster

Whether you’re hoping to go full-tilt vegan, thinking about trying something new, or are just looking to cut back on meat and dairy, Niki Webster’s Be More Vegan: The Young Person’s Guide to Going (A Bit More) Plant-Based! (Welbeck, 2021) is the book for you.

The “young person” in the title suggests this book is just for teens, but adults will also find much to love in this upbeat introductory guide. Webster, a certified holistic health coach, food consultant, and acclaimed vegan food blogger, establishes from the outset that veganism doesn’t necessarily have to be an all-or- nothing choice. Being “more vegan” — regardless of how you choose to define “more” — is a positive step towards personal well being, animal welfare and a thriving planet.

Niki Webster photo by Katie Palmer Photography

The book opens with Webster introducing herself and explaining why she’s a vegan. As a child, she didn’t like meat and refused to eat it. She just felt eating animals was wrong. After developing a milk intolerance, her “fussy eater” diet became even more restrictive, so in her teens she began cooking for herself, experimenting with and discovering foods she liked to eat.

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