Ho Ho Ho and Fa la la: Three Spunky Cups of Christmas Tea (+ a holiday blog break)

Merry Merry!

You know what they say: Christmas is for kids. Well, here at Alphabet Soup, we hope to bring out the kid in you.

Look who dropped by for tea: Madeline, Anne Shirley and Eloise! Three spunky girls we all love for their inimitable personalities. They each agreed to share a little something from their stories if we bribed honored them with special treats. We were more than happy to oblige, yet with these three, you just never know.

So here’s to a little magic, some quality kindred spirit time, and lotsa ho ho ho zippity jingle Christmas cheer. Put on a cheery bib and ring when you’re ready to join the fun! 🙂

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🇫🇷 MADELINE’S MADELEINES 🐕

Bonjour, Madeline!

Who can forget your iconic opening rhyme:

In an old house in Paris
That was covered with vines
Lived twelve little girls
In two straight lines.
They left the house at half-past nine
in two straight lines, in rain or shine.
The smallest one was MADELINE.

She was happy to tell us about one of her favorite adventures. It took place one Christmas Eve, when everyone (including Miss Clavel) was in bed with miserable colds. It was up to brave Madeline, the only one up and about, to take care of them.

Art by Ludwig Bemelmans.

When a rug merchant knocked at the door, Madeline purchased all twelve of his rugs, a good solution for their “ice-cold in the morning feet.” But the rug merchant soon regretted the sale, for without his rugs he felt very chilly outdoors. Madeline welcomed him back into the house, where she gave him medicine to help him thaw out. 

Wishing to show his gratitude, the rug merchant agreed to help with the dishes.

His magic ring he gave a glance
And went into a special trance –
The dirty dishes washed themselves
And jumped right back upon the shelves.

Then, with a profound abracadabra, the rugs turned into magic carpets, flying all twelve girls home to surprise their parents on Christmas day. 

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[poem + 3 recipes] celebrating the queen’s platinum jubilee

“It’s all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you’re properly trained.” ~ HM Queen Elizabeth II

Happy Platinum Jubilee Weekend! 

We’re here to raise our teacups and nibble on a few treats as Her Majesty the Queen celebrates 70 glorious years on the throne. At age 96, she’s ruled longer than any other monarch in British history, and is currently the oldest and longest-serving incumbent head of state in the world. 

The official Platinum Jubilee emblem was designed by 19-year-old graphic design student Edward Roberts from Nottinghamshire.

When she pledged to devote her life to service on her 21st birthday, little did she realize she’d actually be Queen just four years later. In fact, she never expected to wear the crown in the first place, since the line of succession was supposed to pass from her grandfather, King George V, to her Uncle Edward, and then on to his children. Of course Edward’s abdication to marry Wallis Simpson changed everything. 

Coronation Day portrait by Cecil Beaton, June 2, 1953 (Westminster Abbey).

I remain in awe of someone who accepted the cards she was dealt, got on with the job, and has remained a beloved, steadfast exemplar of duty, devotion, and public service despite rifts, divorces, deaths, scandals, and challenges to the monarchy’s relevance during rapidly changing times. 

“I have to be seen to be believed.” ~ HM Queen Elizabeth

Seven decades = a LOT of smiles, handshakes, white-gloved waves, receptions, charity events, walkabouts, fittings, sittings, tours, state banquets, royal performances, garden parties, teas, carriage rides, and HATS. 🙂

God Save the Queen! 

We’re thrilled and honored to welcome HM back to Alphabet Soup. You may remember when she first visited for a quick cuppa eight years ago. This time, we were anxious to try a couple of recipes from Carolyn Robb’s new cookbook, Tea at the Palace (Weldon Owen, 2022). 

Robb was Personal Chef to TRH the Prince and Princess of Wales for 11 years. Her 50 sweet and savory recipes are tied to twelve of Britain’s most stunning palaces and residences, and is a nice mix of traditional, contemporary and whimsical dishes.

We selected three recipes just for the Queen and enjoyed a lively chin wag. She ‘spilled the tea’ on her least favorite granddaughter-in-law and told us about the time she found a slug in her salad (ugh!), but she would not reveal what she carries in her handbag (a lady is entitled to her secrets after all).

Ring when you’re ready and enjoy!

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[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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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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a touch of yellow

“Yellow is capable of charming God.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

“Yellow Teapot” by John Hubbard Rich
YELLOW BUTTERFLIES BRING HAPPINESS
by Sharon Lask Munson

When she relocated to her new home
I gave my darling niece a teapot,
bestowed lifelong advice --
every home needs a touch of yellow.

Days later, a friend wrote
she was wearing the butter-yellow sweater
I gave her on a blustery day.

There have been other yellows --
first daffodils of spring,
summer sunflowers,
my citron slicker,
daisies -- he loves me, he loves me not,
the gold ring on my finger.

I slice fresh lemon for tea,
spread local honey on toast,
sing "My Only Sunshine."
I admire the canary a friend
keeps in her kitchen,
the melody of his song.

I remember Dagwood and Blondie
in the Sunday funnies,
snap up Atlantic Avenue
and Marvin Gardens playing Monopoly,
watch out for children
as yellow school buses pull up to the curb.

I bake lemon meringue pies,
buy butter to spread on sweet corn,
make goldenrod toast
for Sunday night suppers,
center the table with beeswax candles,
keep curtains open as the moon rises.

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Just a touch of yellow, even a tiny bit, brings joy, sunshine, radiance, optimism, vitality, freshness, hope.

It’s almost impossible to be sad once yellow flutters in.

One Christmas when I was 10 or 11, I received a yellow cardigan — it had pretty scalloped trim around the collar, sleeves, and hem — and yarn covered buttons! How I loved it, even though it was usually too warm to wear it. The important thing is that it came from a favorite aunt who had excellent taste in all things. Her gift made such an impression on me that I’m still thinking about it over 50 years later.

Like Munson, I, too, rejoice at those first spring daffodils (the only flowers we have that are deer proof), and I love all things butter, baking delectable treats with it, melting it over popcorn, spreading it on warm biscuits or toast. It simply makes everything taste better. Hello, beautiful butter, my lifelong friend. You can make me ecstatic with a single pat.

This poem also made me think of my parents. My dad’s favorite pie was lemon meringue, and though there were no sunflowers in our yard, we had cheery oncidium orchids and an abundance of yellow plumeria thanks to my mom’s green thumb. Yellow plumeria lei for May Day and Aloha Week — such good memories!

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