cornelius meets hillary: of cookies, chiles, and scrambled eggs

Some of you may know we love talking about Presidential Food here in the Alphabet Soup kitchen.

Whether it’s polishing off a bowl of JFK’s clam chowder, whipping up a batch of George Washington’s hoecakes, or wrapping our lips around Barack Obama’s homemade chili, learning about our leaders’ favorite foods makes them more human and accessible.

I like associating Ronald Reagan with jelly beans, George Bush with pork rinds, Jimmy Carter with peanuts. But what of the first female presidential nominee?

I guess Hillary Rodham Clinton can be summed up this way: she’s a hot pepper and a smart cookie.🙂

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

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

chocolatetruffles
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 + brownie recipe] Happy Birthday, Alice Babette by Monica Kulling and Qin Leng

I’ve often wished I could travel back in time to visit Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas at their famous 1920’s Paris salon.

Imagine making small talk with the likes of Picasso, Hemingway, Matisse, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thornton Wilder on a leisurely Saturday evening while gazing at an amazing collection of modernist art adorning the walls at 27 rue de Fleurus! Would Alice serve her special mushroom sandwiches, a giant squab in pyjamas, or maybe wild rice salad?

I know what you’re thinking: brownies! Well, perhaps.🙂

It was such a treat to read the recently published picture book Happy Birthday, Alice Babette by Monica Kulling and Qin Leng (Groundwood Books, 2016). Charming and winsome are the first two words that come to mind, along with sheer delight. This fictionalized story based on the lives of these two expat luminaries focuses on their singular relationship — complementary personalities who carved out a unique existence that brought out the best in each other.

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Poetry Friday Roundup is here!

Welcome to Poetry Friday at Alphabet Soup!

Please help yourself to a mug of coffee, tea or milk and a blueberry crumb bar — just the thing for hopping from blog to blog and reading some good poems.🙂

To set you on your way, thought I’d share a poem from Mary Szybist’s Incarnadine (Graywolf Press, 2013), which won the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry. I like the intersection between the temporal and the spiritual, the dissolution of will and ego while singing praise for the divine glory of the world. And, too, in this day and age of blatant self aggrandizement, it is humbling to contemplate Mother Nature’s largesse as well as her indifference to our inconsequential and fleeting existences, our infinitesimal obsessions.

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“Blueberries’ Great Escape” via DogwoodStudioAlaska

 

HERE, THERE ARE BLUEBERRIES
by Mary Szybist

When I see the bright clouds, a sky empty of moon and stars,
I wonder what I am, that anyone should note me.

Here there are blueberries, what should I fear?
Here there is bread in thick slices, of whom should I be afraid?

Under the swelling clouds, we spread our blankets.
Here in this meadow, we open our baskets

to unpack blueberries, whole bowls of them,
berries not by the work of our hands, berries not by the work of our fingers.

what taste the bright world has, whole fields
without wires, the blackened moss, the clouds

swelling at the edges of the meadow. And for this,
I did nothing, not even wonder.

You must live for something, they say.
People don’t live just to keep on living.

But here is the quince tree, a sky bright and empty.
Here there are blueberries, there is no need to note me.

~ from Incarnadine (Graywolf Press, 2013).

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This poem appears near the end of the book, a sort of benediction. The entire collection is luminous and deeply thought provoking, with inventive explorations of the divine in everyday life. The National Book Award judges citation reads in part: “This is a religious book for nonbelievers, or a book of necessary doubts for the faithful.” Definitely worth a look — Szybist is a poet’s poet.

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Speaking of which, Heartfelt Congratulations to Juan Felipe Herrera, our new U.S. Poet Laureate, and Jacqueline Woodson, our new Young People’s Poet Laureate! Way cool!🙂

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Now, please leave your links with Mr. Linky below. Don’t forget to include the title of the poem you’re sharing or book you’re reviewing in parentheses after your name. The links page will stay up indefinitely and can be accessed at any time for your reading convenience.

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Thanks for joining us today. If you’d like the Blueberry Crumb Bars recipe, click over to Smitten Kitchen. Cool thoroughly before slicing and enjoy with a side of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.🙂

Have a wonderful weekend!
(Here there are blueberries, here there are poems.)

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Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.