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.


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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[tasty little review] The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by Anne Michaels and Emma Block


Petit fours: dainty little iced cakes, delicately layered with fruit or buttercream, an adorable bite-size treat. Eating one of these pastel pretties can make you feel quite special, maybe even a little giddy with delight.

That was just how I felt reading The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by award winning author and poet Anne Michaels.  Meeting the inimitable, eccentric Miss Petitfour was a singular pleasure since she’s an expert at baking and eating little cakes.  A very good talent to have, I must say.

Miss P also likes to read, chat, and dance. She thrives on small pleasures. Fond of “pockets, paisley, playful patterns and anything hand-knitted,” she travels by tablecloth with her 16 cats trailing aloft, a fanciful kind of Mary Poppins sans umbrella with her own brand of magic.

Laced with just the right amounts of whimsy and fun, this charming book features five everyday adventures of precisely the right size:

Some adventures are so small, you hardly know they’ve happened. Like the adventure of sharpening your pencil to a perfect point, just before it breaks and that little bit gets stuck in the sharpener. That, I think we will all agree, is a very small adventure.

Other adventures are so big and last so long, you might forget they are adventures at all — like growing up.

And some adventures are just the right size — fitting into a single, magical day. And these are the sort of adventures Miss Petitfour had.

And guess what else?

Miss Petitfour believed firmly that every adventure past her doorstep — even just a jaunt to the grocery shop — must end with a tea party . . .


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thursday elevenses: reading from A Bear Called Paddington

Hello there. It’s story o’clock and time for elevenses!

Paddington’s put on his comfy PJs and slippers, poured a cup of warm cocoa, and procured a big fat chocolate bun just for you. If you’re familiar with Paddington and his adventures, you know that he frequents Portobello Road to have cocoa and buns with Mr. Gruber in his antique shop.

What’s that? You haven’t read any of the Paddington chapter books yet? Oh but you must! The movie is coming to the U.S. soon — we’ve been counting down the days to January 16 for months now. To whet your appetite, check out this video of some of the cast and crew reading the first chapter of the very first book, A Bear Called Paddington (1958).

Why do stories always sound better when read aloud in a British accent? I especially love the way they all pronounce the word “bear.” Nicole Kidman’s Australian accent is pretty cool, too. I think we Americans have been getting it wrong all this time.🙂

So take a break, put your feet up, sip some cocoa and grab a bite of that bun before a certain furry interloper devours it all. Enjoy!

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Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

cooking with aliens: a delicious chat with erik weibel about the adventures of tomato and pea

I’m tickled pink (and red, green, yellow and blue) to welcome newly published author, faster-than-lightning reader, This Kid Reviews Books blogger and budding philanthropist Erik Weibel to Alphabet Soup today!

Eleven-year-old Erik is beloved in the kidlitosphere (he started blogging when he was just nine!), and continues to impress everyone with his consistently incisive and candid book reviews and irrepressible enthusiasm for reading and writing.

He worked on his new chapter book, THE ADVENTURES OF TOMATO AND PEA – Book 1: A Bad Idea, for 3 years (i.e., 1/4 of his life). It is the first in a planned trilogy featuring tiny aliens called Smidges from the planet Oarg, and is notable for its cast of colorful, quirky characters, lively narrative with hilarious rapid-fire dialogue, vivid descriptions, and enduring themes (friendship, cooperation, courage, the triumph of good over evil).

In Book 1, super crime-stopper Tomato, his techno-savvy sidekick Pea, and two other Smidges find themselves tricked, then trapped aboard the rocket ship S.S. Poofy with the evil Wintergreen and his unsavory cohorts. After they crash-land on planet EAR-TH, they must all learn to work together to ensure their survival and find a way to return home to Oarg.

Erik displays remarkable writing chops in this fun, quick read, and it’s exciting to see someone so young accomplish so much.

Yet one question remains:

Can this boy cook?🙂

After all, he did include a character named Skew in the story, Tomato and Pea’s yellow friend who is a good, resourceful cook. Erik has said there’s a bit of him in each of his characters, and that he loves to cook. You can see why I had to investigate.🙂🙂🙂

And so, my hungry readers —


for the first time on any blog anywhere —

*trumpet flourish*

Erik the Great Weibel dishes about food in The Adventures of Tomato and Pea, his plans to take over the world, his personal food preferences, and then (*drool*) cooks up two mouthwatering, out of this world, Smidge-approved recipes with his alien friends (including notes and tips). Intergalactic Yum!!

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five, six, seven . . . (okay, nine) happy things on a tuesday

1. First things first! You’ve probably already heard, but this bears repeating again and again and again:

Colin Firth will be voicing Paddington in the new movie!!


I can’t even tell you how excited I was when I first heard about this last week — actually two lovely writer friends sent me a news link within seconds of each other with the same message: OMG! HAVE YOU SEEN THIS?!

And I died because I’ve loved Paddington forever, have read all his books numerous times and own 30+ Paddington stuffed bears and visited Paddington Station and like eating marmalade sandwiches and want a duffle coat and give people hard stares and want to change my last name to Brown and, and . . .

I mean, I was excited enough when I heard P was doing a genuine-for-real movie, but then to learn that of all the actors in the entire world with nice voices it will be COLIN FIRTH saying all of Paddington’s lines! Paddington’s character will be computer generated, but as Colin said, “Paddington will have something of me in his DNA because I’m going to do some sessions wearing one of those helmets with cameras to capture my face muscles, and all that data will somehow be incorporated into Paddington.”

Holey moley, two of my favorite guys morphed into one! Colin Firth face muscles for crying out loud. Too, too much!


One of my friends said, “It’s almost like Colin’s doing this just for you.” SCREAM. Oxygen, I need oxygen! We’ll have to wait till 2015 before the movie comes out. Sigh. And here I thought I couldn’t possibly love Paddington or Colin any more than I already do . . .

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