“Two applesauce cakes were on display in the middle of the kitchen table when Clay-Boy walked in. He breathed in the spicy aroma appreciatively. Something had happened during his absence. There was some quickening of excitement, a sense of Christmas rushing inexorably down upon them, but in spite of the two proud cakes, he knew that his mother was not really prepared for the day.” ~ Earl Hamner (The Homecoming)
When I heard June 6th was National Applesauce Cake Day, the first person I thought of was Olivia Walton.
Though she and Grandma spend a lot of time in the kitchen serving up good old-fashioned country dishes like fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, beef stew, fresh corn on the cob, scrambled eggs, bacon and heavenly peach pie, it is her applesauce cake that holds special favor. Whenever there is something to celebrate, Olivia makes an applesauce cake, and it seems to work wonders with anyone needing a good serving of down home comfort.
In Earl Hamner’s novel, The Homecoming (1970), upon which the series pilot is based, Olivia Spencer makes two applesauce cakes for Christmas. She is apprehensive because her husband Clay, who’s been working in the city far from home, is late returning home on Christmas Eve. She tries to hide her worry from the children by asking them to help her crack black walnuts for the cakes.
“Things are always happening to me. I’m that sort of bear.” ~ Paddington Brown, Gentleman Bear
The resident Paddingtons are all in a tizzy because today is Michael Bond’s 85th birthday!
The alphabet soup kitchen is full of furry creatures in duffle coats, bush hats and Wellingtons, busy eating making eating marmalade sandwiches, sipping tea and burying their snouts in little cups of cocoa. They’ve also been reading a few of Mr. Bond’s charming stories aloud. Like all good bears, they never tire of hearing about themselves.
I’ve been reading a little more about Michael Bond, who received an OBE (Officer, Order of the British Empire), for his services to children’s literature. He’s definitely a man after my own heart, for not only did he rescue a teddy bear left behind on a Selfridge’s shelf (the inspiration for Paddington), but he’s also a diehard Francophile and lover of fine cuisines and wine.
“Molly sponged the spilled coffee. She took orders from the crew of a night train bringing lumber over Raton Pass. She tried hard to stay awake. But at four in the morning, when the baker arrived to start his work, she was lulled into dreams by the odors of yeast, sugar and fruit. She stood, leaning against the cup shelf, and saw pies, endless pies. Alice-in-Wonderland pies, dancing do-si-dos behind her shut eyelids.” (Chapter 6, When Molly Was a Harvey Girl).
Author Frances M. Wood (above) was inspired by her great-grandmother, Jennie, who became a Harvey Girl in 1887.
If you were traveling in the Southwest on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad in the late 1880’s, you’d probably stop to eat at a Harvey House lunch room or restaurant. You’d be mighty glad it was there — a spotless, efficiently-run establishment serving generous portions of delicious food at affordable prices.
Care for some warm cinnamon buns, a stack of orange pancakes, oatmeal with honey and a side of ham? How about a sandwich (meatloaf, corned beef or chicken salad), or maybe you’re in the mood for pork chops with gravy, a thick steak or hearty beef stew? Of course the coffee is always good — big urns of freshly brewed, steamy hot coffee ready to perk you up after those long hours on the train. For dessert? The pies here are cut in fourths. Mm–mmmmm!
Certainly not me. I’m so glad that in January 2010, Kane Miller published an American edition of this funny, engaging, and yes, totally delicious middle grade novel by award-winning Australian author Ruth Starke.
It satisfied my cravings for a little armchair travel, colorful characters, a bounty of ethnic food and family togetherness. Moreover, it taught me a lot about Vietnamese culture as seen through the eyes of almost-twelve-year-old Andy Nguyen, who visits Hanoi with his father for the first time.
Andy is excited about his first plane ride, passport, and the chance to meet his dad’s side of the family. Growing up, he heard stories about how his father fled the country after the fall of Saigon and settled in Australia. It is a poignant visit for his dad, who’s anxious to be reunited with his family, but he’s beholden to them and painfully aware of their high expectations.