[tasty review + giveaway] Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites by Jamie Michalak, Debbi Michiko Florence and Yuko Jones

Even before I took my first bite of this delectable new picture book, I was in love. Just look at that cover! Yuko Jones’s appealing depiction of young Niki had me grinning and giddy with anticipation. I immediately wanted to know more about her. So much joy, spunk, and pride in that adorable face — I could just eat her up!

I was not familiar with Chef Niki before reading Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites by Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021). A pioneer of modern Japanese kaiseki cuisine, she founded the upscale Michelin two star restaurant n/naka in Los Angeles. In the decade since its opening in 2011, n/naka has risen to national prominence as the most celebrated kaiseki restaurant outside Japan.

Master Kaiseki Chef Niki Nakayama

This beautifully written, inspiring book shows how Nakayama defied expectations throughout her life, never giving up on her dream to chart her own destiny in a profession still dominated by men.

via n-naka.com

What is kaiseki? Considered the pinnacle of Japanese haute cuisine, it’s a traditional culinary art form consisting of an exquisitely presented multicourse meal prepared with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Courses follow a specific sequence balancing the taste, texture, appearance, and colors of food, thereby creating a singular story embodying the chef’s essence.

via n-naka.com
via n-naka.com

What makes the cuisine at n/naka unique is how Chef Niki has integrated her Japanese and American heritage and upbringing in Southern California within the template of traditional kaiseki. Just as her meals consist of 13 courses, Jamie and Debbi chose to tell her story in 13 scrumptious bites.

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[crunchy review] Hard-Boiled Bugs for Breakfast by Jack Prelutsky

Hungry? May I interest you in a few angry carrots, a slice of sunlight cake, maybe a cherry pie baked by a butterfly or a dish of red-hot ice cream?

Inaugural Young People’s Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky serves up all these tantalizing treats and more in his latest anthology, Hard-Boiled Bugs For Breakfast: And Other Tasty Poems (Greenwillow, 2021).

To whet your appetite, wrap your lips around the title poem:

Hard-Boiled Bugs for Breakfast

Hard-boiled bugs for breakfast,
Hard-boiled bugs for lunch,
Hard-boiled bugs at suppertime,
Crunchy! Crunchy! Crunch!

Hard-boiled bugs are tastier
Than spiders, flies, or slugs.
There’s not a doubt about it --
I love those hard-boiled bugs.

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Pretty tasty as long as you don’t get bug legs stuck in your teeth. 😀

Whether you’re a seasoned Prelutsky fan or a curious nibbler with an uncanny appetite for riotous rhymes, inventive wordplay, and preposterously punny poems, this chewy collection of over 100 verses is for you. 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all about food. Though there’s a respectable smorgasbord of kooky cuisine, kids will find oodles of other subjects infused with Prelutsky’s signature whackadoodle humor to get them giggling and nodding their heads in recognition — poems about faking illness to skip school, lamenting homework, growing light bulbs in a garden, being allergic to your pets, being forgetful or a chronic complainer, even cautionary quips about squeezing electric eels or being carried away by giant bubble gum (there’s a giant Easter Bunny too). 

Animals, real and imaginary, also get their fair share of the spotlight. Consider a lizard who can play the mandolin, an inch-tall, pink-tinted purple-dotted elephant who can tie her trunk in knots and play the violin with her tail, a giraffe that gives voice lessons, or a horse that floats in the air. Who wouldn’t love to have any of these pets? 

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[tasty talk + giveaway] Cynthia Cliff on Pie for Breakfast: A Baking Book for Children

Good Morning. Please take a seat and put on your fanciest bib, because today we’re having Pie for Breakfast!

We’re so pleased to welcome Virginia author, illustrator and graphic designer Cynthia Cliff to talk about her debut children’s book — a beautifully illustrated picture book-cookbook featuring 13 scrumptious recipes for kids to make with their families.

Young Hazel, who loves to bake with her father, organizes a bake sale to raise money for the school library. She asks her friends to bake delectable treats to sell at the school’s fair, and they come through with international delights such as Pumpkin Empanadas, Basbousa Cake, Apple Custard Muffins, Mini Pineapple Truffles, and Nankhatai Cookies. YUM! 

Her friends and their families are a wonderfully diverse, multigenerational group working in their home kitchens, shopping at the grocers or farmers’ market, and harvesting produce from their own gardens. 

The recipes accommodate different skill levels and special diets (gluten-free and vegan), with directions laid out in easy-to-follow steps.

Cynthia’s charming illustrations are warm and folksy, brimming with details providing clues about the characters’ personalities and family dynamics. The final double page spread showing everyone at the bake sale gloriously celebrates the book’s overarching themes of food, friendship, diversity, and community. 

What a delectable reminder of how food connects and unites us — whether we grow it, shop for it, cook it, share it or eat it together.

Enjoy our chat — lucky us, Cynthia is also sharing a favorite recipe. 🙂

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three coveted cups of coffee and a crisp croissant

“Why, yes, I could start my day without coffee. But I like being able to remember things like how to say words and put on pants.” ~ Nanea Hoffman

Good Morning. Let’s wake up and smell the coffee!

Happy to see you’re wearing your spiffy pants and speaking in full sentences. Do you owe it all to coffee?

Yes, I thought so. Sip, sip. Ah, arabica!

I must confess to being an anomaly when it comes to jump-starting the day with high octane java. Don’t know why, but I’ve never actually had a cup of coffee in my entire life (all 29 years). 😀

I mean, I LOVE the smell of freshly brewed coffee — walking into the kitchen with that divine aroma greeting me — but I’ve never  been tempted to pour myself a cup. Strange, no?

Guess I’m just a diehard teatotaler. English Breakfast, Darjeeling or Yorkshire Gold for me, if you please.

Still, I can appreciate coffee’s universal appeal and certainly enjoy seeing how it’s inspired poets and artists. 

Today we’re serving up a little sampler of coffee poems paired with Karen Eland’s amazing coffee art (yes, she painted these pieces with just espresso and water). And, because I can’t imagine having any hot beverage without a little something to nibble on, please enjoy a croissant.

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“Girl With a Pearl Earring” by Karen Eland (2006)
COFFEE FIRST
by Dory Hudspeth

The day begins with order
and quiet, broken
only by the small ringing
of the spoon against coffee mug.
If this small ritual goes well,
no spilling, no drips,
there is hope for the day.

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[tasty review] ABC El Salvador by Holly Ayala and Elizabeth Gómez

#59 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

Hola, ¿cómo estás?

At this very moment I’m enjoying a piece of Quesadilla Salvadoreña along with a nice warm cup of atol de elote. Want some? 🙂

Now we’re all set to travel around San Salvador and the town of Witzapan with young Xiomara (pronounced see-oh-MAR-ah). Friendly and oh so proud of her home country, Xiomara introduces us to her family, shows us places she likes to visit, and shares interesting tidbits of history, geography and culture in both Spanish and English.

Young readers will enjoy ABC El Salvador whether they are familiar with El Salvador or not. Since kids’ books on the subject are few and far between, Salvadoran children all over the world will be happy to see themselves represented in this book. 

Those unfamiliar with this unique place — the smallest country in continental America — will have fun learning the Spanish alphabet through Xiomara’s personal perspective.

She’s a girl after my own heart, since she begins with Atol, a sweet corn beverage she likes nice and warm (bien calientito!).

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