[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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[poems + recipe] playing with pooh

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?’” ~ A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh)

Why, hello . . . and brrrrrrrrrr!

Have you been hibernating? Must say your freshly brushed fur looks stunning!

Since we’re feeling quite bearish after our holiday break, today we’re serving up some tea, cookies, and huggable poems to help us get back into the swing of things.

All art by Ernest H. Shepard.

Our friend Pooh is joining us in remembrance of his creator A.A. Milne, born 140 years ago this week.

You probably know the world first “met” Pooh in Milne’s poem, “Teddy Bear” (initially published in Punch Magazine and then republished in his first book of verse, When We Were Very Young (1924)). 

“Teddy Bear” as it appeared in Punch with Shepard’s illustrations (1924).

Though he wasn’t yet named ‘Winnie-the-Pooh,’ there’s no doubt whom Milne was referring to. Though at first worried about his size, Edward Bear comes to embrace his adiposity after a chance meeting with the King of France, who’s not only stout but handsome!

They stood beneath the window there,
The King and Mr. Edward Bear,
And, handsome, if a trifle fat,
Talked carelessly of this and that . . . 

A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at.
But do you think it worries him
To know that he is far from slim?
No, just the other way about --
He's proud of being short and stout.
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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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something to quack about

QUACK! 

Since spring is Beatrix Potter time in the Alphabet Soup kitchen, thought we’d serve up a blend of old and new, courtesy of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-duck. 

For the last several days, while trying to decide which stories to talk about, we heard a constant quacking in the butler’s pantry. Stray feathers drifted in whenever we opened the front door, and the odd egg or two would appear in unexpected places — next to the toaster, inside the oatmeal box, in front of the clock.

Quite curious, wouldn’t you say?

Well, Clever Cornelius knew eggsactly what was up: Jemima Puddle-duck was jockeying for the spotlight.

Not wanting to quash her quack, we decided to share a newish board book in which she appears with Peter Rabbit, in addition to her classic tale published in 1908. 

A SPRING SURPRISE

In A Spring Surprise, the fifth title in the  adorable Peter Rabbit Tale board book series by Fiona Munro and Eleanor Taylor (Frederick Warne, 2019), Peter and his family are busy preparing for an Easter picnic.

Everyone except Peter knows what they’re bringing. For Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail, it’s blackberry juice, wildflower garlands and jump ropes.

Wanting to bring something just as perfect, Peter goes around asking for suggestions. His mother, who’s making sandwiches, suggests “something sweet,” while Benjamin Bunny (busy with his kite) is in favor of “something fun.” Squirrel Nutkin tells him to “take something that’s a bit different.”

Well, this only makes Peter feel worse because he can’t think of anything sweet, fun, or different . . . until he suddenly spots something small and yellow amongst the bluebells. A flower? No, it’s moving! A butterfly?

“QUACK!”

Ooh, a tiny duckling! He scoops it right up. As he scampers along the path, he sees another, then another and another! Peter knows these ducklings belong to Jemina Puddle-duck, who must be worried sick. When he shows up with them at the picnic, Jemima is ecstatic, and everyone claps and cheers. Peter definitely couldn’t have brought anything sweeter, more fun or different to the picnic. 🙂

Now, despite the missing ducklings, Jemima really likes this story because she gets to do some quazy joyous quacking at the end, and the appearance of her four ducklings kinda picks up right where The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck leaves off.

Do you recall that somewhat harrowing farmyard tale?

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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.

*

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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