[review + recipe] I Heart You by Meg Fleming and Sarah Jane Wright

❤️ Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤️

So glad you’re here. You’re just in time for a cup of tea and a freshly baked brownie! Please help yourself. 🙂

I’ve got the perfect picture book to share with you today: I Heart You by Meg Fleming and Sarah Jane Wright (Beach Lane Books, 2016). Have you seen this one yet?

Debut author Meg Fleming celebrates the love between parent and child in a series of endearing animal vignettes. Her spare, lyrical text — just four 3-word sentences for each animal pair — captures different ways parents express love for their little ones.

We first see a young bunny snatching a carrot from a garden, then running back to a waiting parent with it — a cheerful reunion that ends with them snuggling in their burrow.

I see you.
I miss you.

I hug you.
I kiss you.

 

Foxes play a game of hide and seek; bears chase, frolic in the grass, then pick apples; ducks swim, hop and cuddle; birds “sway” and “swing” before returning to the nest for a song. The book ends with a doe watching over her fawn as it encounters a human child, who has just picked berries with her mother.

I hear you.
I let you.

I know you.
I get you.

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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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friday feast: judyth hill channels her inner brownie

via Food Socialist

Sometimes there’s more to a brownie than meets the eye.

A really good brownie could become your identity, your touchstone, your raison d’être.

A dark chocolate fountain of creativity, the right brownie is your heart of hearts and knows where you live.

Just ask Judyth Hill.

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BROWNIES
by Judyth Hill

I got famous for them, brownies,
adding nuts and all my attention,
9 years of my life, to the batter.
The recipe reads:
Stir with all your desire to be a poet.
Break 27 thoughts about God, children,
and postgraduate degrees.
Beat till thick with ambition.
Fold in longing and chocolate, hot as the tar roof
on 101st & West End.
Mix just till you remember all the words to Mac the Knife,
Add nuts and the words Jonathan wrote on the boxing gloves
I got for Christmas:
Words from Catallus, Odi et Amo:

I hate and I love.
You ask how that can be.
I know not, but I feel the agony.

He gave me sporting equipment a lot,
though I don’t do sports.
He always remembered to add the words.
I do words.
I do brownies.
I do variations on brownies, cantatas of brownies
sonatas of brownies, quintets of fudge.
And short compositions featuring chocolate
as if it were a bassoon.

Perhaps I am the Picasso of brownies.
My blue period, the year I cried over every batch.
The way the one eyed woman can eat a brownie
and still be in my painting — a trick I discovered
and it became a genre.

Perhaps I am the Seurat of brownies,
dots of primary flavor
deep, sweet, salt,
an illusion adding up to the spectrum of dessert.

I am the Einstein of brownies,
discovering how the more chocolate you eat,
the later it gets.
Discovering how Poem x the Speed of Light² = Brownies.
Discovering that mass, brownies, and time are infinite.
Discovering that the energy of the universe
will go into each pan,
and it’s still brownies.

Maybe I’m the Martin Buber of brownies.
Climbing 10 chocolate rungs to grace.
Or the Albert Schweitzer of brownies,
giving brownies to everyone,
whether they need them or not.

What if I’m the Donald Trump of brownies,
building a cocoa empire.
Blocks of fudge, whole towers of semisweet,
bittersweet and Swiss, bullions of brownies,
chips of profit and loss. Or Lenny Bruce.
Hilarious and obscenely chocolate.
Chocolate so good it’s dirty,
and we can’t talk about it here.

Perhaps I am the Chanel of brownies,
designing a brownie for every outfit,
accessorizing brownies with shoes and bags,
a suit, a rich dark color that goes with everything.

~ from Written with a Spoon: A Poet’s Cookbook, edited by Nancy Fay & Judith Rafaela (Sherman Asher Publishing, 2002). Posted by permission of the author.

Chocolate Chanel Purse Cake via Certified Foodies

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Judyth says, “At the time I wrote ‘Brownies’, I owned and ran the famous Chocolate Maven Bakery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I am the original Maven! The bakery has gone on to be a huge success, and I sold her to pursue my career as a Poet/Author.”

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sara varon’s bake sale brownies

Oh my, but I do love Sara Varon’s Bake Sale!  And recently I made the brownies featured in it. *dies*

Such a lovely, feel-good story about friendship. This toothsome graphic novel is just quirky enough — a few squiggly degrees to the left of center — to avoid being cloying, overly sentimental, or cutesy, something that can easily happen when your main character is a pink cupcake in a town populated with walking food.

So, Cupcake is living the sweet life — bakes delectable treats at his own Sweet Tooth Bakery and plays drums in a cool band with his best friend Eggplant. Despite having won blue ribbons for Best Fruit Pie, Fluffiest Cake and Most Perfect Cookie, Cupcake gets into a baking rut.

Just so happens Eggplant is planning a trip to Turkey to visit his Aunt Aubergine, who is business partners with Turkish Delight, the greatest pastry chef in the world and Cupcake’s culinary idol.

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friday feast: bring on the brownies!

 

THE BROWNIE
by A.A. Milne (from When We Were Very Young, 1924)

In a corner of the bedroom is a great big curtain,
Someone lives behind it, but I don’t know who;
I think it is a Brownie, but I’m not quite certain,
(Nanny isn’t certain, too.)

I looked behind the curtain, but he went so quickly —
Brownies never wait to say, “How do you do?”
They wriggle off at once because they’re all so tickly
(Nanny says they’re tickly too.)


Come to think of it, I’ve always had a thing for little men.

You know, those cute, industrious little sprites who do your housework while you’re fast asleep and never make a sound? They like to make mischief, but never do any harm. In fact, they’re here right now, but of course grown-ups can’t see them.

Since this is Leap Year, and we have an extra special bonus day, I thought it only fitting to give Love and Chocolate Month a proper send-off with a BROWNIE celebration.

You know, just the word, brownie, makes me feel good. It’s childhood, warm and safe, all wrapped up in one. I think of class parties, picnics, pot-lucks, teas, the special treat in a lunchbox. And nothing tops that chocolatey aroma filling the kitchen with the promise of a warm brownie to come! Mmmmmm!!

They say brownies were named after Palmer Cox’s Brownie books (16 in all), which were very popular during the late 19th century. All the stories were written in rhyming couplets, and featured hundreds of charming sprites (all male) working and playing together in all kinds of scenarios — skating, fishing, going to school, building a snowman, racing, yachting, and painting, etc.

Each Brownie had a name, but none were ever set as characters in a plot; Cox instead always featured them as a massive group. What is interesting is that Cox nevertheless drew them as individuals of different races and professions — so there’s an Indian chief, a policeman, an Irishman, German, Cowboy and Chinese peasant. This was not a time of widespread acceptance for ethnic minorities, yet somehow the Brownies managed to escape controversy.

The first Brownie story actually appeared in St. Nicholas Magazine (1883), closely followed by The Brownies: Their First Book (1887). Cox’s characters were based on the sprites of English and Scottish folklore, well known to him as a child in Quebec. Today he is considered a “pioneering artist of the Platinum Age of Comic Art.”

His highly detailed black and white illustrations are as charming today as they were in the 19th century, when it became a national pastime for readers to pick their favorite Brownie and follow him throughout the book. The little rascals race across the page, drop their fishing lines down the margin, and wrap themselves around the text (a precursor to today’s graphic novel?). The imaginative, funny verse stories are worth examining from a historical standpoint, but without central characters they can become repetitive.

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THE BROWNIES AT SCHOOL (from The Brownies: Their First Book, 1887)

As Brownies rambled ’round one night,
A country schoolhouse came in sight:
And there they paused awhile to speak
About the place, where through the week
The scholars came, with smile or whine,
Each morning at the strike of nine.
“This is,” said one, “the place, indeed,
Where children come to write and read.
“T is here, through rules and rods to suit,
The young idea learns to shoot;
And here the idler with a grin
In nearest neighbor pokes the pin,

(Rest of this story here.)

In case you’re wondering, the Kodak Brownie Camera was named after the books, and Cox is recognized as a pioneer in the field of licensed merchandising, predating Disney by decades. He allowed his Brownies to appear on everything from soap to puzzles, games, dolls and figurines.

All this sales talk is making me hungry. Excuse me for a bit, while I take a batch of brownies out of the oven.

Okay, I’m back. The first mention of brownies appeared in the 1897 Sears Catalogue, but it referred to a type of candy, instead of cake. The first brownie recipes (using chocolate instead of molasses) came from Boston and Maine (1906-07). Story goes, A Bangor housewife made a chocolate cake which fell, and rather than toss it out, she cut it into squares. Thank god for New England frugality!

Here’s my favorite brownie recipe. It’s not one of those overly-rich, double chocolate chip jobs, but more of a good, basic (nuts or no) recipe for all times. If you like fudgy brownies, underbake by a few minutes; otherwise it will have more of a cakey texture. For the ultimate brownie experience, wear brown during preparation, and ask your husband or somebody to clean the house (quietly) while you’re asleep. Yay, little men (I married a Rattigan leprechaun)!

JAMA’S FAVORITE BROWNIES

2 sticks butter
2 squares Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups nuts (optional)
4 tsp corn syrup

Melt butter and chocolate together over hot water. Cool.
Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Beat eggs until light. Add sugar, chocolate mixture and blend in corn syrup.
Add flour, vanilla, and nuts and mix well.
Bake in 9″ X 13″ pan coated with butter and flour in 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.
Cool and cut into squares. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

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Tantalizing links:

A not-to-be-missed page featuring Brownie Camera memorabilia and all the covers of the Brownie books.

All about Palmer Cox and the books.

Historical brownie recipes (scroll down).

Today’s Poetry Friday hostess is the lovely, Austenish Kelly R. Fineman, at Writing and Ruminating. She’ll be graciously serving a roundup of poems and some soulful tea!

Thanks so much for stopping in. You’ve definitely earned some brownie points!