Chatting with Author B.J. Lee about There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth (+ a recipe and giveaway!)

Talk about Bayou Bliss!

Today we have the distinct honor of welcoming children’s author and poet B.J. Lee to Alphabet Soup to celebrate the official release of her debut picture book, There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth, illustrated by David Opie (Pelican Publishing, 2019)!!

B.J.’s a former librarian whose poems have appeared in oodles of periodicals and anthologies, including Highlights for Children, Spider Magazine, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, One Minute Till Bedtime, The Best of Today’s Little Ditty, Dear Tomato, and the National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry.

Yes, this girl’s been busy scribbling away in her Florida hideaway, and her first picture book is rollicking good fun. She’s taken the classic “There Was An Old Lady” cumulative nursery rhyme and given it a Floridian spin — a cool way to introduce kids to some of the critters who hang out in her part of the country.

Seems B.J.’s Gator swallows a moth — who knows why — and it makes him cough. Only one thing to do: swallow a crab to grab the moth. But the crab “skittered and scuttled and gave him a jab.” What to do? Swallow an eel to nab that crab!

As you can imagine, this was just beginning of Gator’s problems. He keeps swallowing more creatures, bigger and bigger each time (have you seen the stomach on that guy?) until he actually gulps an entire lagoon! Hoo Boy!

You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens to this guzzling gator and all those bewildered animals in his belly. Kids will love turning the pages to see what animal’s next (ray! pelican! panther! manatee! shark!). Of course this story is a riot to read aloud with its catchy rhymes, repetition, bouncy rhythm and amphibious alliteration (cough, cough). And David Opie has amplified the hilarity with his emotive, dynamic illustrations.

Just had to ask B.J. all about her publishing journey, tinkering with the text, and yes, she’s sharing a recipe (did someone say PIE?)!

🎈HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY, B.J.! 🎈

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[review + recipe] A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey by Jacques Pépin

“It is important to have a child spend time in the kitchen — the most secure, comfortable, loving place in the house. The smell of food cooking, your mother’s or father’s voice, the clang of the utensils, and the taste of the food: These memories will stay with you for the rest of your life.” ~ Jacques Pépin

Jacques Pépin once asked his then two-year-old granddaughter Shorey Wesen whether she liked blueberries. She said she loved them, adding that they contained antioxidants. This early precociousness regarding food wasn’t especially surprising, since both her father and grandfather are professional chefs, and her mother Claudine cooks for the family every day, using fresh ingredients either from their home garden or nearby organic markets.

From about the age of five, whenever Shorey visited her grandparents, she’d stand on a wooden box next to Jacques so she could “help” him cook. Simple tasks like washing the lettuce, helping to gather herbs from the garden, or passing tools or ingredients, made Shorey comfortable in the kitchen and more enthusiastic about eating the food she helped prepare.

 

 

For both Shorey and her mom, there was no such thing as “kid’s food.” They learned to eat what the grown-ups were eating, subsequently developing a gourmand’s palate. This, along with Jacques’s longstanding philosophy that “great meals are always the ones that are shared with family and friends,” form the basis for A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017).

 

Deviled Eggs with Salmon Caviar

 

Just as he taught Claudine how to cook in one of his PBS cooking series, Jacques shares cooking basics with 13-year-old Shorey in this accessible collection of 75 recipes, 36 of which have companion 10-minute videos hosted at Sur La Table.

This is less a “children’s” cookbook than a primer for novice cooks of any age, with simple and elegant recipes presented via clear, step-by-step instructions, beautiful color photographs, Jacques’s winsome line art, engaging headnotes full of tips and family stories, and occasional quotes from Shorey. Recipes were chosen in line with Shorey’s favorites and what she would have the most fun making.

 

Shorey’s Raspberry Cake

 

The book opens with lessons on setting the table and good table manners, followed by sections featuring Hors d’Oeuvres, Soups and Salads; Eggs, Sandwiches, Pizza, and Breads; Fish and Shellfish; Poultry and Meat; Pasta and Quinoa; Vegetables; Desserts and Confections; and Decorating for Fun.

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[tasty poem + recipe] From My Mother’s Kitchen: An Alphabet Poem by Pat Brisson

#57 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

By now, most of you know I’m a big fan of abecedarian poems.

Of course I like the foodie ones best. But food that mom used to make? Even better!

Many of the foods in Pat Brisson’s poem kindled fond childhood memories — times when “homemade,” “family,” and “love” flavored each delectable mouthful and provided enough nourishment to last a lifetime.

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Cinnamon Tapioca Pudding via Thinking Outside the Sandbox (click for recipe)

 

FROM MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN: AN ALPHABET POEM
by Pat Brisson

Food my mother made for us
Food from A to Zed;
Food she baked and cooked and boiled
To keep her family fed.

Apple pie with a flaky crust made from Crisco,
Beef stew (with too much gristle),
Chocolate chip cookies from the Tollhouse recipe,
Dates stuffed with walnuts and coated with sugar,
Eggnog at Christmas time,
French toast with butter and cinnamon sugar,
Ginger ale (stirred until flat) for upset stomachs,
Hamburgers and hot dogs on the 4th of July,
Ice cream? Breyer’s coffee for her and Neapolitan for us,
Junket rennet custard, a slippery, slidey treat,
Ketchup on our meatloaf,
Ladyfingers with fresh strawberries and whipped cream,
Mincemeat pies at the holidays, (eaten only by the grown-ups),
Noodles, broad and buttery,
Oatmeal cookies flavored with lemon,
Potatoes, usually boiled,
Quick bread, mostly date and nut,
Ravioli from Chef Boyardee,
Spaghetti with meat sauce,
Tapioca pudding with cinnamon on top,
Upside down peach cake,
Vanilla pudding made from scratch, served over steamed apples and yellow cake,
Watermelon slices with too many seeds,
10X confectioners sugar dusted on top of lemon pound cake,
Yeast bread warm from the oven with butter melting into it,
Zwieback when we were very young.

Food my mother made for us
Food from A to Zed;
Food she baked and cooked and boiled
To keep her family fed.

~ posted by permission of the author, copyright © Pat Brisson; first appeared at Your Daily Poem, where you can find more of Pat’s poetry.

Strawberry Lady Shortcake via I’m Not a Cook

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♥️ love me some Cake by Maira Kalman and Barbara Scott-Goodman (+ a giveaway!)♥️

“Bring on the Cake. We really want to Live.” ~ Maira Kalman

Help yourself to some lemon pound cake.

 

When a cake shows up, it’s party time.

Cakes enjoy stealing the show at our most important celebrations: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, holidays, graduations. Fancy and festive, they know how to have fun.

But cakes don’t have to be luscious, layered, and laden with buttercream to make a lasting impression. As Maira Kalman and Barbara Scott-Goodman suggest in Cake (Penguin Press, 2018), it’s more about whom we share our cakes with and why.

The true deliciousness of cake? Baked-in love. For celebrations, yes, but even sweeter for life’s everyday travails.

With warmth, wisdom and her signature panache, Maira serves up a series of short, delectable illustrated vignettes, most culled from cherished family memories. These are interspersed with 17 of Barbara’s scrumptious recipes, each with a delightful headnote, some with Maira’s gouache paintings alongside.

Maira begins with “The First Cake” she remembers, a chocolate cake with a side of grapes, an after beach treat she enjoyed on the “cool stone tiles” of Aunt Shoshana’s terrace in Tel Aviv.

There’s her “Ninth Birthday” cake, part of a stellar celebration where “all the girls wore fancy dresses” and she was easily “the happiest one there,” and “The Broken Heart Cake,” which Shoshana baked to soothe Maira’s teenage soul.

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a little luigi benedicenti to sweeten your week

Today, for your feasting pleasure, the amazing oil paintings — yes, paintings (!) of Italian artist Luigi Benedicenti (1948-2015).

They can’t be paintings, they must be photographs, you say. I’m still in disbelief myself. Even if they were photographs, they would be awesome — but paintings? Truly incredible!

A native of Turin, Benedicenti developed his own style of “realismo extremo,” or hyper photo-realism, featuring Italian pastries as his primary subject.

Apparently the pastries were made by professional bakers, but he did not consume them after taking reference photos because he had diabetes. I imagine his family and friends were only too willing to help him “take care of” the pastries when he was through with them. 🙂

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