When you’re hungry for just the right snack, there’s nothing more satisfying than biting into a warm, crispy, zesty nacho.
Oh, that satisfying crunch! The gooey cheese and spicy hot hello of jalapeño! Go on, close your eyes as you relish the flavor. Lick your lips, then reach for another. 🙂
Did you know that tomorrow, October 21, is the International Day of the Nacho? Or that 2020 marks 80 years since nachos were first invented? Just who was actually responsible for this eye-closing mouthful of deliciousness?
Ignacio, or, “Nacho,” for short, was essentially raised by a foster mother after he lost his parents at a young age. He was a boy with a good appetite who enjoyed his foster mother’s quesadillas, and it was she who taught him how to cook. He was a natural in the kitchen, and in his early twenties he got a restaurant job, performing many tasks such as seating guests, passing out menus, taking orders, and serving meals.
As Nacho went from table to table, people smiled. He had a special talent for making diners happy.
As a New Orleans native, I enjoy sharing my culture with others, especially our food and traditions. When I wrote THE KING CAKE BABY, a story about eating King Cake throughout the Carnival season, I wanted to share a taste of Louisiana with kids. That tradition has a sweet spot in my heart.
Carnival has been celebrated for hundreds of years in Louisiana and historians have traced the custom that became the modern King Cake to the pre-Christian ancient Roman rituals. During the winter solstice Saturnalia festival ordinary citizens joined in the celebration to give thanks to Saturnus, the god of sowing or seed. Partying, feasting, merrymaking, role-reversals, and making mischief were all part of the festivities. And yes, there was cake!
A fava bean was hidden in that cake and the person who found it in their piece became ruler of the day or the “Lord of Misrule.” It’s believed the festival allowed those among the lowest levels of society temporary relief from societal pressures imposed by the ruling class.
During the Middle Ages Europeans continued to celebrate the return of the sun during the winter solstice and worshipped numerous non-Christian gods. Although the church prohibited the pagan festival, the fun and festivities remained popular. Evidence suggests the church replaced the winter solstice celebration with the feast of the Epiphany on January 6, twelve days after Christmas. This date coincided with the winter solstice and the church intended to secure the worship of only one god –Jesus Christ. Also known as Kings’ Day, this feast honors the three wise men bearing gifts and recognizing the divinity of the baby Jesus. And yes, there was cake!
If you’re wondering how the good times had by all centuries ago translated into Let the good times roll and eating King Cake in Louisiana today, it’s because La Louisiane territory was once ruled by the French and the Spanish. And many customs, even laws, from Latin Louisiana are still practiced today.
Over centuries, serving kings’ cake on the Epiphany remained popular in France. Bakers in boulangeries (a bakery specializing in bread) and pastry chefs in patisseries (a bakery specializing in pastries) each wanted the sole right to sell the cake. When the king granted pastry chefs the monopoly, they made the gâteau des rois shaped into a ring. The gâteau is made of a brioche, a dough using yeast, and topped with jewel-colored candied fruit. This variety is also eaten in Spain but is known as a Tortell De Reis.
Not to be outdone, the bakers made galette des rois with a puff pastry in the shape of a pie. The names translate into “cake of kings.” Eventually small porcelain figures replaced the fève (bean) hidden in the cake. The name and the tradition of becoming king or queen when found, continued. My son is a baker and as you can see, this cake has multiple thin layers and filled with frangipane. A friend who trained as a pastry chef in Paris made the other pictured below. And I got the porcelain fève she hid inside it!
In Spain and throughout Latin America, Roscón de Reyes is eaten to celebrate the Fiesta de Los tres Reyes Mages or festival of the Three Magi on January 6. This cake is a sweet bread, garnished with dried and candied fruits.
During the early colonial period, the cakes baked in Louisiana varied depending on what areas of Europe colonizers were from. The Epiphany or Twelfth Night on January 6th marked the end of Christmas. However as the interest in celebrating a Christmas season shifted to one day, December 25, King Cake began to symbolize the beginning of the Carnival season. And today, the cake is eaten from January 6 until Mardi Gras Day.
Social clubs called krewes were established and in 1872 the Krewe of Rex gave us the King of Carnival and the official colors – purple, green, and gold symbolizing justice, faith, and power. Louisiana King Cakes are decorated accordingly.
I made this traditional King Cake below filled with a cinnamon-sugar mixture using the recipe from my book.
A local bakery in New Orleans named McKenzie supplied these krewes with King Cakes and as the popularity grew, either because of expense and/or availability, the owner substituted the porcelain trinket with a small plastic baby. And today, the King Cake babies come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
In Catholic tradition, the small plastic baby signifies the baby Jesus. And anyone who finds it is blessed and will have good luck. Another widely practiced custom is to crown whoever “gets the baby” king or queen for the day. But they are also obligated to buy the next cake.
Every year bakeries and chefs get more and more creative with the King Cakes, using different variety of doughs, and fruit fillings. And you can enjoy King Cake donuts, King Cake coffee, King Cake ice cream, King Cake liquor and . . .
. . . King Cake Burgers!
Eating King Cake is the tastiest way to celebrate Carnival and you don’t have to leave your home to do it. You can find many recipes online. In addition to the frozen bread dough recipe in my THE KING CAKE BABY, here’s my Easy Peasy Pillsbury King Cake recipe using dough sheets. Just don’t forget the baby!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Before becoming a children’s book author, Keila Dawson worked as a teacher, school administrator, and educational consultant in the U.S., the Philippines, Japan, and Egypt.
Her debut picture book is THE KING CAKE BABY (Pelican Publishing Co. 2015), her second book, NO VOICE TOO SMALL: Fourteen Young Americans Making History, co-edited with Jeanette Bradley and Lindsay H. Metcalf (Charlesbridge) will release in September 2020.
Keila is a member of SCBWI, writes monthly author studies for the Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo) blog, and reviews books for Multicultural Children’s Book Day. When Keila isn’t reading, writing, and visiting schools, she’s traveling, playing tennis, or digging in genealogical archives.
She is represented by Dawn Frederick, Red Sofa Literary
One lucky winner will get a signed copy of The King Cake Baby. Enter the Rafflecopter HERE until February 14, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. EST. U.S. addresses and zip codes only. When time expires, the winner will be notified via email. Good Luck!! I hope you get the baby!!
In the mood for a raspberry popover, a heavenly slice of coconut cream pie, or a big bowl of strawberries and cream? Maybe you’d prefer something a little more substantial, like some southern barbecue, a hoagie, or even a roast leg of lamb?
Whatever your pleasure, did you know that each of these foods has its own designated holiday during the month of May? Of course one does not need a holiday to enjoy any food, but somehow it’s a little more fun that way.
Back in 2005, Alabama resident John-Bryan Hopkins coined the term “Foodimentary” while cooking with friends. He wanted to start a food blog (he had the perfect name for it), but wanted to do something different. He wanted to feature interesting food facts rather than write a personal blog with recipes. So he read, researched, and gathered all kinds of fascinating tidbits of food history and trivia, sharing them daily with his readers.
His blog gained a good following immediately, and he soon expanded his reach via various social media platforms, most notably, Twitter. His foodie info-bites were perfect for Twitter. People gobbled up his short nuggets and couldn’t get enough. Hopkins also noted that food holidays were one of the most popular and trending topics in the food category, so he decided to incorporate them into his Foodimentary website.
1. The old saying, “good things come in small packages,” couldn’t be truer when it comes to these cool leather-bound miniature books by Colorado artist Ericka VanHorn. These are 1/12 scale and reflect Ericka’s love of fantasy, whether it’s wizards, witches, or steampunk.
In addition to handmade mini books, she creates old curiosities like hourglasses, collector’s cabinets, celestial instruments, potions, scrolls, wands, and candelabras. Most of her items are one of a kind and sell quickly, so the best way to keep up with new pieces is to subscribe to her mailing list. Her brand is “EV Miniatures,” and you can see more of her work at her website (currently under construction), on Pinterest, or at her Facebook page.
2. Just in case you’re suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal (and missing Mrs Patmore and Daisy in particular), take a look at these wonderful historic kitchens, all of which are open to the public. I especially like the working kitchen in Wordsworth’s childhood home in Cumbria with its hanging herbs, Queen Victoria’s holiday cottage on the Isle of Wight (built at 3/4 scale to teach children life skills), and the kitchen at Hampton Court Palace, at one time the largest kitchen in England (it would have to be to feed Henry VIII’s court of 600). Love the big fireplaces, work tables and rows of copper pots! Nice places to tour, but I wouldn’t want to actually work in any one of these with their hard-on-the-feet stone floors.
3. From the Cooler than Cool Department especially for Poetry Month: haiku to go. Really! Have you heard of The Haiku Guys & Gals? They’re a group of performance poets based in NYC, LA, DC, the Berkshires, and traveling worldwide. Next time you organize and/or host an event, consider commissioning these talented people to write on-the-spot custom haiku for all your guests. What could be more fun? Hand them a subject, watch them compose a 5-7-5 mini masterpiece on their antique typewriters. That’s what I call a cool party favor!
Read this article by Haiku Guys & Gals co-founder Lisa Markuson, who recently quit her job to become a full-time haikuist! What?! Yes! Talk about taking a leap of faith and following your dreams. Her words about confidence will inspire and hearten you. I also LOVE this wonderful review of the ovenly bakery in NYC (prose + senryu) from The Haiku Guys & Gals blog.
What’s that? You’re craving a haiku right this minute? Click over to the site and request a free haiku. Just provide a subject (as specific as possible), and you will receive a custom haiku in your mailbox within 48 hours. Of course I had to test this out for myself. I submitted “Colin Firth in the Kitchen” as my subject. And look what came back:
he can take an egg and turn it into heaven– hearts, into butter
LOVE! A swoon-worthy senryu! Do they know me, or what? I can tell Colin likes this poem too. Oh yes, I can tell. 🙂
4. Perhaps you have noticed that I am a little more than mad for English pottery. I’ve been collecting for years, most recently Emma Bridgewater pieces — so I was happy to read Emma’s memoir, Toast and Marmalade and Other Stories (Hodder & Stoughton, 2015), which shows how she built her business from the ground up with the help of family and friends, factoring in various life events, hard work, serendipity, and flying by the seat of her pants.
I think part of what draws collectors like me to Bridgewater pottery is that it feels personal. Usually when you buy dishes or other home goods, they’re made by a big faceless company and you have no idea who designed the styles and patterns. But Emma is a real person, married to another talented artist, Matthew Rice, and they seem to live an idyllic life in the English countryside, so you feel like you’re buying into that fantasy when you buy the dishes.
Anyway, I loved the memoir and can’t wait to read Emma’s new book Pattern (& the Secrets of Lasting Design), which comes out at the end of May. It features the stories and inspirations behind her iconic designs, the research and collaborations that went into the creative process. This sounds like essential reading for Bridgewater collectors and design students, or anyone who might enjoy the human story behind a familiar piece of crockery. Years after many of the big pottery factories in Stoke-on-Trent closed, Bridgewater continues to thrive, and unlike some manufacturers who’ve transferred production to Asia, Bridgewater still makes all their pieces on-site. I like seeing that coveted “Made in England” backstamp. 🙂 You can read more about Emma here.
5.Korean food lovers! Found this piece about Korean small plates/side dishes, or “banchan” as they are called, interesting. I’ve eaten many of them, but learned about quite a few new ones. Blistered Shishito Peppers, Dried Squid and Gochujang, Daikon and Garlic Pickles, anyone? It certainly proves that when it comes to Korean cuisine, variety is the spice of life. Take a look if you’re curious about the names and ingredients of these palate pleasers beyond the usual varieties of kimchi and muchim.
6.New picture book alert: happy to report that Hawaii-born author Frances Kakugawa has published the fourth book in her popular Wordsworth the Poet series! The new one is called Wordsworth, It’s In Your Pocket(Watermark Publishing, 2016):
Wordsworth has hardly seen his friends all summer. They have been too caught up in their electronic devices to pay attention to anything around them, and now they are tangled in wires and gadgets! A mysterious old mouse tells him that the secret to saving his friends is in his pocket—what does he have that can help? Emphasizing creative play, imagination and the fun of the outdoors over the allure of video games, computers and cellular phones, this new Wordsworth adventure is a gentle reminder for families that it’s important for young minds to unplug and enjoy real-world friends and activities. Wordsworth, It’s In Your Pocket is the fourth book in the award-winning series of books featuring the poetry-loving mouse.
Sounds like many electronically ensnared adults should read this book too. What happened to the fine art of face to face conversation? Is it possible for people to go anywhere without constantly checking their cell phones? Like me, Frances is concerned about how overdevelopment is harming the planet and how technology has de-humanized society. If you missed it, read the interview we did when the third Wordsworth book was released a few years ago. All the Wordsworth books celebrate the power and wonder of poetry.
Available for the first time and collected in one volume, the letters of one of America’s most beloved authors, Laura Ingalls Wilder, a treasure trove that offers new and unexpected understanding of her life and work.
The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a vibrant, deeply personal portrait of this revered American author, illuminating her thoughts, travels, philosophies, writing career, and dealings with family, friends, and fans as never before.
This is a fresh look at the author in her own words. Gathered from museums, archives, and personal collections, the letters span over sixty years, from 1894 to 1956, and shed new light on Wilder’s day-to-day living. Here we see her as a businesswoman and an author through reflections on her beloved Little House books; her legendary editor, Ursula Nordstrom; and her readers and as a wife and a friend. In her letters, Wilder shares political opinions and reminiscences of frontier childhood. Also included are letters to her daughter, writer Rose Wilder Lane, who filled a silent role as editor and collaborator while the famous Little House books were being written.
Wilder biographer William Anderson collected and researched references throughout these letters, and the result is an invaluable historical collection, tracing Wilder’s life through the final days of covered wagon travel and her years of fame as the writer of the Little House books. Here we see her as a farm woman, a country journalist, and a Depression-era author. This collection is a sequel to her beloved stories and a snapshot of twentieth-century living.
Definitely on my Wish List!
8. A delicious treat for Tolkien fans: “Food in the Hobbit” from the Oakden website. Besides their hairy feet, I love that hobbits usually eat 6 meals a day (two dinners!). 🙂 This article provides a historical context for the foods they enjoyed + traditional recipes (seed cakes, pork pies, scones, mince pies, breads, griddle cakes). Oakden sells handmade reproductions of authentic and traditional English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh cookware, baking plates, griddles, and bakestones. Best to keep your larder stocked in case some hungry dwarves should drop by.
9. If you’re one of the millions of people who’ve gone crazy for coloring books and you just happen to be a Julie Paschkis fan, GOOD NEWS: she just added a coloring book to the cool items for sale at Julie Paprika. Since she believes coloring is a wonderful communal activity, her pages are unbound and perfect for sharing with friends. Just picture it — a laid-back evening around the table, everyone busy coloring and chatting and sipping wine or tea. . . Read Julie’s post about Imagination Unbound, which includes 21 images printed on heavy card stock suitable for crayons, markers, pencil, and watercolor.
10. Love this video about Japanese school lunches. This is in sharp contrast to some situations in America, where students have only 15 minutes to wolf down a slice of greasy pizza between classes. In Japan the entire lunch period is a learning experience, a time to practice social etiquette and to share responsibilities for food service and clean-up. Love that everyone brings his/her own set of chopsticks, a placemat, and a toothbrush. The whole thing is so civilized and nurturing. Why can’t we do this in our schools?
11. Finally, if you’re still suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal, rest easy: the brilliant and oh-so-thoughtful Julian Fellowes is coming to the rescue with his new novel, Belgravia (Grand Central Publishing, 2016)! The hardcover print version won’t be out until July 5, but in the meantime you can read the novel in 11 weekly installments just like they did back in Dickens’s day. Episodes 1 & 2 will be released and available for download on Thursday, April 14, 2016. Read or listen on your mobile phone, tablet or laptop.
There’s also a Progressive Blog Tour for Belgravia, with reviews and discussions of each weekly episode on different host blogs. The blog tour kicks off at Austen Prose on April 14, where you can view the full schedule. Download the app from the official Belgravia website, where Julian provides more details in a video. Kindle users, go here.
Once, when we were living in England, Len and I discovered some wild blackberry bushes growing in Wimbledon Common across the street from the school where I was teaching. I was excited because I’d never even seen a blackberry in person before, let alone eat one, and I remembered that famous last line from The Tale of Peter Rabbit:
Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail had bread and milk and blackberries for supper.
The ones we picked were a little sour, but good with sugar and a dollop of cream. Because of that fond memory, I’ll always associate blackberries with England. I also like to tell the story of how because we didn’t have a whisk or rotary beater in our little flat, Len whipped the cream with a fork! I knew then I had to marry that man with his power arm. 🙂
Thus enamored of blackberries, I recently devoured a gorgeous new picture book by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall featuring A Fine Dessertcalled blackberry fool, a decadent English sweet dating back to the 16th century consisting of blackberries, cream and sugar.
In this wholly delectable story, we are treated to not one, but FOUR servings of blackberry fool prepared by four families from four different centuries. Such a tasty slice of food and social history! The families all follow the same recipe steps, but of course ingredient sourcing, methods, tools, and technology change through time. They’re united by their love of this dessert and the joy, anticipation and satisfaction that come with making it. No surprise — they all love to lick the bowl — viable proof that some things never change. 🙂