alcott’s little women: a pair of poems and yummy gingerbread (+ a holiday blog break)

“I do think that families are the most beautiful things in all the world!” ~ Jo March

 

Season’s Greetings!

Are you excited about the Little Women movie opening on Christmas Day?

To get us in the mood for all things Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, Marmee and Laurie, I’m sharing two poems from the novel and a recipe from the new Little Women Cookbook by Wini Moranville (Harvard Common Press, 2019).

 

 

I think most of us can remember when we first read Louisa May Alcott’s classic — I was nine, staying with two older girl cousins downtown for about a week during the summer. We spent most of our time playing “school,” and during one of our “classes,” I began reading Little Women.

 

 

Since I wasn’t able to finish before it was time to return home, my cousin Judy let me take her copy with me (it was an abridged edition published by Whitman in 1955). I can’t remember if it was a loan or a gift, but I do remember her telling me how much she loved the book and that I should definitely read it.

Fast forward to 6th grade, when we acted out the opening scene in English class. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” was my Jo March ‘stage debut,’ marking the first time I would read the entire novel. Like so many others, generation after generation, I was hooked for life.

 

 

I so wanted to belong to the March family, to experience that deep bond of sisterhood. I had a huge crush on Laurie, and loved Mr. Laurence because just like Beth, I loved music and playing the piano. Of course I identified with Jo, because she was a writer, only wishing I could be as feisty and forthright. And wasn’t Marmee the best mother anyone could ever ask for? As the child of a working mother, I envied children whose moms had the time and patience to listen to all their concerns.

Just like The Secret Garden made me fall in love with England, Little Women made me long to visit New England — the gorgeous autumn colors and beautiful winter vistas! the rich history and Colonial architecture! the lobstah rolls, fish chowdah, maple syrup, brown bread, baked beans, boiled dinners, Indian pudding, Yankee pot roast . . . *drools* . . .  “licks chops”. . . oh wait, where was I?

 

 

With the new movie coming, I decided to reread the book, since it had been about a decade since I last gave it my full attention. When I scanned my bookshelves, I found Judy’s copy alongside my Little, Brown edition. Didn’t realize I still had it! It’s probably the only book that survived my childhood. My mother gave away my entire Golden Books collection (still grieving), and though I read voraciously, I didn’t own many novels — mostly everything came from the library.

 

 

One of the things I especially enjoyed this time around was taking a closer look at the poems Alcott included in the story. There was the elegaic “My Beth” of course, as well as the incantations in Jo’s play featuring Hagar, Roderigo, and Zara. In a letter Jo sent to Marmee, she included “a silly little thing” for her to pass on to Father about helping Hannah with the wash, the delightful “A Song from the Suds.” And who can forget that splendid Christmas when Jo and Laurie made a snow-maiden,  complete with a crown of holly, a basket of fruit and flowers, and a carol, “The Jungfrau to Beth,” to cheer up the convalescent?

 

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[delectable review + giveaway] What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street? by Felicita Sala

 

Something smells good at N. 10, Garden Street. Delicious, actually!

 

Oh yes! Those savory aromas wafting from the windows of that charming apartment building are making my mouth water. Who lives there? What are they cooking? Better still, may we have some? 🙂

In her new picture book-cookbook, What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street? (Prestel Publishing, 2019), award-winning author/illustrator Felicita Sala invites us into the kitchens of some of the Garden Street residents so we can see for ourselves just what they’re up to.

 

 

We first meet Pilar, who’s preparing a batch of Salmorejo, a purée consisting of tomatoes mixed with stale bread, garlic, olive oil, and salt that originated in southern Spain. Smiling to herself, she seems quite content wielding her immersion blender, confident that the finished dish will be delicious.

Next door, Mr. Ping stir fries broccoli while his nephew Benjamin looks on. Benjamin calls broccoli “little trees.” Across the hall, Maria is mashing avocados for Guacamole, while upstairs, Señora Flores squeezes lime juice into her pot of Black Bean Soup.

 

 

As we turn the pages, we meet more neighbors, all busy slicing, stirring, chopping, and combining ingredients. Some of these home cooks appear pensive and contemplative, while others are blissful or playful, but all are enjoying themselves, whether they’re working alone or with helpers. Perhaps young Josef and Rafik, who are rolling Meatballs, are having too much fun (Josef is spooning something onto Rafik’s head). Or what about impish, red-headed twins Jemima and Rosie arguing over “who took the last banana”? Their freckly-faced smiles promise all will be forgiven once their Banana and Blueberry Bread comes out of the oven.

 

Though there’s a vanilla pod shown in the ingredients, the recipe doesn’t specify when to add it.

 

When all the cooking’s done, everyone takes their dishes downstairs for a big pot luck feast in the back garden. What a large, glorious table, set with homemade specialties from around the world! Rest assured, all these lovingly prepared foods taste even better because they’re being shared in the happy spirit of fellowship and community.

 

 

 

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[tasty review] 20 Recipes Kids Should Know by Esme and Calista Washburn

 

What classic comfort food reminds you most of your childhood?

A stack of fluffy pancakes dripping with butter and maple syrup? Maybe it’s some creamy mac and cheese, pizza with your favorite toppings, or a warm slice of homemade apple pie.

I’ll take a serving (or five) of each, please — yum!

New York City sisters Esme and Calista Washburn serve up all these kid friendly favorites and more in their new cookbook, 20 Recipes Kids Should Know (Prestel, 2019).

And they are definitely “in the know,” as Esme (who wrote the recipes and text) is just 12, while Calista (who took the photographs) recently graduated from high school. Esme, an amateur chef, learned to cook from her grandmother. Calista is an aspiring photographer who helps out in the kitchen and loves to eat whatever Esme cooks. 🙂

Color me amazed.

They did a beautiful job with this appealing starter cookbook, which is perfect not only for budding kid chefs, but novice home cooks of any age who’d like to make these classic recipes from scratch with fresh ingredients.

 

Esme (left) and Calista.

 

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it’s foodimentary, my dear!

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.

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[lipsmacking review] Hannah’s Tall Order by Linda Vander Heyden and Kayla Harren

#58 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

I hope you’re really, really hungry, because this story is quite a feast. Put on a very big bib, please.

May I tempt you with green peppers, figs, tomatoes, marshmallow fluff?

Care to wrap your lips around a buttery slice of avocado, dive into a tub of whipped cream, or slather yourself with a side of honey or ketchup?

All of this and more are yours when you read Hannah’s Tall Order by Linda Vander Heyden and Kayla Harren (Sleeping Bear Press, 2018) This hilarious, somewhat messy, lick-the-pages story serves up a tastebud tickling smorgasbord between two slices of bread.

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