cornelius meets hillary: of cookies, chiles, and scrambled eggs

Some of you may know we love talking about Presidential Food here in the Alphabet Soup kitchen.

Whether it’s polishing off a bowl of JFK’s clam chowder, whipping up a batch of George Washington’s hoecakes, or wrapping our lips around Barack Obama’s homemade chili, learning about our leaders’ favorite foods makes them more human and accessible.

I like associating Ronald Reagan with jelly beans, George Bush with pork rinds, Jimmy Carter with peanuts. But what of the first female presidential nominee?

I guess Hillary Rodham Clinton can be summed up this way: she’s a hot pepper and a smart cookie.🙂

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friday feast: Lesléa Newman’s “Ode to Chocolate” (+ recipe and giveaway winner!)

“Nobody knows the truffles I’ve seen.” ~ George Lang

Ready to take a walk on the dark side?

Slip into these luscious chocolate beauties, then gently sashay through the lines of this impassioned verse by acclaimed author, poet and editor Lesléa Newman.

Can you tell she  LOVES ♥  chocolate?

Yeah, she’s totally one of us.🙂



I need a sweet, I need a treat,
I need to eat some chocolate.

Dark as wood and so damn good,
If I could, I’d live on chocolate.

Shaped like a kiss, delivers bliss,
The deep abyss of chocolate.

Just one bite, I’m up all night,
Such is the might of chocolate.

You’ll never wed me or even bed me
Until you’ve fed me chocolate.

I’m sick and sure the only cure
Is more and more pure chocolate.

The smallest bite brings huge delight,
High as a kite from chocolate.

I drink it hot, right from the pot,
Nothing hits the spot like chocolate.

A day without, I’m sure to pout
And shout out, “Give me chocolate!”

I must confess, I’m one hot mess
Unless I possess chocolate.

Without that cocoa, I go loco,
This ain’t no joke—oh chocolate!

Before I dribble, I’ll end this scribble,
I need to nibble chocolate!

~ Copyright © 2016 Lesléa Newman. All rights reserved.

Dark Chocolate Lucky Cats via Not on the High Street


Lesléa: I was on a self-imposed week-long writing retreat, between projects, not knowing what on earth to write about. When in doubt, I always turn to poetry and when in double doubt, I frequently turn to form.

“Ode to Chocolate” is a variation on the ghazal, one of my favorite forms. The ghazal originated in Persia, and literally means “the talk of boys and girls” or sweet talk. I took the notion of “sweet talk” literally and decided to write a love poem to one of my great loves — chocolate! The form of the ghazal  uses internal rhyme and a refrain at the end of the second line of each couplet. It does not tell a story like a narrative poem, but is unified by theme.

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Celebrating Susan Branch’s Latest Books with Tasty Words, Pics, and Potato Chip Cookies

“Never let anyone tell you magic doesn’t exist or that fairies aren’t real. It isn’t cynicism that will change the world. Do your best to believe in yourself, and even if you don’t, keep trying to and never give up. If all else fails, use your imagination and pretend.” ~ Susan Branch (Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams)

Though I’ve been a Susan Branch fan for decades, until I read her 3-part illustrated memoir I knew only a little about her personal life or how she started painting, writing, and publishing.

It was love at first sight when I discovered her greeting cards, calendars and illustrated cookbooks back in the late 80’s — I just couldn’t get enough of her beautiful handwritten recipes and inspirational quotes, the cozy, quaint watercolors of old fashioned baskets, bowls, and quilts, those scrumptious fruits, veggies, cakes and pies. Oh, the checkered floors! The Laura Ashley hats and exquisite floral borders! That iconic vintage stove! I wanted to inhabit the world of her homemade books; they were charming, unique, and most important, personal.

You may remember how much I adored A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside (review here). It convinced me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Susan was even more of a kindred spirit with her love of Beatrix Potter, the Yorkshire Dales, afternoon tea, the Cotswolds, Emma Bridgewater, and the Queen!

But it wasn’t until I read the prequels to A Fine RomanceThe Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard: Isle of Dreams  (both based on her diaries) — that I gained a true appreciation for how this self-taught artist built her career from scratch, how the first seeds were actually planted in childhood, and how she’s been able to effectively elevate the various facets of homemaking (cooking, sewing, gardening, interior decorating) to a fine art.


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celebrating roald dahl’s 100th birthday with a foodie alphabet and an orange raspberry victoria sponge

#53 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.


It’s time to polish off a few tummyticklers, plushnuggets and globgobblers. Wash it all down with a big tall glass of frobscottle and you’re all set (no whizzpopping, please).🙂

I was actually introduced to Roald Dahl’s writing by one of my high school students in Wimbledon. Danny M. (who made good chocolate chip cookies and scoped out a yummy bagel shop in Queensway) raved about a collection of Dahl’s adult short stories called Kiss Kiss. Though I do not have a taste for the macabre, I found the stories addictive and loved the surprise endings.

After I read as much of his adult fiction as I could find, I moved on to Dahl’s children’s books, impressed by the eyebrow-raising irreverence and sardonic wit, delighted by the clever, inventive wordplay and generous servings of lickswishy, delumptious treats. He was unlike any author I’d read in my childhood. There was nothing Pollyanna or namby pamby about any of his magical stories, and I liked his recurring themes of child empowerment, justice and retribution. He made it okay to be a nonconformist, appealing to the inner rebel in all of us.

Whenever I’m asked about my favorite food-related children’s books, the first that comes to mind is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Here was every child’s dream come true — a world where everything was sweet and edible. I want my own Oompa-Loompas, and even if Mr. Wonka wouldn’t approve, just once I’d like to drink from his river of hot melted chocolate.

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9 cool things on a tuesday

Turbo has his own desk and reading lamp.

1. Nothing cuter than a few literary hedgies to get your day off to a cheery start! I’m sure Mrs Tiggy-winkle would be highly pleased. See more Bookish Hedgehogs here.

Scooter (RIP) preferred fresh air and a picnic blanket.


2. New book alert! Just in time for Fall is Apple Picking Day!  by Candice Ransom and Erika Meza (Random House, 2016), a Step Into Reading title that’s a perfect companion to last year’s Pumpkin Day!

Who doesn’t love to go apple picking at the first sign of fall? A sister and brother celebrate autumn with a trip to a local apple orchard in this simple, rhyming Step 1 early reader.
The kids bound with glee through the rows of trees, and race against other children to pick the most and the best apples. The story of their day is bright, fun, and full of light action. It’s told in easy-to-follow rhyme, ensuring a successful reading experience.

Congrats on the new book, Candice!


3. Heads up Susan Branch fans! In addition to collecting Susan’s wonderful illustrated cookbooks, 3-part memoir, calendars and greeting cards, you can also enjoy her fabulous designs on fabric, wallpaper, labels, and gift wrap.

Visit her design shop at Spoonflower to see the entire collection. I am especially partial to her dotty, kitchen, and afternoon tea prints, but she also has pretty florals, butterflies, sweet lambs, and a marshmallow world. Just lovely!


4. Recently read a wonderful post (“if quirky is your thing”) at Orange Marmalade about a series of classic children’s books republished in beautiful new editions by New York Review Books (NYRB). In her post, Jill highlights five titles from their Children’s Collection, which currently features around 80 books.

What a great way to discover gems from the past!. I’m especially excited about getting my hands on Junket is Nice and The Magic Pudding, but so many of them look interesting. Visit the New York Review Books Children’s Collection page for more. Actually, I wish I had them all.🙂


5. Holy guacamole! Have you ever fantasized about being a human burrito? Come on, admit it!

You’ll be happy to know you can now embrace your inner taquito with the ingenious TORTILLA TOWEL.🙂

This fetching 5-foot round limited edition towel resembles a real flour tortilla. Imagine yourself as a tiny taco filling — a little chicken, refried beans, jalapeno, maybe? Roll around in the grass, become the envy of those snooty sunbathers on the beach, or cuddle up for a nice after-bath nap. Finally, a towel to meet all your Mexican dishy needs!

See how you can become a taco, quesadilla, tostada, enchilada, burrito or taquito. Would you like a little Cholula with that?

Order yours at the Tortilla Towel site.


6. Pop over to The Literary Foodie for a nice list of Food Fiction titlesJessica says this will be an ongoing, ever-changing list, and she welcomes recommendations from all.

I’m only familiar with a few of the titles (Babette’s Feast, Like Water for Chocolate, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe), so I’m looking forward to checking out some of the others!


7. Love this Mad Hatter Teapot for One from LennyMud!

It’s made from lead free, toxin-free earthenware clay and is dishwasher and microwave safe. Perfect gift to let friends know you’re mad about them!🙂


8. What to do with those cute drawings your kids make? Post them on the fridge — or if you’re a creative Mom from Tokyo (aka Konel Bread), you incorporate them into loaves of round bread! KB makes these loaves with natural flavors and colors (beetroot, spinach, cocoa), and many are based on her son’s drawings. I want some mustache bread! See more at Konel Bread’s Instagram.


9. Finally, if you’re a Jacques Pépin fan like I am, you’ll be happy to know his whimsical artwork is featured in a new collection of handcrafted Italian ceramics and table linens available exclusively at Sur La Table.

There are a lot of adorable chickens on mugs, platters, aprons, mitts, and pasta bowls. I especially love this baker, which has one of Jacques’s hand-painted menus on the interior. The entire collection has a fresh French country chic feeling about it.

Collection Menu Baker

Jacques has also added new original paintings and signed prints to his art website. You probably know that for years he’s been creating hand-drawn menus of his dinner parties — what beautiful mementos! Some of these are also available as prints. I love a chef who creates art in and out of the kitchen!

“Blue Table” (sold)
“Blue Flower on Brick Wall” (sold)


Until next time, as Jacques would say,





Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.