autumn pleasures: three poems, butternut bisque, and gingerbread applesauce cake

Hello Friends. Can’t believe it’s already the end of October!

Fall is going much too fast for me. I wish there was a way to make it last longer — trees aflame with color, deep blue skies, crisp mornings, apple everything and friendly pumpkins! If I had my way, I would skip summer entirely and have two autumns in a row.

More than any other season, Fall reminds me to make the most of each moment. Lovely though it may be, there’s always this sense of reckoning, the gathering in and taking stock, and with that an acute awareness of life’s evanescence.

“Pumpkin Patch” by Paul Peel

AUTUMN
by Linda Pastan

I want to mention
summer ending
without meaning the death
of somebody loved

or even the death
of the trees.
Today in the market
I heard a mother say

Look at the pumpkins,
it’s finally autumn!
And the child didn’t think
of the death of her mother

which is due before her own
but tasted the sound
of the words on her clumsy tongue:
pumpkin; autumn.

Let the eye enlarge
with all it beholds.
I want to celebrate
color, how one red leaf

flickers like a match
held to a dry branch,
and the whole world goes up
in orange and gold.

~ from Heroes in Disguise (W.W. Norton, 1992)

*

Continue reading

[Author Chat + Giveaway] Mara Rockliff on Gingerbread for Liberty!: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution

All art ©2015 Vincent X. Kirsh

There’s nothing more delicious than learning something new about a well-loved food.

When I think of gingerbread, I think of Emily Dickinson lowering basketfuls to the neighborhood children, Laura Ingalls Wilder setting out a pan to cool at Rocky Ridge Farm, or Emily Brontë baking a family parkin. I’d read about gingerbread’s long and interesting history, marveling that Queen Elizabeth I was essentially responsible for the gingerbread boy cookies we now bake every holiday season. But I never imagined a gingerbread baker could be an unsung hero in Revolutionary history.

Officially hitting shelves today, Mara Rockliff’s Gingerbread for Liberty!: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution (HMH, 2015), introduces young readers to Christopher Ludwick, a German-born American patriot living in Philadelphia, who as Baker General of the Continental Army, fed General George Washington’s troops and even snuck off on a secret mission.

Deemed too old and fat at 56 to enlist as a soldier, Ludwick was nevertheless determined to champion the cause of liberty, independence and freedom with his culinary skills. His gingerbread was the best around, but he was also known for his generosity and philanthropic work, especially on behalf of poor children. His motto was, “No empty bellies here, not in my America!” This tantalizing bit of little-known history is brought to life with Vincent X. Kirsch’s whimsical cut-paper illustrations resembling iced gingerbread cookies, and is a wonderful example of finding creative ways to utilize one’s talents. What a great reminder that one person can make a big difference, and that heroes can sometimes be found in unexpected places.

Lucky for us, Mara is here today to tell us about catching her first whiff of Ludwick’s spicy gingerbread, researching his colorful life, and making his story accessible to picture book readers.  Of course I also asked her to share a favorite recipe, so ready your rolling pins. 🙂

*   *   *

Continue reading

friday feast: diane wakoski’s “parkin” (+ a recipe)

Happy Halloween!

No tricks here today, just a rich, spicy, scrumptious treat — parkin!

I was compelled to bake a batch of this Yorkshire gingerbread after reading Diane Wakoski’s evocative, affecting poem.

Her musings about the Brontës brought back my own fond memories of visiting Haworth – absolutely fascinating how creative genius can flourish in such a carefully circumscribed, isolated world.

Sip a cup of hot tea, have a good bite of parkin, and find comfort in the words of this generous poet. The “small things” are not so small after all.

*   *   *

Continue reading

♥ miss edna lewis, my valentine ♥

“So many great souls have passed off the scene. The world has changed. We are now faced with picking up the pieces and trying to put them into shape, document them so the present-day young generation can see what southern food was like. The foundation on which it rested was pure ingredients, open-pollinated seed—planted and replanted for generations—natural fertilizers. We grew the seeds of what we ate, we worked with love and care.” ~ Edna Lewis (“What is Southern?”)

IMG_0222

For me, she’s the one. The more I learn about Edna Lewis, the more I love her.

Since today marks the 7th anniversary of her passing at age 89, it’s a good time to celebrate her remarkable achievements as an award-winning chef, cooking teacher, caterer, cookbook author and Grand Dame of Southern Cuisine with a love-in-your-mouth piece of her Warm Gingerbread. Mmmmm-mmmmm!

long view

Miss Lewis, as she was always known, grew up in the small farming community of Freetown, which is located behind the village of Lahore in Orange County, Virginia (about 66 miles from where I live). Her grandfather founded Freetown with two other freed slaves and started the first area school in his living room.

Long before it became chic to advocate fresh, organic, seasonal ingredients and field-to-table cuisine, Edna and her fellow Freetown residents were enjoying a bucolic live-off-the-land existence — growing, harvesting and preserving their own food, gathering nature’s bounty (seeds, fruit, nuts), fishing the streams, hunting wild game in the woods, cultivating domestic animals.

In The Taste of Country Cooking (Knopf, 1976), a classic of Southern cuisine edited by the brilliant Judith Jones (also Julia Child’s editor), Edna shares recipes and reminiscences of the simple, flavorful, uniquely American, Virginia country cooking she grew up with, lovingly describing how they anticipated the select offerings of each season and celebrated special occasions like Christmas and Emancipation Day with full-out feasts.

IMG_0206

We are reminded that there’s nothing better than a freshly picked sun-ripened apple, relishing a dish of Spring’s mixed greens (poke leaves, lamb’s-quarters, wild mustard), celebrating Summer’s bounty with deep-dish blackberry pies, apple dumplings, peach cobblers and pound cakes, sitting down to a Fall Emancipation Day dinner of Guinea Fowl Casserole, “the last green beans of the season and a delicious plum tart or newly ripened, fresh, stewed quince.” As Alice Waters says in her introduction, “sheer deliciousness that is only possible when food tastes like what it is, from a particular place, at a particular point in time.”

Continue reading

laura for a day

“Once you begin being naughty, it’s easier to go on and on, and sooner or later, something dreadful happens.” ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

    
    Carrie, Mary, and Laura Ingalls

Which children’s book character would you most like to be for just one day?

I’d like to be Laura Ingalls, mainly because her childhood was so vastly different from mine. I would love to have three sisters, a father who plays the fiddle, a dog named Jack, and a more intimate knowledge of how food was grown, cultivated, preserved, and prepared in the late 19th century. It would also be quite cool to be called, “Half-pint.”

Pioneer life was much harder than is depicted in the Little House books, so I wouldn’t necessarily want to actually be Laura Ingalls Wilder — no, just the Laura in the stories who eagerly watches Ma make Pancake Men, takes her turn at churning the cream, marvels at eating a little heart-shaped cake made from white flour, and is there to smell and taste all the bread and biscuits fresh from the wood-fired oven.

Continue reading