birthday treat: jessie hartland on bon appétit! (and a giveaway!)

Jessie in her kitchen (photo by Isabelle Dervaux).

Bonjour Mes Amis, et Bon Anniversaire, Julia!

We’re tickled pink that award-winning author, illustrator and commercial artist Jessie Hartland is here today to help us celebrate Julia Child’s 100th Birthday. Her graphic biography, Bon Appétit!: The Delicious Life of Julia Child (Schwartz & Wade, 2012), has everyone drooling with delirious delight.

Since its release in May, this exuberant feast of wacky-fun hand-lettered text and cartoony gouache paintings has earned a bevy of well-deserved accolades, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.

And why not? In just 48 pages, Jessie has accomplished the seemingly impossible, chronicling Julia’s entire amazing life!: as a “gangly girl from Pasadena,” her prankster days at Smith College, her stint doing Top Secret work for the OSS in WWII and marrying bon vivant Paul Child, learning to cook at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, traveling to Germany and Norway, writing and publishing her cookbook masterpiece, and finally launching her TV chef career. Yes, it’s all here, in this frenetic comic-scrapbook hybrid that perfectly captures Julia’s boundless energy and contaigious joie de vivre. There’s even a 32-step recipe for Chicken Galantine (“Here’s a little something I just whipped up!”) and Jessie’s very own recipe for Crepes. I’m sure Julia would get a kick out of every scrumptious detail. Formidable!

Before we hear from Jessie, please put on this Ecole des Trois Gourmandes badge in honor of Julia. She first wore it when she and her co-authors Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle started their cooking school in Paris, and Julia continued to wear it on “The French Chef.” Thanks to Julia, we can all be Hearty Eaters!

Designed by Paul Child

Now, please help me welcome Jessie Hartland to Alphabet Soup. We thank her for sharing all her wonderful personal photos and insights about creating this marvelous book! Continue reading

lapping up minette’s feast with susanna reich and amy bates (and a giveaway!)

“Those early years in France were among the best of my life. They marked a crucial period of transformation in which I found my true calling, experienced an awakening of the senses, and had such fun that I hardly stopped moving long enough to catch my breath.” ~Julia Child (My Life in France, Knopf, 2006).


We’ve set out our best red-and-white checked tablecloth today in honor of special guests Susanna Reich and Amy Bates, co-creators of the delectably enchanting picture book biography, Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat (Abrams, 2012)!


Shortly after Julia and her husband Paul moved to Paris in 1948, they were adopted by “a mischievous, energetic poussiequette with a lovely speckled coat,” whom they named Minette Mimosa McWilliams Child. This sly, feisty feline instantly charmed her way into their hearts and became an important part of their lives, sitting on Paul’s lap during meals and stealing tidbits off his plate when she thought he wasn’t looking.

Julia with Minette, Paris, 1953 (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University)

In Minette’s Feast, we are treated to a scrumptious snapshot from those glorious, golden, transformational years of Julia’s culinary awakening through the eyes of her very first cat, who, as this story goes, adamantly preferred fresh mouse or bird to any of the future Queen of Cuisine’s offerings.

Day and night, the “luckiest cat in all of Paris . . . could smell the delicious smells of mayonnaise, hollandaise, cassoulets, cheese soufflés and duck pâtés.” C’est magnifique!

But whether Julia prepared something specially for Minette (fish heads with chicken liver custard), or presented her with tasty scraps from the day’s culinary experiments, for ravenous Mini, “there would always be mouse.”

*licks chops*

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JC 100th Birthday Week: the queen of cuisine and her favorite chocolate cake

“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit. ” ~ Julia Child

photo by Jim Scherer

The more I learn about Julia Child, the more I love her.

I’ve been having a ball rereading her memoir, My Life in France (Knopf, 2005), dipping into her letters with literary mentor Avis DeVoto, fanning myself at the juicy details of her courtship with Paul Child in Noël Riley Fitch’s biography, Appetite for Life (Doubleday, 1997), and marveling anew at both volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Knopf, 1961, 1970).

Dear Eater, I can honestly say that although I’d been aware of  MTAOFC for years and years — knew it was a classic, groundbreaking masterwork and veritable Bible for American cooks interested in French cuisine — it wasn’t until I made my first recipe from Volume One, La Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba Chocolate and Almond Cake), that I truly realized what a culinary masterpiece it truly is. That the words, “master” and “art” are part of the title says it all. More on the magical cake in a bit.

Julia with co-authors Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle by Paul Child (courtesy of Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University).

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a special giveaway for alphabet soup’s 5th birthday

Hello hello hello!

I’m baaaaaaaaaack — just in time to celebrate five years of Alphabet Soup!

Wow, it’s very hard to believe it’s been that long and that I’m still here after 1400+ posts on 2 different platforms, 348 15 pies, 569 a few cupcakes ☺, 145 book reviews, and many, many days when I asked myself, “Why am I doing this again?”

Who’d have thought a very private, non tech-savvy introvert who’d never even read a single food blog (gasp!), could somehow keep finding something to say week after week?

Wonders never cease.

I named the blog, “Alphabet Soup,”  because at the time I was writing my first chapter book about an alphabet collector who acquires a miniature uncle via mail order for the letter U, and included, “soup” because of my first picture book, Dumpling Soup. I was intrigued, and still am, by blogging as an art form, a unique creative outlet that allows me to indulge my love for journaling and creative nonfiction, letter writing, children’s literature, photography, culinary history, typography, food art, food memoirs and baking.

I have learned SO much in five years, only to realize how little I actually know about everything. I have new respect for professional book reviewers, renewed love for teachers and librarians, even have a new appreciation for editors, i.e., “inappropriate submissions.”

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