let the games begin!


Greetings, flannel friends!

So — now that we’ve watched a slew of Gilmore Girls episodes, drooled over a fair number of hot dishes, gorged ourselves silly on pizza, popcorn, and hot chocolate — you may well ask, "What next, O great Pajama Party hostess?"

*please get up, there’s really no need to prostrate yourselves in my presence*

My adorable, wiggly guests: I’m glad you’ve enjoyed all the hoo-hah thus far, but I admit to feeling a little concerned about your well being.

In short, has your brain gone into hibernation?

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pancakes to the rescue

Peaceful on the outside, looney on the inside.

Okay, enough of this whole winter wonderland thing.

It’s been two weeks, and we’re still covered in snow.

When I leave our driveway, I see this:

The side streets are still relegated to single lane traffic. God help you if somebody comes from the opposite direction. Then you have to back up.

I am not good at backing up.

True, we’re not stranded at home or anything, and we were very lucky not to have any power outages or fallen trees.

But somebody tricked us because this snow doesn’t want to melt. Kind of like those jokey birthday candles that won’t blow out. This snow stays and stays and stays. To be fair, it melts a little, but ice dams on the roof prevent the water from going anywhere — except inside the house. In our kitchen: drip, drip from a ceiling light fixture and a switch on the wall. In our upstairs guest room: floor boards buckling from water trapped between floors. Not since the frozen pipes incident of 1981 have we suffered interior damage from winter weather.

Len has spent a LOT of time chipping and thwacking away at ice. We had a huge "ice tumor" growing from the side of our house pushing against one of the heat pump units. The unit has been displaced a couple of inches. Crossing fingers that it’ll continue to function okay.

Thank goodness for our animal friends! They’re up to business as usual, a sure sign that Spring is coming soon. A flock of robins touched down in the neighbor’s yard yesterday, and Fuzzy the Fox has been spotted sunning himself on his den porch. Just a minute ago, three deer gamboled across the front yard, and last night, a momentous occurrence — the return of Mr. Pampano (whom we hadn’t seen in about a year)! He’s our resident possum, somebody with an adorable face who really should do something about his ugly tail. He was sporting a very thick fur coat which wanted brushing, and busied himself wolfing down the puppy biscuits we left out for Fuzzy. Sometimes when Fuzzy is busy daydreaming or grooming himself, Rocky Raccoon, Mr. Pampano, or the squirrels steal his food. Oh, the price one has to pay to maintain a rock star image!

Speaking of squirrels, I saw one washing his face with snow the other day. I loved how his little hands rubbed his snout and ears till they were sparkly clean. If you’re going to have yard pets, it’s nice to have ones who practice good hygiene.

Len’s 70-something-year-old cousin, who’s lived in D.C. for most of her life, said this is the worst winter she’s ever experienced! She had to pay someone to extract her car from a mountain of snow and ice. We’re still looking for our gas grill. It’s out there, somewhere.

Meanwhile, we’ve been consoling ourselves with delicious pancakes. I first saw this recipe at Orangette a couple of weeks ago. Molly wrote all about "weekend mornings" and how pancakes were an essential part of them. She posted a wonderful Oatmeal Pancake recipe which is to die for. I think it may just be the best I’ve ever had. The oatmeal adds great texture and nutrients, and the buttermilk makes these the lightest, fluffiest, tastiest pancakes ever. They have a nice lacy golden appearance and melt in your mouth. You must do a tiny bit of advance planning, though — by soaking the oatmeal in the buttermilk overnight. You could do this Saturday, and then have yourself a perfect Sunday morning breakfast or brunch. Trust me, these are worth the effort! The recipe is here. Likely you’ll enjoy the entire post. Molly is the best!

Dear Snow:

I do not like you in my hair
I do not like you on the stair
I do not like you here or there
I do not like you anywhere.

Your former friend,

Sheesh! I’m starting to speak in rhyme.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

SOUP’S ON: Arnold Hiura in the Kitchen Interview!

Kau Kau: the all-purpose Hawaiian pidgin term for food (derived from the Chinese “chow chow”).

photo by Shuzo Uemoto

I’m very pleased to welcome Arnold Hiura to alphabet soup today, not only because he has written a fabulous new book about Hawai’i’s culinary history, but because this interview has given me the opportunity to reconnect with an old college classmate.

Arnold and I were both English majors at the University of Hawai’i, where we took the same Shakespeare class in grad school. I was no fool — I made sure I sat next to him, hoping that some of his brains and writing talent would rub off on me. ☺

After graduation, Arnold taught English for a few years at Punahou, a prestigious private school on O’ahu. One of his students was none other than a certain Barry Obama. Fast forward to last December, when the Obamas were in Hawai’i for Christmas. They dined at one of their favorite restaurants, Alan Wong’s in Honolulu, at which time Chef Wong gifted the President with a copy of Kau Kau: Cuisine & Culture in the Hawaiian Islands. I love how things come full
circle — how small and friendly the world can be, how food brings people together.

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friday feast: 13th century vittles

 Medieval Feast set in the Great Hall, Warwick Castle (photo by mharrsch).

Welcome, Lords and Ladies! 

There’s nothing like a little boar’s head on a platter to make me yearn for England. I always think about our Elizabethan banquet wedding reception in London, where a feisty wench passed around the boar’s head paté.

You probably know how much I love all things British.

 Warwick Castle photo by Andrew®.

That’s why I was quite excited when I came across Linda Ashman’s Come to the Castle! (Roaring Brook, 2009), a hilarious account of a Medieval banquet held in a 13th century castle. It mentions boar, as well as lots of other tantalizing dishes which brought back delicious memories of my visit to Warwick Castle (a great Medieval castle built by William the Conquerer). Ah yes — who doesn’t love rhapsodizing about, “Peacocks, pike and pigeons, capon, venison and boar,/Mutton, eel and mackerel, sturgeon, porpoise, pig and more!”

 Recommended for grades 2-4 (40 pages).

The book has already been thoroughly reviewed by Sylvia Vardel of Poetry for Children and Abby (the) Librarian, among others, so I thought I’d just share two of my favorite poems from it today. In Come to the Castle, the Earl of Daftwood, who has every creature comfort known to man, gets bored one day and decides to host an elaborate banquet and jousting tournament. Easy for him to say, since everyone else has to do all the work. Through lively poems, we hear the distinctive voices of each of the castle inhabitants, gaining insight into their lives, attitudes, and concerns. From steward to squire, herald to gong farmer, lady to knight — the sights, smells, and flavors of 13th century England come to uproarious life.

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coming soon to alphabet soup!

When the going gets tough, the tough go to Hawai’i!

Had enough of cold temps, snow and ice? Me too!

To warm things up with a little tropical sunshine and multi-ethnic flavor, I’ve invited Arnold Hiura to stop by alphabet soup next week. His new coffee table book, Kau Kau: Cuisine & Culture in the Hawaiian Islands (Watermark Publishing, 2009), has been flying off the shelves back home. He’s been quite busy with booksignings and TV appearances, so I really appreciate his taking the time to answer my questions.

Here’s a book trailer to whet your appetite. Time for teriyaki, spam musubi, Saloon Pilot crackers, mochi, sushi, pork adobo, lomi lomi salmon, and Korean kalbi. So ono!