[tasty review] United Tastes of America by Gabrielle Langholtz, Jenny Bowers, and DL Acken

 

Feeling a little peckish? What’s your pleasure?

If you’re craving something savory, perhaps we should zip on over to Illinois for some deep dish pizza and pierogies. Something a little more substantial? Well, we could feast on chicken fried steak in Oklahoma and bison burgers in Wyoming, before topping everything off with a platter of Norwegian meatballs in South Dakota.

What’s for dessert? May I tempt you with a slice of St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake, Key Lime Pie from Florida, or some of South Carolina’s Buttermilk Pie? Oh, you want it all? Can’t say I’m surprised — I’d recognize your drool anywhere. 🙂

The good news is, we can sample all of these foods and lots more by simply digging into this new book, which takes us on a delicious culinary tour across the country — all 50 states + Washington, D.C. To sweeten the pot, we’re also invited to three U.S. territories: Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico!

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Savoring the “The Consolation of Apricots” by Diane Ackerman

 

Hello, Friends. I’m so glad you’re here today.

Hope you’re doing well despite these crazy, scary, unbelievably challenging times.

Please help yourself to a warm cuppa and a fresh-from-the-oven apricot scone while you savor Diane Ackerman’s sumptuous poem.

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“Apricot Still Life” by Julie L’Heureux

 

THE CONSOLATION OF APRICOTS
by Diane Ackerman

Especially in early
spring,
when the sun
offers a thin
treacle of warmth,
I love to sit
outdoors
and eat sense-
ravishing apricots.

Born on sun-
drenched trees in
Morocco,
the apricots have
flown the Atlantic
like small comets,
and I can taste
broiling North
Africa in their
flesh.

Somewhere
between a peach
and a prayer,
they taste of well
water
and butterscotch
and dried apples
and desert
simooms and lust.

Sweet with a
twang of spice,
a ripe apricot is
small enough to
devour
as two
hemispheres,
Ambiguity is its
hallmark.

How to eat an
apricot:
first warm its
continuous curve
in cupped hands,
holding it
as you might a
brandy snifter,

then caress the
velvety sheen
with one thumb,
and run your
fingertips
over its nap,
which is shorter
than peach fuzz,
closer to chamois.

Tawny gold with a
blush on its
cheeks,
an apricot is the
color of shame
and dawn.
One should not
expect to drink
wine
at mid-winter,
Boethius warned.

What could be
more thrilling
then ripe apricots
out of season,
a gush of taboo
sweetness
to offset the
savage wistfulness
of early spring?

Always eat
apricots at
twilight,
preferably while
sitting in a sunset
park,
with valley lights
starting to flicker
on
and the lake
spangled like a
shield.

Then, while a trail
of bright ink
tattoos the sky,
notice how the sun
washes the earth
like a woman
pouring her gaze
along her lover’s
naked body,

each cell receiving
the tattoo of her
glance.
Wait for that
moment
of arousal and
revelation,
then sink your
teeth into the flesh
of an apricot.

~ from I Praise My Destroyer (Random House, 1998)

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[guest post + recipes] What I Eat is How I Feel by Julia Wendell

We’re delighted to welcome back poet, author, and equestrian athlete Julia Wendell. She was last here discussing her poetry chapbook Take This Spoon (Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2014), which explores the complicated relationship humans have with food. In her new memoir, Come to the X (Galileo Press, May 2020), food is again a central trope as it was in her previous book, Finding My Distance: A Year in the Life of a Three-Day Event Rider (Pathway Books, 2020). Both memoirs combine poetry and prose, showing how food reflects inner weather.

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WHAT I EAT IS HOW I FEEL

by Julia Wendell

In writing Come to the X (forthcoming, Galileo Press, 2020), I was struck by the way what I eat over the last decade has changed, and how my patterns of eating and relationship to food reflected the events in my life.

 

 

In Finding My Distance (Galileo Press, 2009), elaborate dinners and their preparation were like a reward. From lamb to shrimp, exotic pastas to salads, mountains of crabs and all the fixin’s — caesar potato salad and Asian cole slaw — to rich desserts like ice cream and homemade chocolate sauce, crisps and mousses and souffles. The long work days always ended with focus on cocktail hour and dinner, prepared and eaten with relish by this family of four, including two kids who were introduced as toddlers to an adult palate — whatever we ate got whizzed in a blender — a husband who is a stress eater, as well as myself, who has a history of anorexia. Whatever the complex motivations, and whatever stressful life events vying for our attention, sharing dinner and sitting down together as a family were key.

We head to Annapolis to meet my Aunt Kay for dinner at Cantler’s Riverside Inn, where we introduce her to a slice of Maryland she’s not partaken of before: platters of crabs brought steaming to our table. Barrett shows her how to crack open and hammer and peel, and before we know it, several mountains of spent legs and shells litter our brown-papered table, along with empty plastic containers of cole slaw and straggler fries and rings. Crab parts go flying, Aunt Kay busily wipes her white shirt, the clientele whoop it up at the tables and bar behind us, dusk starts to fall, and the Magothy River starts to sparkle behind us. We order another round of beers, another half-dozen crabs, and more slaw. After we’ve consumed our very last crab, we still have room for more and order key lime pies all around. Our server doesn’t even bother to clear away the mess before bringing out dessert, and now we’ve got a Vesuvius on our table.

“I’ve never seen you eat with such gusto, Julia,” Aunt Kay says.

“You’ve never seen me eat crabs before,” I reply. She’s amazed by the mess.

Finding My Distance, in contrast to Come to the X, is a book filled with hope and purpose; it is largely about my determination as a middle-aged equestrian athlete to climb the levels in three-day eventing. It is also about the challenges of being the mother of two young adults. Food, and specifically dinner preparation and its sharing with family, complement the inner weather of the book. After attending the Preakness Race:

My day ends well with Barrett’s shrimp pad thai and lots of Anapamu, and reruns of our eventing and racing videos. There goes Foolish Groom from the back of a twelve-horse pack, picking off his contenders in the last quarter mile, winning again by a good 10 lengths.

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[review + recipe + giveaway] The Superlative A. Lincoln by Eileen R. Meyer and Dave Szalay

 

We’re celebrating Lincoln’s birthday this week with several sample poems from a new picture book biography and a recipe for his favorite cake.

As a Presidential trivia buff and a big Lincoln fan, I was excited when The Superlative A. Lincoln: Poems About Our 16th President by Eileen R. Meyer and Dave Szalay (Charlesbridge, 2019), came out this past November.

Meyer’s theme of “superlatives” is a fun and effective way to help kids understand why Lincoln is widely considered to be our greatest President. Her nineteen narrative poems — lively, rhyming, upbeat, captivating — describe some of Lincoln’s most commendable skills, attributes, dreams, and milestones, while providing interesting insights into his personality and character.

 

 

The poems are arranged chronologically from Lincoln’s humble beginnings as “Most Studious” (a self-taught learner), to his youth as “Most Distracted Farmer” (who preferred reading to farm chores), to being “Most Respected” (short stint at boot camp), to his tenure as President (a “Most Permissive Parent” whose sons ran wild in the White House). With the “Strongest Conviction,” he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, then later delivered his “Greatest Speech,” the Gettysburg Address.

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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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