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). ūüôā

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.


Continue reading

big friendly grub, or, the great pea soup adventure

Thanks, Becky Levine!

We’ve had lots more Dahlish excitement here in the alphabet soup kitchen. The other day, the copy of¬† The BFG¬† I’d won in Becky Levine’s recent giveaway arrived. WooHoo! I was absolutely thrilled because, love Dahl though I may, I did not own a copy of¬† his personal favorite. Now I can hardly wait to reread it, that is, if I can get my hands on it long enough.

You see, there’s this little matter of the Paddingtons. Over 30 of them live here, and they all love Becky. That’s because she voted them her favorite bear over Pooh a couple years back (Pooh who?).

A crowd of Becky worshippers gathers.

They cheered when they saw her name on the padded mailer and then, I’m sorry to report, there was a little furry kerfuffle over who should read The BFG first. I wasn’t even in the running, and couldn’t distract them with a freshly made marmalade sandwich. Continue reading

jama and the (not so giant) peach pie

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s into September we go!

Full color paperback edition published this year.

Since it’s Roald Dahl Month, with this year marking the 50th anniversary of James and the Giant Peach, something peachy is definitely in order. Dahl’s birthday is next Tuesday, September 13th, and while I may very well attempt a “revolting recipe” then, this week I’m sticking with peaches, or should I say, I’m sticky with peaches. The very first bookish recipe I shared on alphabet soup back in 2007 was for Peach Cobbler, and I remarked then that it was only fitting to begin a blog with a salute to the author who inspired me to write children’s books in the first place.

Pick a peach, any peach.

Whenever late summer rolls around, and the farmer’s market crates are overflowing with hundreds of those juicy golden orbs, I make my once-a-year peach pie. This year, because of James and the Giant Peach, I decided to step outside my comfort zone a little and try Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee, which is a fancy French name for an all butter shortcrust.

From past experience, I knew all butter would be a little trickier to handle, but as hope springs eternal with novice bakers, I felt I could manage a double crust rather than a lattice top. So I gathered all the ingredients, closed my eyes, and thought of  Roald. Continue reading

friday feast: just peachy for august (part 2)

After James, Ladybird, Earthworm, Silkworm, Spider, Glow-worm and Old-Green-Grasshopper all tasted the peach and raved about its deliciousness, Centipede, who claims to have “personally tasted all the fine foods of the world,” breaks into song:

”I’ve eaten many strange and scrumptious dishes
in my time,
Like jellied gnats and dandyprats and earwigs
cooked in slime,
And mice with rice — they’re really nice
When roasted in their prime.
(But don’t forget to sprinkle them with just a pinch
of grime.)

“I’ve eaten fresh mudburgers by the greatest cooks
there are,
And scrambled dregs and stinkbugs’ eggs and
hornets stewed in tar,
And pails of snails and lizards’ tails,
And beetles by the jar.
(A beetle is improved by just a splash of vinegar.)

“I often eat boiled slobbages. They’re grand when
served beside
Minced doodlebugs and curried slugs. And have
you ever tried
Mosquitoes’ toes and wampfish roes
Most delicately fried?
(The only trouble is they disagree with my inside.)

“I’m mad for crispy wasp-stings on a piece of
buttered toast,
And pickled spines of porcupines. And then a
gorgeous roast
Of dragon’s flesh, well hung, not fresh —
It costs a pound at most,
(And comes to you in barrels if you order it by post.)

“I crave the tasty tentacles of octopi for tea
I like hot-dogs, I LOVE hot-frogs, and surely
you’ll agree
A plate of soil with engine oil’s
A super recipe.
(I hardly need to mention that it’s practically free.)

“For dinner on my birthday shall I tell you what I
Hot noodles made from poodles on a slice of
garden hose —
And a rather smelly jelly
Made of armadillo’s toes.
(The jelly is delicious, but you have to hold your nose.)

“Now comes,” the Centipede declared, “the burden
of my speech:
These foods are rare beyond compare — some are
right out of reach;
But there’s no doubt I’d go without
A million plates of each
For one small mite,
One tiny bite

(From JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, Roald Dahl, Puffin Books, 1961)

Well, what are you waiting for? Go get some peaches!!

‚ô• Click here for Part One of Just Peachy.



friday feast: just peachy for august (part one, peach cobbler)

I don’t like summer, but I love these:

And eating those made me want to re-read this:

Jamesandthegiantpeach.jpg Movie: James and the giant peach image by 4acesup

I¬†can’t think of a better combination to stave off the dog days of August.¬†It is fitting that the first recipe I share with you be tied to a Roald¬†Dahl book; while living in London I read all his children’s books for the first time and was totally blown away by his sardonic imagination. He was definitely over-the-top, but he did make his point. Though¬†my vision isn’t as dark as his was, his work gave me¬†“permission” to step outside that safe box of “goody-goody”¬†kids’ books that always¬†walk a safe line but border on being bland and unrealistic. He remains an ongoing influence.

You may remember that in this story the giant peach enables James to escape the tyranny of his cruel aunts. The peach rolls down the big hill, flattens the¬†aunts, then¬†eventually lands in the ocean. James¬†devises a way to harness five hundred and two seagulls to lift the peach out of the water when sharks begin nipping at it. Now they can all fly away to new adventure. But also important is that the peach provides James and his new friends with all the food they need. Just hearing their descriptions at first tasting those “great chunks of juicy, golden-coloured peach flesh” makes me crave those beautiful Georgia peaches that fill the supermarket bins these days.¬†(Pause, while I bite into one.)

So,¬†for your feasting pleasure, here is one of the best peach cobbler recipes I’ve ever tasted. It differs from traditional cobbler recipes, which are basically baked fruit covered with pie crust. This version combines a cake-like batter with the sliced fruit, creating a pleasing texture and a rich mingling of flavor. Enjoy warm with vanilla ice cream, and tell me about how your taste buds sighed with rapture.

Click here for the recipe