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)

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sing a song of soup, or, may peace soup be with you

Mixed media soup collage by Melissa Sweet

Since January is National Soup Month, thought we’d celebrate with a bit of art, a heartening song and a bowl of homemade soup. 🙂

Pictured above is one of my prize possessions — an original Melissa Sweet watercolor I won in a Small Graces auction back in 2010. It all started in 2009 when Newbery Honor author/illustrator Grace Lin donated 11 original paintings to benefit the Foundation for Children’s Books (now Wondermore). In 2010, twelve different illustrators donated their work, and each month a new painting was auctioned off.

Guess what was featured in January? Melissa Sweet’s SOUP painting had my name written all over it and I was thrilled when I won. This piece continues to feed my soul every single day. 🙂

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[cookbook review + recipe + giveaway] Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts by Paul Yee, Judy Chan and Shaoli Wang

Imagine a sumptuous Chinese banquet with thirteen enchanting fairy tales on the menu — centuries-old stories of gods, ghosts, noblemen, monks, peasants, farmers, and merchants all motivated by some aspect of food — having or not having it, growing, cooking, relishing, transforming it.

Each tale is served alongside a tempting recipe and lovingly flavored with gorgeous folkloric illustrations (a visual feast in itself), making this literary banquet something to savor with family and friends across generations time and again.

Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook (Crocodile Books, 2014), is a delightful trifecta of tales by master storyteller and award-winning Canadian author Paul Yee, mouthwatering recipes by Judy Chan, and charming illustrations by Shaoli Wang. While this book is perfect for celebrating the Lunar New Year this week, it’s equally satisfying any time you wish to nourish the mind, heart, body, and spirit.

This is the third in the literary cookbook series following Fairy Tale Feasts (2009) and Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts (2013) by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, books that have my name written all over them, as they explore and illuminate the fascinating connections between stories and food. As Jane Yolen says in her Foreword for Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts, the ability to make things up, to tell stories, distinguishes us from other animals:

And the connection between food and stories is profound and clear. Both are infinitely changeable, suiting the needs of the maker and the consumer.

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a taste of melissa gilbert’s my prairie cookbook (soup + rice pudding!)

These days, I’m all about Laura Ingalls Wilder.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been enjoying Pamela Smith Hill’s online course, which compares Wilder’s Little House books with her soon-to-be published autobiography Pioneer Girl, and I must say all that talk of traveling to and from Walnut Grove in a covered wagon has made me hungry for some down home country food.

That’s why I was especially happy to see Melissa Gilbert’s recently released My Prairie Cookbook: Memories and Frontier Food from My Little House to Yours (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2014). I’m a longtime fan of the “Little House on the Prairie” TV series and always picture Melissa whenever Laura’s name is mentioned. Can you believe it’s been exactly 40 years since the series first aired on NBC?

My Prairie Cookbook is a must-have for Little House fans. In this scrapbook-cookbook, Melissa shares nearly 80 recipes and lots of wonderful behind-the-scenes photos, memorabilia, and personal recollections. She answers frequently asked questions from fans, lists her top ten favorite LH episodes, comments on LH bloopers and goofs, and writes so lovingly about Michael Landon, whom she considered to be her second “Pa” ( her own father died when she was just 11).

For those of us who’ve watched the series for many years, that image of a freckle-faced, somewhat fearless minx in pigtails and calico is so firmly entrenched in our minds that we might not realize that in real life Melissa raised four boys and liked nothing better than cooking lots of soul-nourishing comfort food for her family and friends.

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cooking with aliens: a delicious chat with erik weibel about the adventures of tomato and pea

I’m tickled pink (and red, green, yellow and blue) to welcome newly published author, faster-than-lightning reader, This Kid Reviews Books blogger and budding philanthropist Erik Weibel to Alphabet Soup today!

Eleven-year-old Erik is beloved in the kidlitosphere (he started blogging when he was just nine!), and continues to impress everyone with his consistently incisive and candid book reviews and irrepressible enthusiasm for reading and writing.

He worked on his new chapter book, THE ADVENTURES OF TOMATO AND PEA – Book 1: A Bad Idea, for 3 years (i.e., 1/4 of his life). It is the first in a planned trilogy featuring tiny aliens called Smidges from the planet Oarg, and is notable for its cast of colorful, quirky characters, lively narrative with hilarious rapid-fire dialogue, vivid descriptions, and enduring themes (friendship, cooperation, courage, the triumph of good over evil).

In Book 1, super crime-stopper Tomato, his techno-savvy sidekick Pea, and two other Smidges find themselves tricked, then trapped aboard the rocket ship S.S. Poofy with the evil Wintergreen and his unsavory cohorts. After they crash-land on planet EAR-TH, they must all learn to work together to ensure their survival and find a way to return home to Oarg.

Erik displays remarkable writing chops in this fun, quick read, and it’s exciting to see someone so young accomplish so much.

Yet one question remains:

Can this boy cook? 🙂

After all, he did include a character named Skew in the story, Tomato and Pea’s yellow friend who is a good, resourceful cook. Erik has said there’s a bit of him in each of his characters, and that he loves to cook. You can see why I had to investigate. 🙂 🙂 🙂

And so, my hungry readers —

*drumroll*

for the first time on any blog anywhere —

*trumpet flourish*

Erik the Great Weibel dishes about food in The Adventures of Tomato and Pea, his plans to take over the world, his personal food preferences, and then (*drool*) cooks up two mouthwatering, out of this world, Smidge-approved recipes with his alien friends (including notes and tips). Intergalactic Yum!!

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