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September 2011


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Aug. 4th, 2020

birthday bear

alphabet soup has moved to wordpress!

Hi Everyone,

We are celebrating alphabet soup's 4th birthday by moving to Wordpress.

For a number of reasons, not the least of which are LJ's ongoing technical problems and vulnerability to hacker attacks, we felt it was time for a change and a fresh start.

Please stop by to say hello so I know you've found us, bookmark the site, update your blog rolls and/or add Jama's Alphabet Soup to your readers. We promise more of our usual mischief and look forward to having you join us at the table often.

For those of you on LiveJournal, I've created a feed so you can view my posts on your Friends Page: alphasoup2 .

Thanks for your continuing support!

*The new blog's URL is jamarattigan (dot) com -- easy to remember, easy to find!

Sep. 7th, 2011


alphabet soup at wordpress

Hi there!

Hope you had a nice summer. ☺

Just in case you missed my announcement at the beginning of August, wanted to mention again that my blog has moved to Wordpress. I'll be up to my usual mischief, featuring lots of foodie books, poetry and recipes at Jama's Alphabet Soup. Please subscribe to the feed, bookmark the page, sign up to receive email notifications of new posts, and/or update your blogrolls.

For LJ users, I've created this feed so you can continue reading the blog on your Friends Page: alphasoup2.

Thanks for your continuing support! See you at the new blog!


Jun. 29th, 2011

summer jam

summer blog break


The sun is shining, a nice breeze is blowing, and Colin Firth summer fun is calling!

Going to take some time off from regular posting for a few weeks to pursue some new foodie adventures, tackle my just-for-fun TBR pile, and do a little blog housekeeping. I want to get all my letters in a row, since I always feel so much better when my kitchen is spit spot!

Meanwhile, I wish you many happy summer days, whether you're on vacation or staycation. Ahhhhh -- time for barbecue, fruit smoothies, potato salad, and corn on the cob. Enjoy these long, lazy days, have a spectacular Fourth of July weekend, and I'll see you in August!

**Dorothy Whidden illustrations from The Alphabet That Was Good to Eat written by Louise Price Bell (Harter Publishing, 1932). (Crossett Library Bennington College flickr photostream.)

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Jun. 28th, 2011


chatting with poetry man lee bennett hopkins


Roll out the purple carpet, pass the poetry and the pizza: the one and only Lee Bennett Hopkins is here!

For years and years, I'd see the name "Lee Bennett Hopkins" on dozens and dozens of book covers as poet, author and anthologist, but never once imagined one day I'd have the pleasure of welcoming him to my blog. No one, in the history of children's literature, has compiled more poetry anthologies than he has (100+ to date), and I'm certain most everyone -- whether poet, author, educator, librarian, editor, publisher or reader -- agrees that no one else has done as much to nurture, support and promote children's poetry with such full-hearted enthusiasm and tenacity. 

He's won numerous awards and honors as author and anthologist, such as the Christopher Award, Golden Kite Honor, and NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, and has established two awards: the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and the Lee Bennett Hopkins/IRA Promising Poet Award.


But apart from his long list of accomplishments and accolades, he's also someone who likes the color purple and a good pizza, and who, in his heart of hearts, truly believes that poetry is absolutely essential for all children, both at home and in the classroom. Bring books and children together, and teach them to love reading. I'm so honored to have Lee visit alphabet soup to tell us a little about the art of compiling anthologies and to share a few tidbits about the three books he's published so far this year:

I Am the Book (Holiday House, 2011), a collection of 13 exuberant poems celebrating the magic of reading with whimsical illustrations by Colombian artist Yayo,

Dizzy Dinosaurs: Silly Dino Poems (HarperCollins, 2011), 19 humorous poems selected especially for the beginning reader with vibrant cartoony illustrations by Barry Gott, and

Hear My Prayer (Zonderkidz, 2011), a selection of 13 simple verses on a variety of universal themes with illustrations by Gigi Moore.

Read more...Collapse )

Jun. 27th, 2011

summer jam

six happy things on a monday

1. It's always a good day when you have pancakes for breakfast (and lunch, and dinner) ☺. My pancakes of choice remain Orangette's Oatmeal Pancakes, a recipe she adapted from the pancakes served at the Inn at Fordhook Farm in Pennsylvania. Since I first mentioned Molly's oatmeal pancakes here, we've made them at least six times, and it's become our favorite breakfast to serve houseguests. We haven't mashed in any blueberries yet; they're delicious without them. And as Molly says, they are great the next day and the next . . . they freeze well, too.


2. Do you remember when Kevin Slattery declared May, Bob Dylan Month? And he ran his "Three for Free Giveaway" with copies of Ain't Gonna Hang No Pixel (his first Picture Book for Big Kids) as the prize? Eeeeee! I was one of the winners!


This 16-page pop phenomenon parody, inspired by Dylan's infamous decision to go electric in 1965, offers a tantalizing cross-section of Kevin's unique digital art. Movers and shakers Billie Holiday, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul McCartney (*swoon*), Marilyn Monroe, Jack Kerouac, Emily Dickinson, Alfred Hitchcock, and of course, Dylan -- are portrayed as never before. Kevin loves to mix things up and surprise you with unexpected juxtapositions: there's a beautiful pink and yellow floral Billie as well as a funky cartoony Hitchcock making quite the television appearance (or should I say, "emergence"?). Wish you had your own copy? Click here for more details about this book as well as the second book in Kevin's Picture Books for Big Kids series, Emily Comes to My House!

3. Big thanks to Zoe Toft at Playing by the Book for presenting alphabet soup with the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award!

We truly appreciate this honor and are proud to be recognized along with these other blogs:

Kat Cooks the Books
Reading, Writing and Recipes
Storytelling, cooking and kids!
Children’s Books for Grown Ups – look out for Natasha’s Bookish Bites!
Maison Cupcake
The Tea Box

Check out Zoe's list of books about sweets and baking that she especially enjoys. Don't think I could narrow my list to just seven ☺.

4. A little Virginia pride here: just learned that Earl Hamner (the original John-Boy Walton) will receive the 2011 Literary Lifetime Achievement Award from the Library of Virginia! You probably know I'm a big fan of "The Waltons" and Mr. Hamner's books. 


We extend our heartfelt congratulations to him on this well deserved honor. Read Mr. Hamner's wonderful blog post about the award, which includes a little family and career history. BTW, in one of last night's episodes, Olivia and Grandma made two applesauce cakes! Read my Waltons posts here.

5. Just wanted to mention how much I am loving Anita Silvey's Children's Book-a-Day Almanac. Every one of her essays is beautifully crafted and includes interesting tidbits about the day's significance as well as fascinating backstory about the featured book. It's my daily dose of happy information which extends my appreciation for each and every title. Such richness!


6. Well, now, when Sweet Frog Premium Frozen Yogurt comes to town, it's definitely worth celebrating. Newly opened not too far from home, this self-serve haven of the smooth and sweet is happy-making and then some. One of Len's colleagues mentioned that ever since the place opened, his teen daughter has been going to Sweet Frog every. single. day. Of course I insisted we zip right on over and give it a try.

I had vanilla and coconut yogurt with fresh fruit and coconut sprinkles.

Cheery pink and green decor, and the place was packed! You pick your yogurt flavor(s), then select from oodles of toppings -- fruity ones like mango, strawberry, banana, blueberry, raspberry, peach; and dry ones, like dark chocolate sprinkles, nuts, M&Ms, jelly bellies, mochi, graham cracker, Twix, gummi bears. If that's not enough, dribble on some warm caramel, hot fudge and top with whipped cream. What I love most? Everybody in there was smiling.

So, it's the last week of June and summer is in full swing.

Brownie oggles Marilyn in Kevin's book.

Happy Monday and have a good week!

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Jun. 24th, 2011

poetry friday

friday feast: vegetable love by barbara crooker


'Tis the season for gorgeous summer produce and I'm envious of those of you with your own vegetable gardens. At our old house, where there were fewer trees to block the sunlight and no deer to nibble on devour everything, we had a nice little patch that yielded bell peppers, beefsteak, cherry and Early Girl tomatoes, cucumbers, and monster zucchini.

Tommy Williams/flickr

I love how each plant matured in its own time, extending our anticipation, and how it always seemed so miraculous that something delicious and satisfying could magically materialize from a tiny seed or starter plant.

Jean-François Chénier/flickr

No, there's nothing like a freshly picked garden tomato at its peak of ripeness sliced just so, saying hello to three strips of bacon, a little butter lettuce and lightly toasted whole grain bread. And there's no one who better celebrates the joy and wonder of the vegetable garden than Barbara Crooker. Her poetic garden flourishes with a variety of offerings, exquisite sensual details, and earthy enthusiasm. She always gets it just right.

by Barbara Crooker

Feel a tomato, heft its weight in your palm,
think of buttocks, breasts, this plump pulp.
And carrots, mud clinging to the root,
gold mined from the earth's tight purse.
And asparagus, that push their heads up,
rise to meet the returning sun,
and zucchini, green torpedoes
lurking in the Sargasso depths
of their raspy stalks and scratchy leaves.
And peppers, thick walls of cool jade, a green hush.
Secret caves. Sanctuary.
And beets, the dark blood of the earth.
And all the lettuces: bibb, flame, oak leaf, butter-
crunch, black-seeded Simpson, chicory, cos.
Elizabethan ruffs, crisp verbiage.
And spinach, the dark green
of northern forests, savoyed, ruffled,
hidden folds and clefts.
And basil, sweet basil, nuzzled
by fumbling bees drunk on the sun.
And cucumbers, crisp, cool white ice
in the heart of August, month of fire.
And peas in their delicate slippers,
little green boats, a string of beads,
repeating, repeating.
And sunflowers, nodding at night,
then rising to shout hallelujah! at noon.

All over the garden, the whisper of leaves
passing secrets and gossip, making assignations.
All of the vegetables bask in the sun,
languorous as lizards.
Quick, before the frost puts out
its green light, praise these vegetables,
earth's voluptuaries,
praise what comes from the dirt.

~ from Radiance, winner of the Word Press First Book Prize, Copyright © 2005 Barbara Crooker. All rights reserved.


♥ Today's Roundup is at Carol's Corner. Check out the full menu of tasty poems and have a good weekend!

♥ More Barbara Crooker poems at alphabet soup here.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Jun. 23rd, 2011

summer jam

a platter of vegetable picture books

Put on your bibs and lick your chops -- it's fresh veggie time!

Serving up a little of summer's bounty today in celebration of all that is green, purple, red, orange and yellow. Nothing better than the crunch of a carrot, the juicy ooze of a garden ripe tomato, the fresh snap of a sassy bean. A quick perusal of vegetable books at my library revealed a surprising number of varieties who took great pride in their ability to amaze and delight. Some call attention to themselves just by being BIG, while others excel at showmanship. Veggie vaudeville? Lima bean monsters? Whoever said vegetables were boring? 

Read more...Collapse )

Jun. 21st, 2011

baby reading

a little adventure with sarah emma edmonds


It’s always fun and exciting when something you’ve read sparks your imagination and makes you want to learn more.  

That’s what happened when I read Carrie Jones’s new picture book biography about Civil War nurse and spy Sarah Emma Edmonds. When I studied American history in Hawai’i eons ago, I learned a lot of names and dates that I couldn’t really relate to. I certainly never dreamed that one day I’d live near a real battlefield site, meet people who like to don period garb to participate in battle re-enactments, and be steeped in heady historical richness that would actually mean something. 

I had heard of female Confederate spies, but knew very little about the ones spying for the Union army. Sarah Emma Edmonds Was a Great Pretender (Carolrhoda Books, 2011) is a provocative introduction to the feisty Canadian teenager who fled her home country, assumed the identity of a man (calling herself Frank Thompson), and then served in the Second Michigan Infantry, first as a field nurse and then as a spy under the command of Major General George B. McClellan. 

Sarah Edmonds in female and male garb.

Jones’s tightly woven narrative emphasizes Edmonds’s skill as a master of disguise. An adventurer at heart, Edmonds was motivated by a deep sense of patriotism to her adopted country because she was able to forge a new life, far away from her abusive father who hated that she was a girl and who tried to force her into an arranged marriage.

Steely, brave, clever and highly adaptable to whatever circumstances came her way, Edmonds assumed various guises, as an African American male slave, an Irish peddler woman, and a black laundress. She infiltrated enemy lines many times and returned with valuable information for the Union army. When she contracted malaria, she chose to recuperate in a private hospital in Illinois to avoid blowing her cover. After learning that she was listed as a deserter, she reclaimed her identity as a woman and returned to nursing, with no one the wiser. 

Further reading revealed that much, if not most, of Sarah’s exploits took place on Virginia soil. She participated in both the First and Second Battles of Bull Run, The Peninsula Campaign, Vicksburg, Fredericksburg, Antietam, Williamsburg and Yorktown in her various capacities as field nurse, postmaster and spy. When I read that she nursed wounded soldiers at an army hospital in the Old Stone Church in Centreville, I had to see the place for myself. I’ve lived in Virginia for 30 years and might never have heard about the church (only 10 minutes away) if I hadn’t read Carrie’s book. 

Old Stone Church circa 1860's (Library of Congress photo).

The Old Stone Church was first built by Methodists in 1854, and used as a hospital by both the Union and Confederate troops. It was destroyed by soldiers during the war, but rebuilt with original materials in 1870. The Union army marched from Centreville to meet Confederate forces in the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run (1861), and later took the same route, right past the church, as they retreated from the Manassas battlefield.  

Today, the Old Stone Church is the Anglican Church of the Ascension.

I tried to imagine the fort situated behind the church to the south, where nearby camps housed 40,000 Confederate soldiers in log huts during the winter of 1861-1862. I didn’t want to think about the wounded men in that hospital of long ago, but I was glad to be able to see where Sarah, as Frank, once nursed them. 

Sarah’s is a thoroughly captivating story, and Carrie has made it accessible to older picture book readers with an easy, conversational style. The book begins with Sarah’s childhood in Canada, where she was already “pretending” to be a boy to please her father, and ends with Sarah as a female nurse. We see how Sarah was able to transform a troubled beginning into a life of courageous service using her cunning, resourcefulness and inner strength. The text also incorporates quotes from Sarah’s memoir and includes an Author’s Note and bibliography. Paired with Mark Oldroyd’s powerful and evocative acrylic paintings (stunning character portraits!), this book (which earned a PW *starred review*), will likely spark interest in espionage and girl heroes and perhaps spawn some new Civil War buffs. Just in time for the 150th Commemoration of the Civil War and a wonderful read for Women's History Month.

Thanks, Carrie, for writing this cool book and getting me to the church on time ☺. I love when history comes alive, don't you?

written by Carrie Jones
illustrated by Mark Oldroyd
published by Carolrhoda Books, April 2011
PB Biography for ages 7-11, 32 pp.
Cool themes: Civil War, spies and espionage, nursing, feminism, gender discrimination, courage.

♥ Carrie Jones
official website and blog.

♥ Learn more about Sarah Emma Edmonds
here. Scroll down to read her riveting first-hand account of the Battle at Bull Run.

♥ See also 
Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero
by Marissa Moss and John Hendrix (Abrams, 2011).

*Spread posted by permission, text copyright © 2011 Carrie Jones, illustrations © 2011 Mark Oldroyd, published by Carolrhoda Books. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Jun. 18th, 2011

birthday bear

birthday boy!

Jun. 17th, 2011

poetry friday

friday feast: like father, like son

James Paul McCartney and his father James "Jim" McCartney at age 64.

Tomorrow is Sir Paul's birthday and Sunday is Father's Day -- what better time to feature a song Paul wrote with his dad in mind?

"When I'm Sixty Four" has always been one of my favorites. Whenever I hear it, I feel a little 'goofy-happy,' probably because of its rooty-toot rhythm and slightly mocking tone. Ah, those bouncy clarinets! You may know that Jim McCartney had a big influence on Paul's musical upbringing. Self taught on the piano and trumpet, Jim played in ragtime and jazz bands in Liverpool during the twenties and thirties. He encouraged Paul to take music lessons and taught him to sing harmony.
Music was central in the McCartney household -- they listened to the radio and Jim's 78 rpm records, and of course, Jim played popular dance hall tunes on the upright piano (which Paul, reputedly, still owns). Paul's granddad Joe was also musical. An opera lover who was more of a traditionalist, he played the double bass and tuba.  

Paul wrote the melody for "When I'm Sixty Four" with Jim's encouragement when he was just 16. When the Beatles were still the Quarrymen, the song was a "stand-in number" when the amps weren't working or the electricity went off. It wasn't until Jim turned 64 in 1966 that Paul decided to revise and record what would become the first completed cut for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, widely regarded as one of the most important and influential rock albums in popular music. When Paul himself turned 64, his children sang the song to him as a birthday present.

When I first heard the song as a teenager, 64 seemed positively ancient. Now, not so much . . . ☺.

♥ Full lyrics here.

♥ Jone has the Roundup today at
Check it Out. Dance on over and enjoy all the cool poems being shared around the blogosphere this week. 


Happy 69th Birthday, Sir Paul, and Happy Father's Day weekend to all!

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Jun. 16th, 2011

tasty tidbit

carl sandburg's soup

#4 in an eclectic collection of notable noshes to whet your appetite and brighten your day.

ed ed/flickr

  Fave writer soups: Truman Capote (Gumbo), Willa Cather (Vegetable), Bob Dylan (Split Pea), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Vegetable), George Bernard Shaw (Vegetable), William Makepeace Thackery (Bouillabaisse). Source:

♥ More Tasty Tidbits here.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphbet soup. All rights reserved. 

Jun. 14th, 2011

d is for dog

illustrator chat: diane degroat on charlie the ranch dog

            Charlie, overwrought with excitement.

Well, flap my jowls and tickle my ears! 

Have you ever seen a more lovable dog? Yep, it's Charlie, easily the most famous basset hound in America. He lives with Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman herself, and his new picture book, Charlie the Ranch Dog (HarperCollins, 2011), has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for the past 6 weeks! Doggone awesome!

Is that bacon I smell on his breath?

Anyway, just in case you're not familiar with the book (where on the wide prairie have you been?), it chronicles a typical day on the cattle ranch from Charlie's point of view. Along with his best friend Suzie (a spunky Jack Russell terrier), he gets up too early every morning and works so hard (wink, wink) fixing fences, gardening, keeping cows and other critters in check, fishing, and rounding up cattle.

A dog this busy certainly deserves oodles of bacon a good meal and endless naps a little rest now and then just to keep his strength up. Why, if not for Charlie's steady vigilance, Daisy the cow could have destroyed the garden! Personally, I happen to admire those who've perfected the fine art of napping and bacon nipping, and I know exactly how Charlie feels: a dog's work is never done. ☺

Read more...Collapse )

Jun. 13th, 2011


just for fun: laughable liffs for lunch

#32 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.


Liff (lif) n. A common object or experience for which no word yet exists.

I'm guessing there are an infinite number of liffs floating free in the world, just hoping someone exceedingly clever will chance along and name them. Two clever someones, Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, compiled the first humorous dictionary of liffs back in 1983: The Meaning of Liff, followed by a revised and expanded edition, The Deeper Meaning of Liff (1990). Along with these "no name" objects, feelings and situations, Adams and Lloyd also noted "thousands of spare words which spend their time doing nothing but loafing about on signposts pointing at places."


Words like Dunfish, Jeffers, Knaptoft, Ranfurly. They were real places, but who ever heard of them? Better yet, who'd ever think of visiting them? Why not match these place names with a needy liff?

Our job, as we see it, is to get these words down off the signposts and into the mouths of babes and sucklings and so on, where they can start earning their keep in everyday conversation and make a more positive contribution to society.

Thought you might enjoy a Sampler Platter of Liff Lunchables, à la Adams and Lloyd. All but a couple are food related; I've added a few extras to compensate ☺. Nibble on them, maybe give them a good chew (you're bound to chuckle). There's plenty to go around!

One who washes up everything except the frying pan, the cheese grater and the saucepan which the chocolate sauce has been made in.

BECCLES (pl. n.)
The small bone buttons placed in bacon sandwiches by unemployed guerrilla dentists.

The brittle sludge which clings to the top of ketchup bottles and plastic tomatoes in nasty cafes.

DUDDO (n.)
The most deformed potato in any given collection of potatoes.

EPPING (participial vb.)
The futile movements of forefingers and eyebrows used when failing to attract the attention of waiters and barmen.

FINUGE (vb.)
In any division of foodstuffs equally between several people, to give yourself the extra slice left over.

Something left over from preparing or eating a meal, which you store in the fridge despite the fact that you know full well you will never ever use it.

The dried yellow substance found between the prongs of forks in restaurants.

Descriptive of the expression on the face of a dinner party guest which is meant to indicate huge enjoyment to the hosts and "time to go home, I think" to your partner.

JEFFERS (pl.n.)
Persons who honestly believe that a business lunch is going to achieve anything.

KIRBY (n.)
Small but repulsive piece of food prominently attached to a person's face or clothing. 

One who kindly attempts to wipe an apparent kirby (q.v.) off another's face with a napkin, and then discovers it to be a wart or other permanent fixture, is said to have committed a 'kirby misperton'.

The correct name for one of those little paper umbrellas which come in cocktails with too much pineapple in them.

The sap of a giant Nigerian tree from which all cafeteria jams are made.

NAPLES (pl.n.)
The tiny depressions in a piece of Ryvita.

One who can kiss and chew gum at the same time.

PAPPLE (vb.)
To do what babies do to soup with their spoons.

The fear of peeling too few potatoes.

QUABBS (pl.n.)
The substances which emerge when you squeeze a blackhead.

The single hemisphere of dried pea which is invariably found in an otherwise spotlessly clean saucepan.

A faint taste of dishwashing liquid in a cup of tea.

THROCKING (participial vb.)
The action of continually pushing down the lever on a pop-up toaster in the hope that you will thereby get it to understand that you want it to toast something. Also: a style of drum-playing favoured by Nigel Olsson of the Elton John Band, reminiscent of the sound of someone slapping a frankfurter against a bucket. An excellent example of this is to be heard on 'Someone Save My Life Tonight' from the album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.

That part of a kitchen cupboard which contains an unnecessarily large number of milk jugs.

One who, having been visited as a child by a mysterious gypsy lady, is gifted with the strange power of being able to operate the air-nozzles above aeroplane seats.

WOKING (participial vb.)
Standing in the kitchen wondering what you came in here for.

YATE (n.)
Dishearteningly white piece of bread which sits limply in a pop-up toaster during a protracted throcking (q.v.) session.

(Hungarian) A prince of the blood royal temporarily forced to seek employment as a waiter.

~ from The Deeper Meaning of Liff by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd (Three Rivers Press, 1990).

Lovisa Granath/flickr

*BONUS LIFFS (cause I just can't get enough of these suckers):

GLASGOW (n.) *for David and Tanita
The feeling of infinite sadness engendered when walking through a place filled with happy people fifteen years younger than yourself.

The ancient Eastern art of being able to fold road-maps properly. (Len is an expert.)

The light breeze which blows through your armpit hair when you are stretched out sunbathing. Aaaaaahhhhhhhh!

A quiet little unregarded man in glasses who is building a new kind of atomic bomb in his garden shed.

Hey! Wanna try one? What do you think "Smyrna" is?

My guess: Tiny smudge left on one's face after kissing an always-smiling, zealous jam eater. ☺

♥ If you're still hungry, even more liff.

♥ More alphabetica here.

Da da da duddo! (DrSlippers2007/flickr).

Back to Woking . . .

 Certified authentic alphabetica. Made by hand especially for you with love and adorable pappling.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Jun. 10th, 2011

poetry friday

friday feast: noshing with maya angelou

This week I've been dipping into Maya Angelou's latest cookbook,
Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart (Random House, 2010). 

Inspired by her recent weight loss (35 pounds), the book features her favorite time-tested recipes and personal anecdotes. Her guiding philosophy is to frequently eat small portions of really tasty, savory food throughout the day, rather than obsess over counting calories or seeking "diet recipes."


In the section entitled, "Cooking Vegetarian with Courage I," she includes a satirical poem she wrote back in 1983, a kind of "self defense" prompted by a visit to Ye Olde Health Food Diner in Los Angeles. Although basically carnivorous, one day she craved broccoli and steamed rice. After placing her order, she took out a pack of cigarettes and was surprised when the waitress immediately chastized her for being a smoker. 

She looked around at the pale, pitiful customers in the diner and asked the waitress whether they were newcomers, hoping to "get better." The waitress assured her they were vegetarians who had been eating there for years, to which Maya replied, "Don't ever tell anyone that these people have been coming here for years, and are still looking no better than they do now."

I love seaweed salad! (Sifu Renka/flickr)

by Maya Angelou

No sprouted wheat and soya shoots
And Brussels in a cake,
Carrot straw and spinach raw,
(Today, I need a steak).

Not thick brown rice and rice pilau
Or mushrooms creamed on toast,
Turnips mashed and parsnips hashed,
(I'm dreaming of a roast).

Health-food folks around the world
Are thinned by anxious zeal,
They look for help in seafood kelp
(I count on breaded veal).

No smoking signs, raw mustard greens,
Zucchini by the ton,
Uncooked kale and bodies frail
Are sure to make me run


Loins of pork and chicken thighs
And standing rib, so prime,
Pork chops brown and fresh ground round
(I crave them all the time).

Irish stews and boiled corned beef
and hot dogs by the scores,
or any place that saves a space
For smoking carnivores.

Copyright © Maya Angelou. All rights reserved.

Kale Salad by Salim Virji/flickr.

Maya's poem made me smile and remember a time when health-conscious eaters were called "nuts," vegetarianism was viewed as a hippie fad, and much of what you could find in a health food store was inedible. Happily, things have changed; Maya hasn't smoked in over 20 years and is "enchanted with vegetables." As am I. But I still crave a good burger or plate of ribs every now and then . . .

Here's Maya's recipe for cornbread, sure to please vegetarians as well as carnivores. She suggests cutting a piece in half horizontally, inserting a slice of Monterey Jack or Swiss cheese, then heating it in a toaster oven for breakfast. Nice change from cereal!

(makes 9 squares)

3 T butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1-1/2 cups white cornmeal
2 T sugar
1 tsp salt
1 T baking powder
1-1/2 cups plus 2 T milk
1 egg, well beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Melt the butter in an 8-inch square pan.

2. Sift together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl.

3. Stir in 1 cup plus 2 T of the milk and the egg, mixing only enough to dampen the cornmeal mixture.

4. Pour the batter into the pan. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup milk over the batter and stir.

5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.

*Adapted from Great Food All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart by Maya Angelou (Random House, 2010)

♥ Anastasia Suen is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Picture Book of the Day. Take her a piece of cornbread. Secret password: Seaweed.

P.S. Just in case Maya's poem stirred your meat cravings:

Pork Chop with Mustard Sauce by naotakem/flickr.

**Note: Food photos in this post are not from Maya's book.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

Jun. 9th, 2011

celebration soup

soup of the day: the absolute value of mike by kathryn erskine!

Hey, hey!

The clock on the wall says it's time to celebrate Kathy Erskine's brand new middle grade novel, The Absolute Value of Mike (Philomel, 2011)!

Before we proceed any further, please select your party shoes. You may choose between yellow sneakers,

or duck slippers (quacking optional).


Heck, let's go all the way. Put on this pink "Life is Good" cap while you're at it.


There now! Ready?

I was very excited to read Kathy's new book because I absolutely adored her National Book Award winner, Mockingbird (Philomel, 2010). Maybe you're thinking what I was thinking: How could she possibly top that? By showcasing her versatility and writing something completely different, of course! 

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