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Charlie Parker, Penguin and foodie, explores the notion of nostalgic dishes, "vintage food" and some rather lovely old cookbooks in the second of our Penguin Cooks series. Bon appétit.
There is something to be said about the nature of a recipe.
It can become a family heirloom - passed down from generation-to-generation. Sometimes it’s an object of pride – “no-one
can make it like my grandmother makes it”. Other times an object of awe – as in
the awe experienced when attempting to make one of Adriano Zumbo’s macaron
I recently stumbled upon my Great Nan’s recipe notebook –
dog-eared and stained. It contained cuttings of classic recipes such as 'Kidney and bacon bake' and 'Lamb's tongues in cider'. This particular
heirloom, along with my Nan’s vintage Raleigh, is something I will treasure forever.
My partner also has his mum’s recipe notebook from which we
get wonderful North American classics such as pancakes and Ukrainian classics
like beet borscht. These enter the canon of our weekly cooking, and get
their own place in our recipe books (with additions and tweaks that make them
All this nostalgia got me thinking about "vintage food”: the
garishly photographed recipe books of the 60s, tattered old preserves books, old
French cooking books. All relevant again and making their way onto foodie
bookshelves and blogs in their droves, Julia Childs and Elizabeth David household names once more. I remember when I was first introduced to Julia
Childs via YouTube – “the gateway to French
soufflés and cakes” indeed - what a revelation!
The Pauper's Cookbook by Jocasta Innes, c. 1970
Here are a few blog posts that have praised some vintage recipes, taken from Penguin cookbooks. Firstly, we dip into The Pauper's Cookbook by Jocasta Innes with posts from That Lefty Food Blog (dealing mainly with soups) and The Vintage Cookbook Trials (also, incidentally, soup lovers).
Preserves for all Occasions by Alice Crang
Preserves for All Occasions by Alice Crang is another vintage favourite. As shown here by Come Step Back In Time and in a cracking chutney recipe, revived here by London Gardening Under Difficulty.
Elizabeth David's French Country Cooking
Plats du Jour or Foreign Food: A Penguin Handbook by Patience Gray and Primrose Boyd, Illustrated by David Gentleman (1958)
Make, do and mend culture translates into food – people are
pickling, canning and jamming. It seems to be less about making food last
longer and go further than about learning a new skill, but then perhaps many of
those city-dwelling cooks are saving cash by stocking up their pickle cupboards
ready for the year to come.
It probably says something about “vintage food” culture that
Penguin published the Great Food Series in 2011 – and I have to say, along with
the second hand Elizabeth David books, this collection is sitting proudly on
the shelf at home.
My next vintage recipe to try? Well it’s a classic my Nan
used to make all the time: blancmange with floating orange segments.
Charlie is Digital Marketing Manager at Penguin - you can find her blogging about food over here and quite often tweeting about food and other things over here.
The first in a series of Penguin Cooks blogs, here one of our resident food experts, Pen Vogler, tells us a little about the food featured in some of Jane Austen's earliest works.
Next year, Jane Austen’s juvenilia will be published in Penguin
Classics for the first time. It may seem odd to be trumpeting this on a food
blog, but the young writer delighted in culinary obsessions. Foremost of foodies in the juvenilia is
Charlotte Luttrell of Lesley Castle
(written when Jane was 16) who, broiling, roasting and baking her sister’s
wedding feast, is appalled to hear of the groom’s life-threatening accident;
"Good God!" (said I) "you don't say so? Why what in the name of
Heaven will become of all the Victuals?” Her sister is too afflicted to even
eat a chicken wing.
The Georgian dinner table hosted some strange dishes and I
wonder if the vile-sounding “fried Cowheel & Onion” which comes in her
lampoon, The Visit, was a riposte to
some adult attempt to make her eat it. A more acceptable treat is joked about
by the twelve-year-old Jane whose TheBeautifull Cassandra, “proceeded to a
Pastry-cooks where she devoured six ices, refused to pay for them, knocked down
the Pastry cook and walked away.”
Even I baulk at fried cow’s heel, but I have had a lovely
time cooking my way through dishes that Jane mentions in her novels and letters. As a young woman, left in charge of the
housekeeping, she writes with relish about ordering braised ox-cheek and indeed
it is gorgeous; melty and tender and just the thing for a cold day.
Braised Ox-Cheek, updated from an original recipe by Mrs Rundell, A New System of Domestic Cookery, 1806
Brought up, as she was, on meat from her
father’s livestock, ‘haricot mutton’ is another Austen favourite that deserves
to be restored to the contemporary table.
And who wouldn’t agree with her that “Good apples pies are a
considerable part of our domestic happiness”.
A Buttered Apple Tart, updated from an original recipe by Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1747
Pen Vogler is the editor of Penguin's Great Food series. If you enjoyed the above, read more on her blog, Pen's Great Food Club, where she describes cooking with recipes from history. For more foodie updates, follow her on Twitter / @penfrompenguin
This will be the last of the cupcakes on this sweet-obssessed week, I promise. Well, for just a little while anyway ...
I've been working on cleaning up and digitally repainting the Quirky Cupcakes that I doodled at the beginning of the week, so I'll show you those first ... one with a blue boat balanced atop a sea of icing, another with quirky red hearts, one with a cheerful red cherry perched up high, and finally an pink and white iced cupcake with colourful round sprinkles.
Had enough of cupcakes yet? I hope not, as I have one more ... I used the Photo Inspiration: Pink Cupcake from earlier this week and digitally painted over it to produce the pink iced cupcake below:
It's a completely different look and style from the ones above it, that were doodled with marker pens and scanned in. I quite like both interpretations really.
I'm beginning to think that the Quirky Cupcakes might make for a cute pattern collection ... even on bedsheets and wallpaper, perhaps for a kids room? A cupcakes shower curtain? Well, I'm going to give that a go next week and will show you the results once that's done.
Which one of the above cupcakes would you eat first? Cheers.
We’re over the moon to have Gayle Brandeis visit TCBR. Gayle is a powerhouse mama, writer, activist, teacher, and all-around lovely person. We’re grateful to her for sharing her family’s favorite books with us.
In case you’re looking for some new books to spice up your “Books that Celebrate Hanukkah” collection, here are two titles that we think you’ll love reading (and cooking with) as you celebrate the Festival of Lights.
Chow your way through Chanukah with this kid-friendly cookbook that provides recipes for eight kinds of latkes (and much more), crafts and games for eight themed parties, and tidbits of factual information about the holiday itself. Illustrated dreidels highlight the degree of difficulty for each recipe: One dreidel means no cooking or baking is required. Two dreidels means the recipe may require chopping or slicing. Three dreidels means a hot stove is used to boil or fry. Safety tips are party etiquette are offered up, too. Here comes Chanukkah! Use this cookbook and you’ll have so much funukah! And … don’t forget your yamaka!
This bestselling writer and illustrator duo hit the spot (AGAIN!) with their zippy rhymes and entertaining illustrations. Gigantic dinosaurs with their juvenile and mischievous antics take the edge off any holiday tension and manage to encourage good behavior. A lesson in manners and a laugh, what more could you ask for? This book is a guaranteed must-read all eight nights of Chanukah.
Looking for more Hanukkah books? Try our lists from previous years:
We’re very pleased to share Caroline Grant’sFive Family Favorites with you. We’ve been reading her delightful food stories and recipes on her blog Learning to Eat for years. And we’re eagerly awaiting the forthcoming book based on it, The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family, and How We Learn to Eat. Caroline is editor-in- chief of Literary Mama, a fantastic magazine and resource for mothers to return to for inspiration. She’s also the editor of another fascinating anthology Mama, PhD. Thanks to Caroline and her family for sharing their favorite books with us. They have made us hungry for more!
In the Night Kitchen is the book my sons and I comforted ourselves with when we heard the sad news of Maurice Sendak’s death last month. This quirky story, frequently banned because Mickey slips out of his pajamas and frolics naked in his dreams, is a terrific fantasy of independence and cake baking. We love the bold illustrations and the comic book look of the book, the inventiveness of buildings topped with egg beaters and juicers, and the subway train that looks like a loaf of bread, but most of all, we love that Mickey can stretch bread dough into an airplane and fly wherever he wants until, having fetched the baker’s milk, he slides gently back home and safely into bed.
Everyone knows Eric Carle’s wonderful The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but our very favorite Eric Carle book is Pancakes, Pancakes!, in which a boy named Jack asks his mother for pancakes. “I am busy and you will have to help me,” his mother says, a line that sets Jack off on a gentle adventure. One by one, his mother names the ingredients needed and Jack gathers them: he cuts and threshes wheat; grinds the wheat into flour; milks the cow and churns the milk into butter; feeds the hen so she’ll lay an egg; cuts wood for the fire; and finally, steps down into their cool cellar for some jam. I love that Jack’s mother doesn’t drop everything to cook for h
A major new £7,500 annual short story competition has been launched by the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival in association with Oxford Gastronomica.
The Jeremy Mogford Prize for Food and Drink Writing 2013 will be awarded at next year’s festival to the best short story on the theme of food and drink.
Food and drink has to be at the heart of the tale. The story could, for instance, be fiction or fact about a chance meeting over a drink, a life-changing conversation over dinner, or a relationship explored through food or drink. It could be crime or intrigue; in fact, any subject you like as long as it involves food and/or drink in some way.
The panel of judges will include Jeremy Mogford, owner of Oxford’s Old Parsonage and Old Bank hotels and Gee’s restaurant, Donald Sloan, co-founder and chair of Oxford Gastronomica and head of the Oxford School of Hospitality Management at Oxford Brookes University, and Pru Leith, the celebrated food writer and novelist.
Applicants are invited from anywhere in the world and can be published or as yet unpublished. The story should be up to 2500 words and must be written in English.
How to Enter
Your short story should be up to 2500 words in total in English and have a food and drink theme at its heart. Entries should be submitted by email as a Word document to the email@example.com by October 1, 2012. The winning entry will be announced at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival in March 2013. The winner will receive £7500.
Entrants should also supply their home address, email and telephone number, their age and profession.
Chris Smith The Diabetic Chef® Autographing his first cookbook: Cooking with The Diabetic Chef® (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is a quick heads-up for whomever drops in today. I have a guest blog up this morning on Pat McDermott’s all things cooking website.
I disclose my experience with writing a cookbook for the first time. It hasn’t been the hardest project I’ve taken up, but it has been the tastiest. When you develop new recipes that hold restrictions like cakes with no sugar or low sodium meat entrees, cooking becomes a double challenge.
That’s what my cookbook partners and I are dealing with. At the end of the process, and before the last “T” is crossed or “I” dotted, we’re having a Taste-Testing party with our appetizers and desserts, invitation only. That’s a lot of work for senior women with a passion for food, but it’s work that satisfies in more than one way.
If you get the chance today, stop by Pat’s kitchen to see what’s cooking. If nothing else, you’ll find sumptuous recipes with full photos. Food lovers beware. You may be there a while once you walk in the door.
Introducing the Delicious Duo! The Mother-Daughter writing team behind the sweet new children’s book series, The Cupcake Club.
For years, Sheryl Berk has been a top ghostwriter/book collaborator in Hollywood. “I’ve worked with everyone from Britney Spears and Carmen Electra to Whitney Port and Tia Mowry,” she explains. She also co-authored the New York Times bestseller Soul Surfer with Bethanny Hamilton (also a hit movie). But even with all those A-listers, her 9 year old daughter Carrie remains her favorite writing partner. Here’s how the two cooked up the idea for The Cupcake Club book series:
Carrie: I was having a sleepover with my BFF Jaimie. We were bored so I took out some paper and started writing a story. It was about four girls who started their own cupcake club. I showed it to my mom.
Sheryl: She was learning about realistic fiction in Second Grade, and she was a huge fan of Judy Moody books. But she was always looking for a book series she could relate to more.
Carrie: I wanted to read about cupcakes!
Sheryl: So she wrote up a summary of her idea, and I sent it to my literary agent.
Carrie: We got a book deal really fast and I was excited. I was going to be an author.
Sheryl: It’s great to work with her on the series. She draws inspiration for the characters and their adventures from her school, her friends, her teachers. There’s a realness to The Cupcake Club, and that comes directly from the fact that it’s written by a kid. The book deals with issues that kids deal with, like bullying, crushes, friend drama.
Carrie: My mom and I talk about how the book will go: what the characters will do, what problems they’ll have, how they’ll solve them. Then she writes the first draft and I edit it.
Sheryl: Sometimes she can be a little tough! I get comments in the margins like, ‘A kid would never talk like that!’ or ‘Needs more explanation!’ She has some very strong opinions.
Carrie: I want it to sound like a kid said it. And I read a lot, so I know what’s a good book for my age.
Sheryl: And we also incorporate a lot of crazy cupcakes in the story. Stuff like a cannoli cream cupcake, a spaghetti and meatball cupcake, or maple red velvet.
Carrie: I watch Cupcake Wars and take notes. Then I give my mom some ingredient suggestions. I just saw a cupcake with pickles and peanut butter and I want to do something like it for Book 3!
Sheryl: We work closely with a recipe developer, Jessi Walter from Taste Buds. Carrie does a tasting and they talk over what cupcakes we want to create from each book.
Carrie: Like The Eco-licious Cupcake from Peace, Love and Cupcakes. I’m an EcoKid in my school, and I really wanted to give readers a recipe that was all organic and used recycled paper cupcake wrappers.
Sheryl: I’ve learned a lot about cupcakes from Carrie, and I think she’s learned a lot about the writing process and publishing business from me.
Carrie: I never knew how many times you have to revise a manuscript! My favorite part i
Video courtesy of CandlewickPress: “George is a dog with all the best intentions. And his owner, Harry, has all the best hopes that George will be a well-behaved dog when he leaves him alone for the day. But when George spies a delicious cake sitting on the kitchen table, his resolve starts to waver. You see, George loves cake. . . . Uh-oh. What to do now? It’s so hard to be a good dog when there are cats to chase and flowers to dig up! What ever will Harry say when he gets back? Chris Haughton’s fetchingly funny story and vibrant, retro illustrations are sure to lure dog lovers of all ages – and anyone who has ever met a temptation too good to resist.
Bold, hilarious artwork captures the innocent charm of affable George, a dog who is trying to be good – with disastrous results.”
A digital painting from a photograph by the friend who made the cupcake ... Thank You Michelle! It looked too delicious to resist, and as I couldn't pop one into my mouth as I wished, I drew it instead.
Felt like playing with Corel Painter 12, so I used the oil paint brush and picked the colours from the actual photograph to do this piece. I'm wondering though if perhaps the icing could with a bit of extra whitening, what do you think?
I love anything with sugar icing, doesn't it look just too delicious? I've been promised some cupcakes when she visits this summer and can't wait. Perhaps I'll do more cupcake drawings then, in a variety of mediums. From photographs. Once I've gobbled them down. Cheers!
Another food scene from Dragonwings by Laurence Yep (HarperTrophy, 1977):
At any rate, White Deer outdid himself that day. He made duck with the skin parted and crisped and the meat salty and rich and good. He had cooked squab in soy sauce so that the skin and meat were a deep, deep brown all the way to the bone. There was shark's-fin soup, tasting of the sea. There were huge prawns fried in a special batter that gave them an extra fluffy coat. And on and on. But we weren't allowed to touch any of the courses until we had the toasts.
BBC 2 has rediscovered Mrs Beeton, with Sophie Dahl tramping the streets of Cheapside and Epsom looking for the real woman behind Household Management. It is worth the shoe leather – Mrs Beeton’s is certainly a story well worth telling. The author of the most famous cook book ever published began work on it at the age of twenty-one and finished it at four years later. Her book was first published in volume form in 1861 and has never been out of print since. Isabella herself died seven years after its publication of puerperal fever, contracted during the birth of her fourth child. She was 28.
The crisp, authoritative tones of her book, along with its immense size and heft, and the range and assurance of its advice have all encouraged generations of readers to imagine Mrs Beeton as a stately matron, doling out the fruits of long years of domestic experience. It is a model of the author deliberately encouraged by Ward Lock, the book’s long-term publishers, who tacitly avoided all mention of the author’s untimely death. In fact the real Isabella Beeton was the polar opposite of what we would expect. She had spent much of her adolescence living with her siblings in the grandstand on Epsom race course, where her step-father was Clerk of the Course. They slept in the committee rooms and ran wild, while Isabella, the eldest, presided over the ramshackle domestic arrangements. She followed this highly unconventional upbringing by taking herself off to learn pastry-making in Germany – conduct, according to one of her sisters, that was considered ‘ultra-modern and not quite nice’. On her return she became engaged to a young entrepreneurial publisher, Sam Beeton. For the rest of their brief married life she was to work alongside him, contributing to his publications. She wrote columns on fashion and travelled to Paris with great enjoyment to report on the fashion shows, she translated French novels for serialisation, and wrote on food and household management for the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine. It was these that formed the basis of the book.
Mrs Beeton gets rediscovered every generation: there was a huge stir in the 1930s when her son, Sir Mayson Beeton, presented a picture of his mother to the National Portrait Gallery and people tried to reconcile the fashionable young girl of the picture with the mature woman of their imaginings. In the 1970s, when traditional English food enjoyed a renaissance, there was again a new surge of interest in Beeton and her book. And in the last decade there have been flurries of media enthusiasm in reponse to Kathryn Hughes’s 2005 biography (The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton) and to my own edition of her work for Oxford World’s Classics. When the latter appeared in 2000 I was astonished by the degree of interest the book received on national and local radio, in broadsheets and tabloids alike. It was even the subject of a Mark Rowson cartoon in The Independent. The curiosity was two-fold: it was news-worthy because a highly respected literary series was allowing a cook book to join the hallowed ranks of serious literature, but there was also a lot of interest in the book and its author: in the oddities of Isabella’s story and in the anomolous cultural status the book possesses, as something both immensely famous and largely unread.
So why is it worth us reading Beeton’s book today? For one thing, it is a record of a society caught at a crucial moment of transi
English lacks a convenient word for “ancestors of Germanic speaking people.” Teutons, an obsolete English gloss for German Germanen, is hardly ever used today. The adjective Germanic has wide currency, and, when pressed for the noun, some people translate Germanen as “Germans” (not a good solution). I needed this introduction as an apology for asking the question: “What did the ancient Teutons drink?” The “wine card” contained many items, for, as usual, not everybody drank the same, and different occasions called for different beverages and required different states of intoxication, or rather inebriation, for being drunk did not stigmatize the drinker. On the contrary, it allowed him (nothing is known about her in such circumstances) to reach the state of ecstasy. Oaths sworn “under the influence” were not only honored: if anything, they carried more weight than those sworn by calculating, sober people. Many shrewd rulers used this situation to their advantage, filled guests with especially strong homebrew, and offered toasts that could not be refused.
In the mythology of the Indo-European peoples a distinction was made between the language of the mortals and the language of the gods, a synonym game, to be sure, but a game fraught with deep religious significance. The myths of the Anglo-Saxons and Germans have not come down to us, but the myths of the Scandinavians have, and in one of the songs of the Poetic Edda (a collection of mythological and heroic tales) we read that the humans call a certain drink öl, while the Vanir call it veig (the Vanir were one of the two clans of the Scandinavian gods). Öl is, of course, ale, but veig is a mystery. No secure cognates of this word have been attested, and the choice among its homonyms (“strength,” “lady,” and “gold”) leaves us with several possibilities. Identifying “strong drink” with “strength” sounds inviting, but who has heard of an old alcoholic beverage simply called “strength”? Veig- is a common second element in women’s names, of which the English speaking world has retained the memory of at least one, Solveig, either Per Gynt’s true love in Ibsen and Grieg or somebody’s next door neighbor (I live in a state settled by German and Scandinavian immigrants, so to me Solveig is a household word, quite independent of Norwegian literature and music). It is hard to decide which -veig entered into those names. “Gold” cannot be ruled out. On the other hand, it was a woman’s duty to pour wine at feasts, so that -veig “drink” would also make sense. In any case, veig remains the name of a divine drink of the medieval Scandinavians. It stands at the bottom of our card.
From books in the Old Germanic languages we know about the Teutons’ wine, mead, beer, ale, and lith ~ lid, the latter with the vowel of Modern Engl. ee. Lith must have corresponded to cider (cider is an alteration of ecclesiastical Greek ~ Medieval Latin sicera ~ cicera, a word taken over from Hebrew). It was undoubtedly a strong drink, inasmuch as, according to the prophesy in the oldest versions of the Germanic Bible, John the Baptist was not to taste either wine or lith. The word is now lost, and so are its origins. Mead is still a familiar poeticism, while the other three have survived, though, as we will see, beer does not refer to the same product as it did in the days of the Anglo-Saxons—an important consideration, because the taste of a beve
All week, Beliebers have raged on about Arcade Fire, a band they’ve apparently never heard of. I’d like to introduce them to you. If you don’t have time to take a listen now, don’t worry, they’re going to make a record in the month of May. (That’s a little joke.) [Myspace]
And speaking of Justin Bieber, the young pop star’s remarks in an interview are the subject of widespread anger and controversy. [Rolling Stone]
Mr. Graham discovers the extreme fear of conducting a professional orchestra. [Morning News]
Looking for a totally normal cabinet? Then look elsewhere. [Like Cool]
The surprising thing about the runic alu (on which see the last January post), the probable etymon of ale, is its shortness. The protoform was a bit longer and had t after u, but the missing part contributed nothing to the word’s meaning. To show how unpredictable the name of a drink may be (before we get back to ale), I’ll quote a passage from Ralph Thomas’s letter to Notes and Queries for 1897 (Series 8, volume XII, p. 506). It is about the word fives, as in a pint of fives, which means “…‘four ale’ and ‘six ale’ mixed, that is, ale at fourpence a quart and sixpence a quart. Here is another: ‘Black and tan.’ This is stout and mild mixed. Again, ‘A glass of mother-in-law’ is old ale and bitter mixed.” Think of an etymologist who will try to decipher this gibberish in two thousand years! We are puzzled even a hundred years later.
Prior to becoming a drink endowed with religious significance, ale was presumably just a beverage, and its name must have been transparent to those who called it alu,but we observe it in wonder. On the other hand, some seemingly clear names of alcoholic drinks may also pose problems. Thus, Russian vodka, which originally designated a medicinal concoction of several herbs, consists of vod-, the diminutive suffix k, and the feminine ending a. Vod- means “water,” but vodka cannot be understood as “little water”! The ingenious conjectures on the development of this word, including an attempt to dissociate vodka from voda “water,” will not delay us here. The example only shows that some of the more obvious words belonging to the semantic sphere of ale may at times turn into stumbling blocks. More about the same subject next week.
Hypotheses on the etymology of ale go in several directions. According to one, ale is related to Greek aluein “to wander, to be distraught.” The Greek root alu- can be seen in hallucination, which came to English from Latin. The suggested connection looks tenuous, and one expects a Germanic cognate of such a widespread Germanic word. Also, it does not seem that intoxicating beverages are ever named for the deleterious effect they make. A similar etymology refers ale to a Hittite noun alwanzatar “witchcraft, magic, spell,” which in turn can be akin to Greek aluein. More likely, however, ale did not get its name in a religious context, and I would like to refer to the law I have formulated for myself: a word of obscure etymology should never be used to elucidate another obscure word. Hittite is an ancient Indo-European language once spoken in Asia Minor. It has been dead for millennia. Some Hittite and Germanic words are related, but alwanzatar is a technical term of unknown origin and thus should be left out of consideration in the present context. The most often cited etymology (it can be found in many dictionaries) ties ale to Latin alumen “alum,” with the root of both being allegedly alu- “bitter.” Apart from some serious phonetic difficulties this reconstruction entails, here too we would prefer to find related forms closer to home (though Latin-Germanic correspondences are much more numerous than those between Germanic and Hittite), and once again we face an opaque technical term, this time in Latin.
Equally far-fetched are the attempts to connect ale with Greek alke “defence” and Old Germanic alhs “temple.” The first connection might work if alke were not Greek. I am sorry
A quick doodle, drawn in marker pens in my large Moleskine and then painted in Corel Painter 11. Catching up on tons of work so it's doodles for a while before I can get back to a more-time-consuming coloured pencil drawing. Cheers.
These little digital doodles of mine are nothing particulary special as far as Art (with a capital A) is concerned, I know. They aren't meant to be. They are bits of colourful fun that pop into my mind throughout the day, are quickly sketched down into my book with marker pens, scanned in, and then digitally painted over whenever I have the time to do so.
I like them. They're cheerful and bright ... and perhaps they're trying to tell me that somewhere deep within this rather cynical husk there's still, rather well-hidden perhaps, a sense of uncomplicated joy left.
A peasant’s utopia, as imagined in Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, includes a mountain of grated Parmesan cheese. Peasants do nothing else except make macaroni and ravioli all day long in the imagined fairyland. In the book of Exodus, the Promised Land is one of “milk and honey.” And according to Hinduism, during the creation of the world, the Cow of Plenty emerged during the Churning of the Ocean – literally the changing of the white ocean into butter. Deborah Valenze explains in Milk: A Local and Global History, how the “elixir of immortality” changed from a staple of the gods to a staple of nutrition textbooks.
The Cow of Plenty is one of many sacred females associated with the “virtuous white liquor’s” powers. Valenze shows us various forms of ancient heavens and their inhabitants’ fascinating relationships with a Great Mother, or a “benevolent cow,” or a milk goddess. Isis, most famously a goddess of ancient Egypt, was “the source of the milk of life,” and the Virgin Mary modeled fecundity and piety for medieval women. Juno, the Roman queen of the gods, created the Milky Way when her breast milk was scattered accidentally when she woke up to a rather awkward situation: her husband, Jupiter, had attempted to feed his illegitimate son, Hercules, at her breast while she slept. Interestingly, Jupiter’s Greek counterpart, Zeus, nursed from the goat Althea as a baby.
Although “the culture of milk” lost some of its mystical qualities through history, in its secular role it was (and is) no less “magical.” Doctors admired it through the centuries, from George Cheyne’s milk diet (at one point the physician and writer weighed 448 pounds) in the early eighteenth century to the Victorians’ prescriptions of milk-soaked biscuits for their patients. The Dutch came the closest to actually reproducing Dairy-land here on earth during, appropriately enough, their Golden Age. With Cheesetopia finally realized, Dutch painting actually depicted the “mountains of food” – which included if not Parmesan at least other forms – that “stood as bountiful evidence of God’s providence.”
Even today, Valenze points out, milk still satisfies “[t]he wish for a miracle food” by some foodie camps. Its constant presence in our “dairy-rich Western countries,” she notes, is just as extraordinary as the food itself. We may not be able to produce endless quantities of butter, which was Saint Brigid’s first recorded miracle, but perhaps that’s just because mass-production has already beat us to the magic.
What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below.
Before you rip into today’s submission, consider this list of 6 vital storytelling ingredients from my book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.
Evaluate the submission—and your own first page—in terms of whether or not it includes each of these ingredients, and how well it executes them. The one vital ingredient not listed is professional-caliber writing because that is a must for every page, a given.
Suzanne has sent the first chapter of The Race .
Cash thought no one was looking. It was early- 5:14 am- two hours before sunrise. He strolled down the empty street, sipping the decaf he had just bought at the KwikMart. Stopping at the convenience store had been a risk, but only a small one. When chaos broke loose that afternoon, the chances were slim that the sleepy kid behind the counter would remember a random guy who filled up his tank and bought a coffee that morning. Just passing through, thought Cash.
The instructions he received over the telephone on Monday morning had been precise. In Tuesday's mail he would receive an envelope containing a fake Illinois driver license with the name John Bhaer, three credit cards and an AARP card issued to the same name, and a modest amount of cash, along with a plane ticket from Atlanta to Panama City, Florida. A reservation had been made for Mr. Bhaer at a motel near the airport. A mid-size sedan would be waiting for pickup when he landed. At 7:30 pm, Mr. Bhaer was to have supper at a certain restaurant on Front Beach Road. At 8:20, a blond woman in her mid-thirties would join him. After a drink and some small talk, she would go to the restroom, leaving her backpack at the table. Mr. Bhaer would then return to his room for the night, taking the backpack with him. On Saturday morning, he would drive to Apalachicola, Florida, arriving no later than 5:00 am. He knew what to do when he arrived.
I’ll admit to a certain amount of intrigue in this litany of careful preparations for something, and it certainly insinuates something nasty about to happen. But I bogged down about halfway through the litany.
I would look for a way to trim all this so the following intriguing paragraph from page 2 could be on the first page:
Cash had been warned that the town would be full of people; innocent lives would be lost. But that was no concern of his. His employer was good at dealing with the fallout that follows a crisis- that's how he got elected.
Still not quite finished, due to lack of time. Had some wonderful visitors over the week and between that and work deadlines, have managed to progress at the speed of a snail. Should have it done by next week, fingers crossed.
The one on the left is almost all coloured in, and as I'm planning to keep the one on the right somewhat lighter, it shouldn't take too much longer before I can post the final drawing. Am only glad that the real artichokes who modeled for me were eaten with much enjoyment long before this. Cheers.
One of my many favorite food scenes in Dumpling Days by Grace Lin (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012):
"Careful when you eat these," Auntie Jin said. "They're special."
I'd had dumplings lots of times. How special could these be? But as I took a bite, I almost stopped in amazement.
"There's soup in these dumplings!" I said.
All the adults at the table laughed.
"I told you they were special!" Auntie Jin said. "They are called xiaolongbao. They have soup inside of them. They're good, aren't they?"
I took another bite. The hot soup filled my mouth, and the mixture of soup and meat and dumpling skin seemed to melt into a warm, rich flavor. They were good. Very, very good. I began to realize why Uncle Flower said Taiwan had the best dumplings in the world.
They were so good that I didn't even notice that I had soup dribbling down my chin. I quickly wiped it away.
"They say if you can eat these dumplings without making a mess, you are a 'real Chinese' person," Uncle Flower said.
A Delicious Way to Bring your Favorite Stories to Life
When I was a child, I fell in love with a cookbook called Wild Foods. Just the idea of foraging the woods for berries and creating a delicious soup filled me with wonder. Years later, when my daughter was small, we discovered a lovely cookbook for dolls called Mudpies and Other Recipes. We lovingly prepared Wood Chip Dip, Dandelion Soufflé, and Rainspout Tea for her dolls. Cooking with children is such a wonderful way to spend time together. Within these superb cookbooks, you’ll recall your favorite stories and feast on mouth-watering dishes.
Your children will scream with delight when they read and recognize the many treats from Roald Dahl’s memorable books. Bunce’s Doughnuts! Bruce Bogtrotter’s Cake! Frobscottle! Both of these cookbooks are a great tribute to his nutty genius and were largely compiled by his widow Felicity after Dahl’s death. For adults, I recommend Memories with Food at Gipsy House and also Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights by Roald’s granddaughter Sophie. She has a new cookbook Very Fond of Food available from Random House in April. (Ages 8-11. Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) and Puffin)
This exquisite cookbook reminds us of the beauty of Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden and the magic of making things come to life. Mary’s rambling walks along the moors in the countryside with Dickon and their hard work in the garden stirs a great appetite for porridge, little sausage cakes, and jam roly
This "short film on poverty, dignity, and the unconquerable nature of the human soul" by 18-year-old Filipino Lance Katigbak won the People's Choice Award at this year's Manhattan International Film Festival. :o)