Poetry Friday: Dad's Cooking!

John Ciardi's poem "Mummy Slept Late and Daddy Fixed Breakfast" begins, "Daddy fixed the breakfast./He made us each a waffle./It looked like gravel pudding./It tasted something awful[,]" and goes on to describe an utter fiasco. The poem is one of many included in the "I'm Hungry!" section of The Random House Book of Poetry for Children, an anthology that I highly recommend, especially for parents to share with kids nine or so and younger.

Quite the contrast to the scene Ciardi depicts is Stay at Stove Dad, the blog of my friend and former colleague John Donohue. Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP newsletter recently said, "[John's] recipes are great for parents who, like him, are thrifty shoppers and like for their families to try lots of different kinds of food without getting too complicated." His recipe for pancakes with fruit sounds delicious—and as unlike gravel pudding as you can get.

Next May will bring Man With a Pan: The Culinary Adventures and Misadventures of Fathers Who Cook for Their Families (Algonquin Books), which John edited. He told me that it's a recipe and essay collection featuring works by the likes of Mario Batali, Mark Bittman, Mark Kurlansky, Jim Harrison, and Stephen King. Nice!

Finally, among the many "best of 2010" lists popping up is Smithsonian Magazine's guide to new children's books about food. The Food & Think blog sets out an enticing array of picture books, chapter books, and cookbooks.

For more poetry talk, see the Poetry Friday roundup at the always lovely blog The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Kids' book mentioned above

The Random House Book of Poetry for Children:
A Treasury of 572 Poems for Today's Child
Selected by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Arnold Lobel
Random House, 1983

This book is still on the shelves at bookstores and in libraries, of course.

Maple Syrup Season, One More Time

 It's maple syrup season, so I am re-running a post from last year. Hie thee to a sugar shack. Then make some pancakes, and enjoy.


Here in southern New England, we will not see maple-sugaring season until the end of the winter, but Junior and I always look forward to it. We've latched onto the tradition as if we were members of the Ingalls family, always showing up for the sugaring demonstration at the nature center and discussing the logistics of one day tapping the (very skinny) maple trees in our yard.

I've also read aloud many books on the subject, and a cheerful new picture book makes a sweet addition to the list. Maple Syrup Season, written by Ann Purmell and illustrated by Jill Weber, takes young readers through the whole process. Using sugaring terms (and a glossary), the factual book depicts an extended (fictional) family's experiences:

Dad helps the uncles pour sap from the tree buckets into gathering buckets and then into a giant barrel on the sled.

Weber renders the winter scenes with whimsical, folk-art style illustrations, and in her pictures, even the family pets and animals in the woods get in on the action. Weber and Purmell also teamed up for 2006's Christmas Tree Farm.

For more recommendations, see also

"Maple Sugar Season," Chicken Spaghetti, 3/15/07

"Laura Ingalls Wilder Inspires Kitchen Mess," Chicken Spaghetti, 3/16/07

Eating Books

The only vegetables Junior likes are potatoes, strawberries, and watermelon. Oh, and frozen blueberries.

Right. I know. Those last three. Are not.

You see the problem.

I'm always of the opinion that a good book can solve any dilemma. You'd think I'd be disabused of the notion by now. Please. No. I Believe in Books.

So, it is with happiness that I discover in the morning's New York Times an article about children's nutrition over the summer. (Not that the school diet of hot dogs, hamburgers, and bagels with cream cheese will be hard to replicate, mind you.) In her "Personal Health" column, Jane Brody writes,

A simple and beautifully illustrated new book by Steve Charney and David Goldbeck, The ABCs of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond, is one good way to interest youngsters in these most nutritious foods, which are readily available, and tastier, in the summer. Part 1 is a series of easy-reader alphabet poems about common and uncommon produce, from apples to zucchini and including (wild) xemenia for the “X” page. [I added the Powell's link because I like to see the books.]

Well, all right. There is hope.  If  Junior reads the right book, he will make healthier choices.

There is no hint of doubt in my voice. Please.

I suppose if by slim chance that remedy does not pan out, I can throw another book at him, or rather at myself. Brody also mentions this one:

The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals by Missy Chase Lapine. The book includes simple make-ahead purées or clever replacements that can greatly improve the way children eat — not to mention the rest of the family. [Powell's link added by me]

I've not read The Sneaky Chef, but I'm thinking the "make-ahead" is key. It could even be "make- ahead-and-hide-in-refrigerator-so-child-does-not-see," but I could be wrong. I bet one recipe involves kale. Just a thought.

But, as I said, I am hopeful. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Tuesday Coffee Talk, May 29th

1. Miss Fuse has news: A Fuse #8 Production is moving to School Library Journal for a paid blogging gig. Congratulations to Betsy Bird, the voice behind the curtain at Fuse 8.

2. Confessions of a Pioneer Woman posted the most complete recipe for chicken spaghetti casserole I've ever seen. With photos. Awesome.

3. After last week's Carnival of Children's Literature, here's some more on multicultural lit. Saturday's piece at La Bloga was an interview with Theresa Howell, a children's book editor, about authenticity. René Colato Laínez asks Howell, "What does a manuscript need to have in order to be multicultural?" Howell answers,

Too many stories for children depict characters from the dominant culture. A multicultural manuscript tells the stories of characters outside of the mainstream. These manuscripts tell stories of people from wonderfully diverse cultures. They help readers look at the world from different perspectives.

4. See also "Questioning Cultural Stereotypes," an essay by Radhika Menon, the managing editor of a small publishing house in India. Menon writes,

The reality, then, is that the focus on multicultural publishing has not translated into authentic and inclusive literature from all cultures. The reality is also that the parameters of what is acceptable in multicultural publishing are set by big, successful, western publishing houses – the rest of the world must follow unquestioningly.

Link via Educating Alice and Writing With a Broken Tusk.

5. First it was a best-selling series of children's books. Now it's a singing and dancing extravaganza? "Magic Tree House: The Musical" premieres at the Warner Theatre, in Torrington, Connecticut, in September.

Recipe for Chicken Spaghetti

Yesterday I promised my favorite recipe for chicken spaghetti (the casserole kind, not the blog kind), but I have to talk a little books first. 

I think Linda Sue Park's picture book Bee-bim Bop (reviewed here) would be a wonderful read-aloud for a group. Have any of you librarians or teachers tried it? The kids would love chiming in on the "bee-bim bop!" refrain. The book contains a recipe for the popular Korean rice-and-vegetable dish of the title, so someday I will have to figure out how to work a chicken spaghetti recipe into a children's book of my own. I'll keep you posted. Children (except mine) love chicken spaghetti, and adults tend to eat three helpings.

This is Mrs. Seymour (Puddin') Birdsong's recipe from a Southern City Symphony League cookbook, but that Southern City Symphony refuses to return my calls and requests to reprint the recipe, so I have paraphrased and, yes, made up Mrs. Birdsong's name, above.

Chicken Spaghetti
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1 chicken, cooked, deboned, and diced (grocery store deli chickens work great)
1 can (10 3/4-oz.) cream of mushroom soup
1 can (10 3/4-oz.) cream of celery soup
1 jar (2 oz.) pimiento, drained
1 jar (2 1/2-oz.) sliced mushrooms, drained (I saute fresh ones)
1/2 can (6 oz.) black pitted olives, drained and chopped
1 package (16 oz.) long spaghetti, cooked
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375. Saute onion and bell pepper in butter. Then pour in the  soups, pimientos, mushrooms, chicken, olives, and spaghetti. Season with the seasonings. Put the whole gloppy thing  melange into a large casserole dish. Top with cheddar cheese. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, or until cheese is nice and melted.

Book people, thank you for your indulgence. For some time, I have needed to make amends with the Googlers and Yahooers who come here for dinner ideas and leave crying because a blog with a casserole name had no recipes.

Welcome, and a Food Site Recommendation

Greetings, new readers. Welcome to Chicken Spaghetti, a blog about children's books. I hope you will stay awhile and look around. You'll find news, reviews, links, chit-chat, and so on—all mostly about books for kids.

Basically, this is a one-woman show:  I'm a mom with a blog. I was once employed by magazines: first Vogue, then The New Yorker, and later wrote theater reviews for New York Sidewalk, Microsoft's now-defunct online guide. I also co-edited an issue of Global City, which, by the way, plans to re-issue a 1997 anthology called Girls. A short story of mine  appears in there.

From my blog's referrer statistics, I can see that some of you come seeking a recipe for a delicious chicken spaghetti casserole. I can relate; I am always on the lookout for the same thing. But, for now, you won't find it here; I haven't yet had time to post my favorite because I've been talking so much about books. Here is an idea for you. The web site and bulletin board Chowhound is an amazing place; although its focus is on restaurants, the site does have a cooking-at-home section.

Wherever you find your Chicken Spaghetti, whether it's here or elsewhere, enjoy! Come back for seconds, too.

Yahoo "Chicken Spaghetti" Recipe Seekers

Greetings, cooks! This post is not at all about books, my usual subject. I want to say "Welcome" to those folks who are looking for chicken spaghetti recipes. I don't have any.  I want to post one, but my source is "travelling" or "has no comment" or something equally evasive.

My blog covers books for children, and I use the kid-friendly name Chicken Spaghetti. But it  isn't about food, although I love chicken spaghetti casserole.  I know that Yahoo turns up this site when you do a search, so I'm posting a link to RecipeSource, a vast and fabulous online collection. Please click here. And do stay and read awhile, too; I'm happy that you stopped by.