Tag: food

The Family That Inspired the Language of Food in Alyson Richman’s ‘The Secret of Clouds’

Alyson Richman’s latest novel, The Secret of Clouds, is, as she puts it, her ‘love letter to teachers.’ Exploring the transformative bond between an ill child, Yuri, and his tutor, Maggie, the novel was inspired by Richman’s extraordinary friend, the type of person you don’t come across every day. Christina is a third grade teacher, who, each year, has her class write a letter to their eighteen-year-old selves. Christina then keeps the letters and mails them to the children upon their graduation from high school. Richman was understandably intrigued by Christina’s commitment to creating such a moving time capsule for each of her students and has since revealed that Maggie, the passionate, dedicated teacher in The Secret of Clouds is directly inspired by Christina. But Christina’s dedication to her students is not the only thing about her that helped to shape the novel. 

 

Alyson Richman and The Secret of Clouds
Alyson Richman and The Secret of Clouds | Image Via An Unlikely Story

 

Christina comes from an Italian-American family for whom food is, she tells me, “a priority, the number one way to reinforce in family and friends that we care.” Family meals are made to bond over, and when Christina was growing up, they were an unmissable daily ritual. Shopping and cooking for events and holidays were family activities, as was the growing of organic herbs and vegetables, the creation of individual menus and place settings for each dinner guest. Christina’s mother, Josephine, was the most instrumental in cultivating the family’s love of food; to this day, she continues to experiment with new and exciting dishes to try out on friends, family, and anyone else who might pass through the house. If a teacher calls to see one of Christina’s children, they will inevitably leave with a tray of scones, the existence of which Christina will be unaware of until the teacher informs her of the kind gesture days later.

Upon getting to know them, Richman too became a beneficiary of the family’s love of food. “If I was down, lasagne would appear at my front door,” she recalls. “If I did some extra carpooling for Christina’s kids, Josephine would bake cookies.” Richman was inspired by the way in which she observed food operating as a language of love for Christina and her family. “One of the things I’m interested in,” she explains, “is trying to explore the different ways we communicate and the different forms of languages in life.” This curiosity abounds in her work; for example, her novel The Garden of Letters, which follows a cellist in World War II Italy and explores how people in the resistance used creative means to transmit essential information. In The Secret of Clouds, Richman wanted to show the ways in which we communicate when words escape us. When something happens in the story that leaves the characters at a loss for words, Maggie’s mother (in the tradition of Josephine) makes lasagne as a way of reaching out and showing care.

Over the years, Christina has found that Josephine’s philosophy of food as caregiving never fails. When a cousin of her mother’s had complained to Josephine about her children being too busy to make time to come and see her, Josephine advised, “cook for them, don’t complain if they have to leave early, and they will come.” And it worked. The cousin came back the next week, saying, “Josephine that was the best advice. I just said I”m making a pot of sauce and I’m making plenty of meatballs and before I knew it I had a full house! I think you’re right. I think I have to cook.”

“If you think about it,’ Christina continues, “in our busy lives, we all have to eat, you wind up having quality family time you might not have had anyway.”

The Secret of Clouds also uses food to bridge cultural divides. When Maggie first arrives in Yuri’s home, his father is making kasha, a fortifying meal from his native Ukraine; he invites her to try some. Later, Yuri explains that because his father is Jewish and his mother is Greek Orthodox, they have created their own Christmas tradition of cooking and eating pierogis. Richman says she wanted to “highlight what unites rather than divides… Food mirrors the sentiment that regardless of where you come from, or who you are, it’s something that we all connect with. Food is a universal language, easily understood through our own personal traditions.” 

 

Christina tells me that although her family is entirely Italian, part of the joy they take in cooking and eating is becoming acquainted with other cultures. “We have an ‘international cuisine’ flair in our family. We have such appreciation for food from everywhere. [My mother] even made corned beef and cabbage on St Patrick’s Day! She loves cooking and learning about the way other people cook. It’s the perfect hobby for her because it involves showing people she cares.” 

It was an honor to speak with the author and gain insight into the inspiration for this beautiful novel, to deeper understand the myriad ways in which human beings connect and take care of each other through the universal language of food. If you’d like to learn more about how Christina inspired The Secret of Clouds, check out our article ‘The Incredible Teacher Who Inspired Alyson Richman’s The Secret of Clouds here.

 

 

Grab your paperback copy of The Secret of Clouds, which includes Josephine’s lasagne recipe! Make it yourself at home or with your book club, and show those around you just how much you care. 

Photograph from a previous year's Eat Read Drink Festival

San Diego Chefs Whip Up Literary Inspired Dishes

Ever wanted to eat what your favorite characters are eating in the books? Well, San Diego chefs are making that a possibility with a Eat. Read. Drink. program. The program has been running for ten years now, and each year ticket sales support the San Diego Council on Literacy, which is a no-cost literacy program. This year’s even will be hosted on Thursday, April 25th, from 6 to 830 p.m. at the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

Each year chefs try to recreate meals and recipes from favorite books. In the past chefs have created dishes inspired by classics like The Adventures of PinocchioAlice’s Adventures in WonderlandCharlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.

 

 

Chef presenting his dishes at Eat. Read. Drink.

image via kpbs

This year, chefs are hailing from San Diego favorites like Waypoint Public and Galaxy Taco. The event, which is perfect for foodies and bookworms alike, will see each chef recreate a dish from their own favorite literary work, and guests will be tasked with the job of tasting each creation. Awards will be given out in categories like “Best Dessert” and “People’s Choice.” To pair with these decadent plates, there will be breweries and wine tastings available as well.

Let us know if you’ll be attending this event! Tickets are still available. We can’t wait to see what the chefs whip up.

featured image via san diego council on literacy
Legolas holding lembas bread

Top 5 Delicious Fictional Foods We WISH Existed

Food. We can’t live without it, and luckily, it is, in all its delicious forms, one of life’s greatest pleasures. This is well reflected in the media landscape, with numerous TV shows devoted to the art of fine cuisine (Man V Food, I’m looking at you). Books are no stranger to the glorification of food, and writers have conjured astonishingly meals that are guaranteed to make your mouth water.

 

Here are five of the best fictional foods we wish really existed; each one devoted to making your mouth water!

 

5. Lembas bread from The lord of the rings

 

A plate full of lembas bread, delicious bread from Lord of the Rings

Image Via Pininterest 

A special bread made by elves (also known as waybread in the Common Speech), lembas bread is very nutritious and stays fresh for months, aiding the Fellowship in their long journey across Middle-earth during the War for the Ring. Frodo and Sam in particular find it invaluable, subsiding on it during their walk to Mordor. Lembas is noted as tasting similar to honey-cakes, only being even better. Unfortunately, the recipe is a closely guarded secret but that doesn’t make the bread any less tasty.

 

4. Cauldron Cakes from Harry Potter

 

Two delicious cauldron cakes from Harry Potter

Image Via In Literature

Cauldron cakes are a popular wizarding treat eaten by Harry and the gang multiple times throughout the series. They can be bought from the trolley aboard the Hogwarts Express or Honeydukes Sweetshop in Hogsmeade. They play an important role at the dawn of Harry and Ron’s friendship, when Harry offers one to Ron, who doesn’t have enough money to buy his own. Cauldron cakes are probably a delicious sweet, always a fine snack when they appear.

 

3. klah from Dragonriders of Pern

 

A hot steaming coffee mug

Image Via Pininterest

A restorative drink in the world of Pern, klah functions as an analogue to coffee, as it is described as a mix between chocolate and cinnamon, always served hot. It is made from klah bark, ground up and brewed, although it can go bad if left on the fire for too long. It is drunk by multiple characters throughout the series and the official recipe is: two tablespoons sweet ground chocolate, 1/2 cup dark cocoa, 3/8 teaspoon cinnamon, one teaspoon dark instant coffee crystals, ground to powder and a small pinch of nutmeg. Brew it with boiling water then stir well. Enjoy!

 

2. The Great Hall Cake from Redwall

 

A delicious Great Hall Feast cake

Image Via Redwall Wiki

The Redwall series always has lavish descriptions of food served in the titular Redwall, often tremendous feasts for the abbey’s inhabitants. Uniquely, with the residents being vegetarian animals, the meals are entirely plant-based creations, with no meat at all, but they still managed to be utterly delicious in their presentation and descriptions. The Great Hall Cake is often the centerpiece of these feasts, a masterpiece of culinary artistry that never fails to make the mouth water. You know you want a bite…

 

1. Just all of A Song of Ice and FIre

 

A lavish feast including a pig, vegetables, bread, and potatoes

Image Via Game of Thrones wiki

Throughout A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R.R. Martin there’s too many lavish descriptions of excellent feasts to pick just one variety of food. Divided up by region, Martin puts as much thought and detail into the food as does into the rest of the world. From the delicious breakfasts at the North, which includes soft-boiled eggs, crispy bacon, berry seeds, and mint tea to lemon cakes to potted hare, there’s no shortage of food to drool over throughout the novels. A personal favorite is a traditional Dornish meal, which includes lamb, stuffed grape leaves, flatbread, wine, and white cheese. Other good foods include fried sardines with pepper in Braavos, elk meatballs with blue cheese in King’s Landing, and and pig stuffed with mushrooms in the South. Its all just so good!

What are some of your favorite fictional foods and meals? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

Featured Image Via Lord of the Rings Wiki

Royal Recipes for Your ‘Game of Thrones’ Premiere Party

Winter is (almost) here for Game of Thrones fans. While the show is about to have its final season premiere (I'm already crying), fans are gearing up their preparations for premiere parties and the inevitable stress eating that will ensue. So I have found and tested a lot of recipes that are perfect for any Thrones fan and will surely be a hit at any King's feast!

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Harry Potter

7 Easy-to-Make Harry Potter Sweets!

The wonderful world of Harry Potter will forever be untouchable. Whether you’re planning the perfect literary themed parties or even just doing some casual meal planning for the fall, these fan-adapted recipes for Harry Potter classics are your best bet at reliving the series! If you’re like me and you’re not ready to let the series go yet, these delectable sweets are perfect for die-hard fans like us.

 

 

butterbeer cupcakes

Image Via The Pastry Affair

 

1. These gorgeous Butterbeer Cupcakes seem like they would be a hit! The creator describes them as “essentially a brown sugar cupcake infused with cream soda and butter flavors”. What else could you want? 

 

 

butterbeet

Image Via Buzzfeed

 

2. Or, if you want the real thing, this butterbeer recipe from Buzzfeed is a more boozy-option for a fun night at The Three Broomsticks. 

 

 

chocolate frogs

Image Via Ezra Pound Cake

 

3. These chocolate frogs are the ideal bit of dessert you’ll need after this filling feast. They’re super life-like, but they won’t jump away after you make them!

 

 

Howlers

Image Via Food & Wine

 

4. You never, ever want to be on the receiving end of a howler, but when they’re this cute who can help from wanting to make them at home? These pumpkin howlers are filled with mascarpone and pumpkin filling and deep-fried into an ooey-gooey goodness.

 

 

Mandrake cakes

Image Via Teaspoon of Nose

 

5. These homemade Mandrake Cakes are so comical and creative! They even recommend purchasing little plastic babies to really get the full screaming baby effect when you pull them out of the soil. 

 

 

pumpkin pasties

Image Via Alex Pennegill Photography

 

6. These pumpkin pasties are perfect for the Harry Potter lover in all of us, but also for those of us who are obsessed with fall. The creator recommends that these ‘handheld pumpkin pies’ go great with whip cream and a butterbeer. 

 

 

polyjuice potion

Image Via This Grandma is Fun

 

7. This really simple recipe for polyjuice potion is a great companion for your next Harry Potter marathon, especially for the second movie! Join the golden trio with this easy to make polyjuice potion as they try to spy on Draco Malfoy. 

 

 

 

Featured Image Via Harry Potter Wiki