I’m so happy to tell everyone reading Books Around the Table today that my latest picture book collaboration with illustrator Julie Paschkis is now officially out in the world – Delicious: Poems Celebrating Street Food Around the World has been published by Beach Lane Books! Big shout hurrah, huzza, yippee and yay!! And a big thanks to editor Allyn Johnston for the fine work her team did in making this a real, hold-in-your-hands book.
“Out in the world” is exactly where this book lives – New York City, Oaxaca, Jaffa, Marrakech, Launceton, St. Petersburg, Lima, Mumbai, Surabaya, Seoul, Athens, Dakar, Beijing, and Boston, to be exact. And there could have been so many more cities, each one with its own rich stories about traditional street food. Choosing just fourteen poems to fit the picture book format was hard! So many beautiful cities, so much delicious food. I wrote one of the poems to honor many of the foods at once.
“Syrian shawarma wrapped in a pita? / Biryani? Pork carnitas? / Maybe I’ll get a hot falafel? / Schnitzel? Pretzel? Sesame noodles? / Cajun? Lebanese? Cuban? Thai? / So many choices! What should I try?”
I set “Carts in the Park” in New York City, where doors open wide to many immigrants and many kinds of street food (thinking of hot pretzels covered with mustard, a hot dog in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and divine biryani one night after a show in the Theater District.) But my own personal experience with this kind of gathering of food carts is Portland, Oregon, a city that in the past has supported a whole city block of food carts downtown, as well as mini-parks full of carts in other neighborhoods. I hear a big apartment building might be built on the food cart block – say it ain’t so, Portland! We need some food cart advocates. Maybe this book and others like it will help ensure another generation of food cart lovers?
When you travel, do you come home with memories of unexpected moments with a local food seller? A small conversation, a delicious bite of traditional street food? I suspect you do, I hope you do, because those memories stay with you and become part of your family lore, don’t they? My best memories of Mexico, aside from visiting my husband’s family, are from the lively markets and the street carts – hot corn on the cob covered in chile sauce, all-you-can-drink orange juice, sweet peanut brittle, morning tamales, fruit juice popsicles, churros, cocoa, and – yes – deep fried grasshoppers. The poem I wrote for Oaxaca comes straight up from my love of the kind and hard-working Mexican street vendors I’ve met.
“Steaming cup of champurrado / panecitos, cinnamon churros — / mmm, mmm! Delicioso! / Lovebirds chirp: Pio! Pio!”
This is my fourth book with Julie Paschkis, and when the box of author copies arrived at my door, I said my usual hallelujah for Julie’s energy and vision, her talent, and – most important – her friendship. With this book in particular, I thank her and my other Books Around the Table friends for their patience and support – this book was a long time coming! Many first versions of the poems were just too long for a picture book collection (one stand-alone poem about Mexican markets was highlighted in 2010 in a blog post by Jama Kim Rattigan – eleven years ago this month!) so the project came to a standstill. I even put the manuscript away for a number of years, busy with my teaching at Vermont College of Fine Arts. But it kept sneaking out of that drawer in my desk, and it really does help to have an encouraging and supportive writers group to keep your spirits up. Thank you, Laura, Julie P., Margaret and Bonny.
I’m hoping someday I’ll get to St. Petersburg….“Four pelmeni / three piroshki / two sweet blini — / one big belly.”
And hoping I’ll get to Lima …. “From a tin tray / on parade day / to celebrate the Lord of Miracles — / star cookies, pink sprinkles!”
And to Marrakech. And to Athens. And…and…and….
Can you tell I’m aching to travel again? Fingers crossed. Vaccinated, wearing my mask, dreaming of Oaxaca.
Congratulations to both of you!! Love this book (just finished writing my review yesterday). I remember your Poetry Potluck post from 2010 and am so glad you stuck with this project. Two of my great-nephews just started their own food cart business in Portland called Planted PDX: https://www.facebook.com/planted.pdx. Hope you can check them out sometime! 🙂
Thanks, Jama – Next time I’m in Portland, I’ll eat at Planted PDX!
So happy and excited for you about this book! It looks just wonderful, Julie & Julie.
Pio! Pio! such a wonderful book you two have cooked up! I love how it pulls us back out into the world.
Thanks, Laura! Pio pio back at you ❤️
Congratulations! Avery happy book birthday to you both!
Thanks, Julie (from Julie &Julie 😊)
Congrats! This book looks delicious!
Thanks, Jilanne! Deb Nance over at Readerbuzz linked to recipes for the food mentioned in my Oaxaca poem – you can read her post here: https://readerbuzz.blogspot.com/2021/04/wondrous-words-delicious-poems.html
Thanks for the link! I just took a look! Yum!
Love this yummy book in all its gorgeous, mouthwatering glory!
Thanks, Margaret! Next time we all get together, how about a cup of champurrado? 😊
Hi Julie, I don’t know if you’ll remember me. We met a number of years ago at VCFA. I’m Tim Wynne-Jones’ wife and a big fan of yours. I’ve been really enjoying your blog over the last years — I appreciate how it blends personal and professional. In this hard year, especially, it makes me feel as though you are reaching across the separation and making an honest connection. Anyway, I just wanted to say how delicious this new book looks! I also couldn’t help but notice that you are a Oaxaca fan, which has got to be one of the best food cities on the planet! My mother has been spending the winter there for over 20 years, and Tim and I have, up until this year, been happily joining her for some part of the time. When such things are possible, I perhaps we’ll see you there and share some churros or squash blossom quesadillas!
Amanda, of course I remember you & the lovely meal we all had together. The whole concept of “sobremesa” (lingering around the table after a meal, talking into the wee hours) is another one of those Mexican traditions I wish we could experience more often. Please give Tim a big hug from me – he was one of the people I most looked forward to seeing at VCFA (where we both probably longed for some quesadillas or churros to brighten our meals!) When we meet in Oaxaca some day (fingers crossed) we’ll treat you to our favorite mole amarillo at the market. Deal?
Deal, Julie! Something to look forward to for sure. Tim sends a huge hug back.
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Just have to order this book–i can still remember the delicious dish we ate sitting on overturned plastic tubs on a side street/market in Cuenca, Equador. It was pork and rice, simmered in a pale yellow-green sauce in a huge tin kettle. Try as I might (my Spanish wasn’t good enough) I couldn’t figure out what gave it that distinctive come-back-tomorrow-for-more flavor. With Julie’s inimitable art, this book is a gift for the “traveling stomachs” of the world! P.S. I want to subscribe to Books Around the Table.
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