Illustrator Keysun Mokhtarzadeh, 12, for ‘The Forgotten Fort‘ by Andrew Lee, 13. Published January/February 2009.
A note from William Rubel
Whew! What a week! I flew to London on Monday, arrived on Tuesday, and with my Stone Soup colleague, Jane Levi, went the next morning went to see a friend of ours who is a book collector. He collects early books on gardening—books from the 1500s to the 1800s. His wife collects early British detective fiction. Do any of you have book collections? Have you ever thought about making a specialized library of your own focusing on books of one subject? If you have a book collection and would like to tell others about it, write something up and submit it to the blog section of our online submission form. If you still remember, tell us about the first book you bought, which of your books mean the most to you, and what plans you have for your collection.
The first book I recall buying is a Bible from 1771. It is a big old book. Several of the people who owned it before me signed it on a blank page at the front of the book. When I read it I am always aware that I am just the current person in a long chain of owners going back over two hundred years who have sat down with it.
From our our book collector friend’s house, Jane and I went to Oxford where I had been invited to give a talk about the history of bread and where Jane and I were asked to present something on our project in Kenya that I have mentioned in a previous newsletter. We stayed at Christchurch college. This means, we ate breakfast in the hall used to film the meals for the Harry Potter movies. Yes, it’s true! We ate breakfast at Hogwarts and walked up the stairway where Dumbledore greeted Harry and the other students when they first came to the school! Those of you who are fans of Philip Pullman’s books, as I am, will also one day want to come to Oxford to be in the place where Lyra begins her adventures. Jordan College is an invention but is closely modeled on walled colleges, like Christchurch. In the evening, in the early morning hours, and in the fields that still exist within the Oxford City limits you can get a real feel for how an author takes a busy modern place and finds within it inspiration for a fantasy story of unparalleled depth.
December Food Issue!
I wrote about this last week—the deadline for the December food issue is coming up in a couple of weeks. What I want to say to those of you who have not yet started on this, is that it is both a writing and a cooking project. Yes, we are interested in recipes for foods you love, but to get the recipes published in the Stone Soup December issue there has to be a well written introduction. In cookbook language, the introduction to recipes is called the “headnote.” Last year, when I first put out the call for recipes I mentioned how I used to make a gingerbread house with my mother every December. We did that from when I was in elementary school through high school and even into my first year of college, just before she died. I have published a gingerbread recipe along with this very personal story of why it meant so much to me in a book called Celebrations. You can also read other personal and creative stories about recipes—the headnotes—in last December’s issue of Stone Soup.
Other foods I remember cooking… Bread. When I was eleven my mother gave me a beautiful two-volume cookbook. One volume was about the history of American food and the other volume was recipes. I was very interested in the headnote for the recipe for Anadama bread. I made that bread, loved it, and was hooked. I have been making bread since I was eleven and for the last fifteen years researching and writing about bread is what I’ve done virtually every day. I write articles about bread, I write books about bread. And this interest really started when I was your age. From that same American Heritage Cookbook there is a recipe for eggnog. It is a very rich eggnog—eggs, of course, cream, and lots of alcohol for the adults. I started making the eggnog for my family’s holiday party when I was eleven or twelve.
The headnote is a story. It can be a story about the dish you are making: why you like it; when you make it; what it reminds you of. Sometimes, cookbook authors also use headnotes to help people with a tricky part of a recipe. For example, if it has an ingredient that may not be easy to find, you might suggest an alternative in the headnote.
Recipes for Stone Soup must have three elements: the headnote, the list of ingredients, and the instructions. The list of ingredients and instructions fall into the genre of technical writing. Your work for Stone Soup is also judged on the clarity of that technical writing. The way I test recipes (and the quality of my technical writing) is to get someone else to make the recipe just from reading what I wrote. If you get moving on this project this week you ought to have time to get a friend to test your recipe (and of course we will test it that way, too!). To write the technical part—the part about mixing the ingredients together—I want you to take notes as you are cooking. Then, when you work up the notes into a more final text, please visualize your hands—what are they doing? What are the steps? “Take a bowl, break two eggs into it, mix with a whisk, then…” The more you explain the gestures of cooking—like, “when mixed, set the bowl aside and then…”—the easier it is for others to follow your recipe.
If you have questions about writing recipes you can ask me directly by replying to this Newsletter. I know that I am sometimes behind with my email, but I promise this week to check every day so that I can be of help to those of you who are writing recipes.
Until next week,
Highlights from the past week online
Don’t miss the latest content from our Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at stonesoup.com!
This week we have a new post from Lukas Cooke, our nature blogger, about The Mountains from the Stories: the Alps.
Plus, we are happy to share with you undergraduate Sam Rozal’s first guest post for Stone Soup, on writing your feelings.
Concrete Poetry Contest – deadline approaching!
Looking for a creative project to get you though the first weeks back at school? Get your artist brain firing on all cylinders with some concrete poetry, and send it in to our contest before the closing date of September 15. You can only win one of the prizes if you enter, so why not give it a try! Find all the details here.
From Stone Soup
By Andrew Lee, 13
Illustrated by Keysun Mokhtarzadeh, 12
“But you’ll be home to visit?” Ken looked hopefully at his brother, Tim.
Tim hugged Ken thoughtfully. “’Course I will,” he said. “College won’t be so much fun that I won’t want to come back from time to time.”
“I’m proud of you, son,” said their father. “It’s time for you to see the real world. Gain some independence, too.”
Tim hugged his dad. “Thanks, Dad. I’ll miss you.”
Unlike their dad, who was broad-shouldered, lean, and stood with the best posture out of anyone they knew, Tim and Ken’s mother was slightly shorter. However, she made up for it with her steely composure and deadly glare. Tim, who was once on the receiving end of many disapproving glances, was now wrapped in a kind, tearful hug.
“Now don’t you get into any trouble,” chastised their mom. “I don’t want to hear any horror stories of late-night beer parties.”
Tim made a face behind her back and Ken laughed.
“He’ll be fine,” boomed their dad. “Let the boy be. He can take care of himself.”
Tim had his luggage close by. A backpack, one large compartment bag and a smaller suitcase with wheels.
Tim had decided to “travel light,” as their father had said, leaving many of his possessions to a grateful Ken.
The scene went silent for a moment, each person lost in their own thoughts of the coming departure. Suddenly, as the faint whistle of the train pierced through the air, Ken felt an over- whelming emotion overcome him. He and his brother had been through so much together. So many happy memories still lingered in his mind. Now his heart was giving way at the prospect of losing one of the closest people in his life.
The train creaked to a stop, and passengers stood up to board the train. Tim gave one last family hug and walked bravely away, not daring to look back at the tear-stained group behind him. The door slammed shut with an angry hiss, and the well-greased wheels of the train slowly began to turn. Tim’s smiling features were plastered to the window, as his face was slowly carried away…./more