In my memory, a significant part of my childhood was spent in imaginary play. From a quick review of photographs, I spent a lot of time in a leotard with a tutu. I was either dressing for the job I wanted or I just liked the fancy feeling that comes along with wearing anything tulle. Since it is also itchy, my guess is that I REALLY wanted to be a ballerina. I also liked to have tea parties. This week, for bibliotherapy Friday (if you read my blog regularly, you will soon realize that there is never just one day of the week to enjoy book therapy), I’d like to invoke both my imagination and the spirit of planning parties I will likely never host. Will you be my guest? Better yet, I highly recommend checking out these cookbooks and planning your own imaginary feast.
The ultimate tea party cake is most definitely the Coconut Princess Birthday Cake with Almond Filling, a 3-layer cake that looks like something I’d LOVE for you to bring over for tea at my place. We would need plates and forks and, lucky for us, I have those. In addition, I would provide some Earl Grey tea as I believe the bergamot scent would complement the almond filling. You can’t buy this cake, but you can make it by following the three-page recipe starting on page 107 of “Tasting Hygge: Joyful Recipes for Cozy Days and Nights” by Leela Cyd. I have to be honest with you that just the idea of trying to make this cake causes a bit of anxiety to arise in me…..especially the little “note” on page 109 about making my own marzipan. But, in my heart, I feel how delightful this cake is. In my mouth, I can feel how the soft white frosting would shock my mouth with sweetness on the first bite. Then, I can feel the flavor develop as the almond enveloped the initial sugary sweetness and I know I’m going to giggle. I’m going to sit back and enjoy that bite. Sip some tea. If frosted three-layer cakes aren’t your thing, then delight in all the other treats in this fabulous book that is perfect for your next tea party—-real OR imagined. Some of the other recipes that caught my attention were the Swedish Tea Ring with Berries and Crushed Cardamom (pg. 60), Pea Dumplings with Mint Sour Cream (pg. 26), and Avocado Yogurt Dip with Vegetables (pg. 75). So, put on your tutu, gather the fairies, sit down with this sweet little cookbook, and have the best little tea party your mind can imagine in the most beautiful garden you can conjure.
Tea party not your thing? No problem! Meet me at the Chinese night market of our dreams where the scent of five spice and curries mingle with noodles and mysterious meats (don’t ask, don’t tell). There isn’t much I don’t want to learn to make and nothing I wouldn’t love to eat right now in Danielle Chang’s “Lucky Rice: Stories and Recipes from Night Markets, Feasts and Family Tables”. As if the food and sweet treats weren’t enough, Chang also has some very unique alcoholic drink ideas including the “Afternoon Gin Tea” which includes anise, Kaffir lime leaf, peppercorns, smoky Lapsang Souchong tea, ginger, honey, and gin. So, I guess I’ve come back around to the tea party theme after all. But, how can you resist the Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice, page 157), Chicken Tikka Masala (page 135), Zha Jiang Mian (Spicy Pork Noodles, page 104), or Chanko Nabe (Sumo Wrestlers’ Stew, page 86)? For some reason, many of us lose our ability to imagine or dream as adults, or it makes us feel foolish or silly—-what a waste of time! But, a cookbook like this offers eye candy and I can smell the deep aromatics of these delicious meals. In my mind’s eye, I can wander the night market, alone or with other adventurous friends and experience a wonderful evening under the stars with a belly full of my favorite Asian comfort foods.
The soups and stews are what appeal to me in “The Easy Vegan Cookbook” by Kathy Hester……but, I have to admit that the only reason I pulled this one off the shelf is that the title made me think of my best childhood friend from Brooklyn, Jen……because, as pre-teens, we both enjoyed and were perplexed by a pop song at the time called “Easy Lover” by Phil Collins. Memory can be an important part of imagination because we can pull from the remembered to make a collage of an experience in our mind that brings the best of the past into this present imagined moment. Now imagine Mr. Collins singing about his “Easy Vegan” and then think of being 11-years old and hanging out with your bestie listening to the radio and trying to figure out song lyrics. There is a lot of giggling. In this cookbook by Hester, there are also some variations on common vegetarian favorites that are worth a glance and likely worth eating too if you are inclined to take these imagined parties out of the mind and into your kitchen. For example, check out the Pumpkin Hummus (pg. 152), Black Eyed Pea Quesadillas (pg. 143), or the simple, yet flavorful Cauliflower and Rice Soup (pg. 50).
If you need a bit of help with your imagination muscle when it comes to tea, dinner, or other gatherings, then look no further than that fantastic “Salad for President: A Cookbook Inspired by Artists” by Julia Sherman. Sherman travels the world to have delicious salads crafted by amazing artists that we can only imagine having meals with. Have a leftover salad breakfast taco with Alice Water, Persimmon Caprese with Master ceramicist Yui Tsujimura in Nara Japan, and enjoy dipping fresh garden herbs into Laurie Anderson’s Roasted Eggplant Dip……It’s easy to imagine because these fantastical gatherings actually happened and Sherman provides the pictures to prove it. Close your eyes and imagine yourself there, with the people in the picture. It’s not cheating, it’s like using a block when you practice yoga….just a visual tool for sparking your imaginative power.
Meet me in the woods at never o’clock for some pea dumplings with mint sour cream and a hundred bites of frosted almond cake….I’ll be the one in the turquoise tulle tutu with a flower crown and the fairy entourage. Just follow the song birds. You can’t miss me!