Category Archives: writing

HAM!

Ham

A Savor the South Cookbook

By Damon Lee Fowler

ISBN:978-1-4696-3589-7

Retail: $20

 

This outstanding cookbook  series is coming to an end. However,  do not worry, as the series nears the projected finishing line of twenty books, there  is not winding down on quality. This next volume tackles an icon of the southern table, Ham and was well worth the wait

Author Howler is the skilled author of nine cookbooks and the editor and recipe developer of Dining at Monticello. He lives in Savannah GA.

 

Ham is discussed for all of its glory starting with the smokehouses of Thomas Jefferson , to today’s southern classics and to that glorious Italian version of ham, Prosciutto. Fowler takes us into the smokehouses where the very walls capture aromas and flavors of the hams and then, after years, bounce those accumulated scents and tastes back into the pork hindquarters that are hung inside each year.

 

While I worked at Mt. Vernon, we visited the smokehouse often. It was one of my favorite places on the plantation—I loved the scent of good food coming, carefully cared for, cured, into its own, to be presented at George Washington’s own table. When I cook ham, my own kitchen is redolent with the scent and flavors of history. It’s an aroma that brings everyone into the kitchen to try to cadge a bit of the outer ham “just to taste” before I slice and serve it.

Such is the continuity of ham in the south and anywhere this prince of pork products is loved and eaten. Fowler not only pays homage to Ham as a premiere food of the American South, he also recognizes it s place in other cultures and provides recipes from China, France, Italy and Spain and introduces us to their historic ham types and ways of preparing ham.

 

I read the front of the book with its history and terminology explanations with great interest. One could say I devoured it (except for the groaning sounds of those who hate puns.) As with the others in the series there are 50 plus, in this case, 55 recipes. Although, I cannot say I loved them all, most are wonderful and all of the recipes are explained so that both beginning and expert cooks can use them all with ease.

 

Why was I at odds with some of them ,especially with his basic baked ham? Simply because  I prefer my own (apple juice and cloves) way of  making it. However, his method is classic and  if you are new to ham, new to the possibilities of this fabulous meat, try his way.

 

Many of his other recipes will likely become classics in my own home. I especially liked his rendition of the Monte Cristo sandwich (an item that seems to be making a comeback in restaurants) and his ideas for combining southern classics—like his grilled ham and pimiento cheese sandwich. YUM! This recipe includes a very nice recipe for pimiento cheese as well. Classic ham biscuits, prosciutto and asparagus and lots of other ham and asparagus are just some of the other many delicious suggestions he offers (with full recipe) for using this most versatile meat. I could not help but chuckle as I read his recipe for ham bone soup—it called to mind the story of why cat and dog are rarely friends—all because of a fight over a hambone. Yes, even the bone, the leavings of a ham are worthy of use and can produce sublimely delicious offerings for your friends and family. Lunch, brunch, supper, soups are some of the categories in the book.  No desserts with ham—but then again, many lovers of ham (like my husband) will just as soon skip the sugary desserts for a second helping of whatever heavenly ham dish crossed the table as a main course.

As a side note, I am quite fond of the cover of this volume–I love the decorative red rose made from a thin slice of ham–says it all about the love affair the South (and I ) have with ham.

 

This slim volume is a very worth addition to the collection and deserves a place on your cookbook shelf.

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Teachers Can and Do

I always hated, and never believed,  that old chestnut that teachers are people who cannot actually do what they teach–nonsense! Teachers are those who share with us the technology (so to speak) of the art or craft  they have fallen in love with. They want to share with us what they love, share the how-to and the mystery of it.

They become educators when they draw out of us our desires to pursue a field to the limit of our ability, usually thanks to their support, inspiration, and ministrations of technique and method.

As a working journalist, story performer and more I want to share with others what I have learned and to inspire others to follow their dreams in whatever field they desire–esp in

writing and story performance. Yep, I talk and write for audiences. It’s that simple!

This month I have had the opportunity to be a teacher and to share my love of these two modes of communication on Donna Washington’s Blog, in Ruby for Women Magazine (writing only in that one. March starts a three-part series for those who want to get started in writing) and here, on this blog by reminding you that I have two new publications out this month–My children’s book, Rosa’s Shell and my book of poems, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon.

PS Today the literative.com site has one of my writings up as the prose winner of their winter contest!

https://literative.com/writing-contest-winners/cold-snap-creative-writing-contest-winner/

Do check it out!

I’m happy to come and and talk to your school or group about writing (for adults, for children, poetry) story performance (or to give a story performance!)

Please do contact me and let me know if you would like me to come! Those who do, if they are fortunate enough also share what they know by teaching!

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A Short Tale for the Holiday

Take a look at this tiny tale!

I’ll be working on it to make it better and larger in the coming months–or do you like it as is? I’d love to have your input!

Gregor the Ghost woke up late afternoon on Halloween, his very favorite day. He would walk along the streets and no one would be afraid! They would think he was just another child in a ghost costume! When the moon was high, he joined the crowds going from house to house for candy.

He noticed a girl dressed as a green and yellow spider all by herself.

“What’s wrong ?”

“No one wants to go with me. They say I’m too scary ”

Gregor laughed.”Spiders don’t scare me.”

Ghost and spider gathered candy together. Neither one scared the other!

Never Done

A writer’s work is never done!

I am busy working on PR, blog hops etc for Summer in a Bowl and also at the same time working on poems, my usual quota of articles, and coordinating with my publisher on revisions in the texts of the NEXT TWO Rosa books–Rosa and the Red Apron and Rosa’s Shell

 

Heather Zeissler of THEAQLLC has been wonderful to work with.

If you want me to come to your school to talk about the process of writing picture books or  to talk to your group about how I got started writing picture books, just email me at joanleotta@atmc.net

 

 

 

Summer in a Bowl,Progress Report

Right now I am in a hold pattern. I am waiting for the illustrator to do her magic, conjuring up the images that will bring my words to life for young readers.

I thought while we were waiting I would answer a question that many people ask of authors–how real is this story?

Like WHOOSH!, this story was inspired by a real afternoon in my life. Yes, there really was an Aunt Mary. Yes, I did watch her make soup from the ingredients in her garden! Yes, I did help her gather those ingredients.

Aunt Mary passed on many years ago. She was the mother of three of my wonderful cousins, John, Diane, and Ernie.

Diane sent me these photos of her Mom to share with you.

Here is the real, wonderful, lovely woman who inspired Summer in a Bowl:

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National Poetry Month and Gardening

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So, this post is doing dual duty. I hope it will keep you in mind for gardening. Yesterday I turned in the first deliverable on my book, Summer in a Bowl. Picture books are a sort of long form narrative poetry. Thus the connection.

Also, gardening and story or poem prompts–obvious connection there. Prompts are like seeds for a story or poem. Plant one on a page and they can give your mind a jump start. Apply the hard work of writing around this (akin to weeding and watering) to harvest a finished poem or story! Voila!

My usual monthly post on Suzanne Lurience’s working writer blog will go up  in a few days.

Here is the bonus prompt for Poetry Month–seven one word prompts for poems–of course if you can squeeze an entire story out of one of these–huzzah to you!

Seven April Poem Prompts

1.Rain

2. Roses

3. Redbud

4. Iris

5. Late

6.Exercise

7. Walk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birth of a Book, Blog # 1

Blog Entry Number One

March 12, 2016

Contract is Signed!

So, I mailed the contract back to the publisher this week. The contract’s basic legal language is fine. I was satisfied with the legal provisions. The important part of the contract as far as all of you other writers are concerned is the “deliverable” list. This list is my list of deadlines for each step of the way. It also outlines the deadlines for the publisher and the illustrator. I went through my calendar and marked each deliverable date on my calendar.

 

First things first! The manuscript for Summer in a Bowl is due on March 31. Before you start to think me crazy for accepting such a deadline, there is something you need to understand about picture books.  Last year, I sent Summer in A Bowl to the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators to be evaluated. I took their comments to heart when finishing the book. It has been revised at least seven times.

 

When you send any picture book manuscript to a publisher for consideration, you send the entire thing! Don’t send a draft. Send it as finished and polished as you can make it, but  be open to making changes suggested by the publisher. Conversely, don’t make major changes unless they fit into your vision. Also, most picture book publishers choose the illustrator, so don’t send illustrations along unless they are called for. Truthfully, I have seen only ONE traditional publisher that requested illustrations. One out of hundreds.

 

After I wrote WHOOSH! I searched and searched to find a publisher who shared my vision for sharing stories of families, happy families in cities.  I was so pleased with the illustrator he choose, a woman who also shared my vision for how the characters should look, well….

 

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Picture Book by Joan Leotta

After WHOOSH! was published by THEAQLLC, I worked furiously on my other picture book ideas and sent Summer in a Bowl to THEAQLLC as well.

We discussed the illustrations, briefly. This book will be entrusted to the same illustrator. Now, time to polish a bit more. This book’s manuscript left open the possibility of what is called “back matter.” “Back matter” is usually a bit of non-fiction prose that goes along with and hopefully adds to the reader’s experience with the story. In this case, I am thinking about adding a soup recipe. The other possibility is to hold the recipe and use it for advertising the book, as handouts when I speak on the book, and as information in a packet of teacher information for school gardens.

 

My habit is to print out a document once it has reached this stage, giving me a physical item to work with. As I review the document, I will picture scenes in my head and picture my primary target audience—a parent and child reading together. On another read through I will picture another target audience, a teacher reading to students. Oh yes, I’ve done this when making the other revisions, before I sent it to the publisher, but I shall do it again. Probably twice again before returning it to the publisher on or just before March 31.

At the same time I am doing all of this, I need to try to build my audience for WHOOSH! and for the upcoming book.

I’m waiting now to hear from my publisher about the back matter. What do you think about the back matter, dear blog readers?