Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook

Alice Eats

Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook is a collaboration between cookbook author Julie Van Rosendaal and illustrator Pierre A. Lamielle. In their book, the duo re-imagines the familiar classic by Lewis Carroll by way of the food Alice encounters on her way through Wonderland. Pierre's illustrations and Julie's recipes are accompanied by the full text of the Alice story, guaranteeing that you've probably never seen another cookbook quite like this one.

(The recipes are great too—I can vouch for the Sunken Dark-Chocolate Cake, which I made last week and was totally delicious…) 

Pierre and Julie answered a few questions about their book, and were kind enough to share two recipes for your enjoyment. 

*****

49th Shelf: When I think of culinary Alices, I think of Alice Waters, and "Alice’s Restaurant." But here, you’ve gone and given the most literary of Alices her very own cookbook! Can you tell us about the role that food plays in the Alice in Wonderland story?

Pierre: When we think about food in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland we tend to immediately think of Eat Me cakes or the Drink Me drink. But there are food references throughout her adventure, from the Mad Hatter's Tea Party to the Queen's tarts. Alice runs into food throughout Wonderland; sometimes it helps her, other times it's an obstacle, sometimes it makes her grow taller, and sometimes it makes her grow smaller. But there's always something tasty in Wonderland.

Julie: I find that most kids are interested in engaging in the same activities they read about in books, so to incorporate step-by-step recipes is a means of getting them into the kitchen to bring the story of Alice to life in their own kitchens.

49th Shelf: Were there any unappetizing foodstuffs in the book that you decided to give a miss to?

Pierre: In the 1800s Turtle Soup was quite the rage, but it was very expensive to get fresh turtle so a mock turtle soup was a cheaper alternative using a cow's head instead of a whole turtle. We thought it best to re-adapt the recipe one more time to make our very own mock, mock turtle soup that uses pasta, peas, and meatballs instead of turtles or cow heads. Especially since the Mock Turtle is one of my favourite characters.

49th Shelf: Julie, how was creating Alice Eats different from your more traditional cookbook-writing experiences? What things were more inspiring and also more challenging about it?

Julie: These days it seems a new cookbook comes out every day—it's tough to come up with a concept that stands out. It was refreshing to approach a collection of recipes from a literary perspective, to create recipes inspired by fictional characters rather than the day-to-day challenge of getting dinner on the table. 

49th Shelf: Pierre, images from Alice in Wonderland are so iconic, whether it be from the Disney version or the original illustrations by John Tenniel. Was it difficult to free yourself from these ideas enough to create something new? And what were your inspirations?

Pierre: As an illustrator I have five or six different illustrated versions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that are very different from the classic John Tenniel. Apparently John was very reluctant to do Alice in the first place because Lewis Carroll was notoriously difficult to work with. With the pestering Lewis out of the picture, I was left to my own devices and interpretations.

An Alice cookbook was on my mind when I was in France receiving a Gourmand award for the Best Illustrated Cookbook in the World for my first book Kitchen Scraps. A day trip to Versailles yielded a camera-load of decadent inspiration. After Paris, I started from scratch, ignoring everything I ever knew about Wonderland characters to be free to read with fresh eyes and interpret as I liked.

I created all the patterns used in the background. Then designed all the characters using ornate costumes with French inspiration and finally got to laying out the entire book to know how and where I might be able to put the illustrations. I wanted to be sure there were as few strictly text pages as possible.

Lastly, I randomly drew the numbers 1–12 out of a hat and started illustrating the chapters in that order, just in case there was any minor variations in style over the 100+ illustrations. All in all, it took over a year to complete the illustrations.

49th Shelf: Alice Eats might be the most multi-purposeful cookbook I’ve ever encountered. Could you give readers some suggestions as to how it can be used? 

Julie: As one who keeps a stack of cookbooks on her bedside table, I know it will appeal to those who like to read their cookbooks—with the entire text of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland included in the book. I imagine it will also be useful for those planning a party—whimsical tea parties fit the bill for all kinds of celebrations, from birthdays to showers. I love the idea that kids will want to get into the kitchen and cook because the food is such an integral part of the Alice storyline.

Pierre: There are many excellent and inspired uses for Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook. It can be used as a tray to serve tea sandwiches. It can block your teapot from the wind so it doesn't cool down outside. It can be used as a wonderful bedtime story or as an inspiration for a rainy Sunday afternoon baking.

*****

No Time Drop Scones

Mad Hatter’s No-Time Cream Drop-Scones

If you only keep on good terms with Father Time, he’ll do almost anything you like with the clock. For instance, suppose you want to eat scones—you can use this time-saving recipe and enjoy freshly baked scones at the drop of a hat! Time for tea!

Makes about 1 dozen scones

1 1/3 cups (310 mL) all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp (30 mL) sugar

1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) baking powder

1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

1 cup (250 mL) heavy (whipping) cream

coarse sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the cream and stir just until the dough comes together.

Drop by large spoonfuls (or use a small ice-cream scoop for more uniform scones) onto a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. If you like, sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm.

Alice’s advice: These scones sound (and taste) rich, but are actually lighter than those made with butter. They’re the fastest, easiest scones you’ll ever make from scratch, and can be gussied up with lemon or orange zest, currants or raisins, fresh or frozen berries or chopped chocolate.

Alice Sugar Cookies

Five, Seven and Two’s Painted-Red Sugar Cookies

If you make a mistake, don’t lose your head. A little paint can fix it up and if that fails, brush up on your cookie-baking. It’s more difficult to execute someone who has just given you cookies, so stack the deck in your favour . . .

Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies

Cookies

1/3 cup (85 mL) butter, at room temperature

2 Tbsp (30 mL) canola or other mild vegetable oil

3/4 cup (185 mL) sugar

grated zest of a lemon (optional)

1 large egg

2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour

1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder

1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

Paint

1 egg yolk

a few drops red food colouring

To make the cookies

In a large bowl, beat the butter, oil, sugar and lemon zest (if using) with an electric mixer until pale and light; add the egg and vanilla and beat for a minute, until smooth and well blended.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the sugar mixture and stir by hand or beat on low speed just until you have a soft dough. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for half an hour.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to about 1/8-inch (3 mm) thick. Cut the cookies into card shapes—or flowers, hearts, spades or a combination of shapes—and place 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

To make the paint: Put the egg yolk in a small dish and add a few drops of food colouring. Mix with a fork until well blended. Use a small paintbrush to paint the unbaked cookies with the red “paint.”

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the cookies are pale golden around the edges and the paint is dry and glossy. Using a thin spatula, transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Alice’s advice: Egg-yolk cookie “paint” cooks dry and glossy—not sticky like regular frosting—and you have far more control with a paintbrush than an icing bag. Try making an entire palette of colours in small ramekins, adding a few drops of food colouring per egg yolk.

November 7, 2013
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