This has been one of those weekends where being a New Yorker seems like the Best Thing in the WOOOORLD. It's beautiful and sunny. I've actually gotten a bit of a tan. The hustle and bustle gave way to relaxation, intimacy, and joy. I've gallivanted all over the city- alas, I didn't do Brooklyn but that's because my friends didn't invite me (Molly, Martha, Libba, and Damon - I'm looking at you!). But I did do New Jersey (BON JOVI CONCERT!). Here is the photographic evidence of a weekend well-spent:

Eat, drink, and happy Memorial Day!

The War on Salt

My personal salt collection

I'm fired up.

I know a lot of my readers are actually children's literature folks, not necessarily as obsessed with food as I am. Nevertheless, even my bookish friends can't NOT read this article in the New York Times: "The Hard Sell on Salt". I encourage you to read it because 1) it's just fascinating "science", 2) it affects you because you eat food, and 3) being bookish types means that you pursue knowledge. And this article will certainly increase your knowledge of "food science" and a multi-billion dollar industry.

For those of you not inclined, here were some of the highlights for me...with commentary when I just can't shut up:
  • "Government experts estimate that deep cuts in salt consumption could save 150,000 lives a year." Because the government can't afford to say that deep cuts in processed food consumption could save that many lives and more.
  • "It includes two studies commissioned by ConAgra suggesting that the country could save billions of dollars more in health care and lost productivity costs by simply nudging Americans to eat a little less food, rather than less salty food." Crap. Is it possible I actually agree with ConAgra?!
  • [Regarding Cheez-Its] "Salt sprinkled on top gives the tongue a quick buzz. More salt in the cheese adds crunch. Still more in the dough blocks the tang that develops during fermentation. In all, a generous cup of Cheez-Its delivers one-third of the daily amount of sodium recommended for most Americans." Here's the real question, though: how much pleasure does that cup of Cheez-Its bring you? True pleasure. As in, your day - nay, your life - has been made better for having eaten it? The salt isn't the problem...
  • "Making deep cuts in salt can require more expensive ingredients that can hurt sales. Companies that make low-salt pasta sauces improve the taste with vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh herbs that cost more than dried spices and lower grade tomatoes." Yes. Let's use more expensive ingredients! And that's not elitist. I'd tell you why but this post is already ridiculous...
  • "Chicken noodle soup has been especially vexing [for Campbell], he said. With only 150 calories, a single can of the condensed soup has more than a whole day's recommended sodium for most Americans." A whole day's?! That's insane. But here's the thing: it's about balance. Bug loves this crappy soup and we let her have it...but only about 1-2 times a month. Not as part of her regular diet and she eats plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are a part of her everyday meals. Balance. Why hasn't the government mentioned that? I'd rather they pour their money into education and subsidies for non-commodity farmers and humane ranchers rather than some crappy war on salt.
  • "While low-calorie sweeteners opened a huge market of people eager to look better by losing weight, he said, salt is only a health concern, which does not have the same market potential." Really, there isn't much I can add to this statement. It's a sad, sad, sad truth.
I don't know how much more I can say. It just seems to me that we're barking up the wrong tree here by attacking salt. I mean, I know that Michael Pollan is considered academic and elitist but come on: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." That's common sense. Then again, common sense isn't all that common, is it?

Eat, drink, and cut out processed foods.



Oh, you guys, today was goooorgeous. Just...wow. After a number of days of gray clouds and rain, the sun came out today and it was glorious. It wasn't humid and it wasn't too hot - just 70s and sunny. The kind of day when New Yorkers lay on benches, on walls, on anything horizontal and soak up the sun like lizards.

So imagine my unbridled joy when I realized that my menu planning for the week just happened to coincide with the weather: Ricotta Crostini with Cherry Tomatoes. With some grilled local asparagus. Can you imagine a better meal to celebrate a sunny day? And a sunny day so close to the weekend?!

I didn't follow the recipe exactly in this case - specifically, I didn't actually sauté the tomatoes. I just cut them up, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar, and put them on top of the grilled bread and ricotta. But start with the recipe above, which is exceptional as is, and feel free to experiment from there. This recipe also doesn't call for basil but, since I have some growing in my balcony herb garden, I added it.

You should also know that I'm in love with a wine. I know, I know. I'm in love with all wine, really. But thanks to my local wine shop - Wine Room of Forest Hills - I've discovered Carpineto. I fell in love with their rosé first - the label is beautiful, as is the color and the crisp fruitiness. But I also bought a bottle of the Dogajolo Toscano Bianco and it paired beautifully with the acidity of the tomatoes. It even matched the asparagus. A perfect way to bring in the weekend.

Eat, drink, and cheers to lucky menu planning!


Rage on!

Check out Oops...Wrong Cookie for one of their latest posts: Rant.

Feminist literature is becoming readily available for young adults and those who read it (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks; Graceling; The Hunger Games). And yet it's been dumbed down to whether you're Team Peeta or Team Gale, diluting the really important and interesting things the books have to say to us. And the gals over at Oops...Wrong Cookie are ranting about it. Go on over and jump into the discussion!

Eat, drink, and support feminist YA literature.


Author friends

One thing that happens at conferences is that authors stop by the booth who are either 1) Harper authors who, for whatever reason, aren't signing in the booth or 2) non-Harper authors who are just looking around the exhibit hall and stop by to say hi. At TLA and IRA, I had the opportunity to meet two fabulous authors.

First, at TLA, I had the pleasure of meeting Bettina Restrepo, author of our upcoming Illegal (Harper, March 2011). When Bettina stopped by the booth, I had already partially read the manuscript weeks before so I knew how special the story was (it very much reminded me of Esperanza Rising, which is just so stunning). It was a pleasure meeting Bettina and look for Illegal in the months to come.

While at IRA, I was thrilled to meet Danette Haworth. It was an odd moment meeting her because I recognized her name...but couldn't place it. Which is an occupational hazard, I can tell you! Then it came to me when Danette told me that she wrote Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning (Walker, 2008) - which was edited by my friend Stacy over at Walker Books. Aha! The connections were becoming clear! I had visited the Walker offices back in 2008 and Stacy gave me a galley of Violet Raines...and now I was finally meeting the author. Danette also has an upcoming book, The Summer of Moonlight Secrets. Here's the pretty cover:
I was lucky to score a galley...but when I asked Danette if the secret was that the girl was a mermaid, she wouldn't give up the info. So I'll look forward to reading it to find out.

And that's one of those things I love about what I do - accidental and unexpected meetings that happen at conferences, especially since most of what I do at conferences is so scheduled and planned out. As I'm planning ALA Annual (check out the HarperCollins' Teachers and Librarians website for some details that are already set, like our signings), I'm already getting excited to see who I'll meet this time around. Authors truly are some of the nicest and most welcoming people I've met, whether I meet them in the office, in a hotel lobby, or in a conference booth.

Eat, drink, and hang out with authors
NOTE: No disrespect to the illustrators out there, of course. Just put in "illustrators" where I wrote "authors" above...


IRA 2010 recap

As mentioned earlier, IRA was my second conference in April. TLA for a week...home for a week...then Chicago for a week. I know, it's a hard job but someone has to do it.

Chicago tortured me...as I shared here. I can't wait to go back.

And that was just the beginning. Here are the highlights:

  • For heaven's sake, Seymour Simon and his wife, Liz. They will be the highlight at any event I attend where they are present so get used to hearing their names. I'm going to cap myself here because I could write my entire post about how much I adore them. But Seymour was on Facebook saying that they wanted to adopt me and Liz and I shared garlic and truffle infused ice cream at Bistro 110 together...I mean, helloooo. Enough said, right? By the way, the ice cream was sick. As in, good. But Seymour would have told you that. Because he's way more tech-savvy and hip than I'll ever be.
  • Seeing Monica again. I'd think she was stalking me, except that she's so sweet and so wonderful and I love seeing her. Again, I never think you guys are actually going to say "hi" when we're in the booth together, but that is two conferences that I've seen Monica and her presence has become totally grounding. Thanks for stopping by!
  • Going to Publican. Guys, it's RIDONKULOUSLY loud in that place. And the chairs are hideous. And to be quite frank, I wouldn't host a publisher-type dinner there again. But somehow it came together this instance, sort of. Henry Cole and our assistant got into an in-depth discussion of all things Marilyn Monroe. Which got us - Henry, Stephanie, Neal Shusterman, and me - into the Hepburns...and Cary Grant...and All About Eve. And all these people just got how much I love these classics. I was in heaven. The location wasn't ideal for a dinner with 10 people...and yet...it came together and I still soaked in the fabulous conversations.
  • Getting On Meadowview Street signed by Henry Cole. I've been a fan of Henry's for years...in my previous life as a librarian. I sat across from him at dinner and apologized before reciting Why Do Kittens Purr? to him. I know the whole damn book by heart. And the illustrations? Swoooon. And here is a little known secret: in my new job, I rarely remember to have an author and/or illustrator sign a book for me. I'm usually too busy with Post-its, line management, etc. to remember my own geeked up fandom (i.e. Ryan Smithson at TLA - I can't believe I didn't have him sign a book for me!). But I remembered with Henry and I'm entirely grateful to him.
  • Frontera Grill. Okay, so here's a disclaimer: we did Frontera Grill the last night of the conference so...to say that we were tired was an understatement. And yet...and yet...Dina (my predecessor) says to me in a hushed whisper, "Laura! Laura! Is that Rick Bayless?!?!" Yes, everyone. I'm here to confirm that it was. And I lost my cool. All my professionalism. Rick-friggin-Bayless!!!!! And, ladies, he looked gooood. That was enough for me. Especially seeing as he had a man near him who was warding off the fan boys and girls...like me. Sure, I could have used my feminine wiles to get close but, seeing as he was already dining with a beautiful silver-haired older woman, I had no chance. I mean, it was the last day of the conference! I was not at my best, looks-wise...
April kicked my arse...but DAMN I had a good time. So a huge thank you to Chicago and San Antonio...and PLEASE keep stopping by the booth to say hi - I love chatting with all of you and I hope you're not alarmed by the hugs and happy dances!

Eat, drink, and look forward to ALA...


Did you just eat...Wilbur?

As my regular readers know, I draw lots of parallels between food and children's books, and I've pointed out countless times how the two worlds intersect in such odd and interesting ways.

Here is another one: Jennifer Armstrong's article, "Eating Reading Animals*", in this month's issue of The Horn Book.

Jennifer Armstrong is one of my absolute favorite non-fiction writers out there, anywhere, adult or children. Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World (Random House) is brilliant and was one of my go-to recommendations to reluctant readers when I was working in libraries. I can't recommend her books enough. And I will continue to passionately recommend them.

I had to say all that before I tell you that I vehemently disagree with the arguments she makes in the article and I'm certain my face went red as a beet** while reading it, puffing up with all the unspoken arguments in my head.

And this is probably where my new job position is a good thing: it's going to prevent me from going on a rant. This blog post is my protest and I'll leave it at that.

I'll give Jennifer (and the folks at Horn Book) this: as usual, they are provocative and interesting, inspiring debate and thought and argument. And rarely, if ever, do I consider that a bad thing. By all means, yes, let's talk to each other about ethics and food and books and our children!

Eat, drink, and please read this article. Have at it in the comments.

* The article title actually has a strikethrough on "Eating" but, for the life of me, I can't get friggin Blogger to replicate it.

** Pun totally intended.


Paris...and hair!

Thanks to Children's Illustration, I just discovered Jen Hill. I desperately yearn, pine, and whine for a print of this:

Eat, drink, and mon dieu, j'adore!

More Texas? Yes, please!

As Joanna and Patti's comments in my previous post point out, next year's Texas Library Association conference will be in Austin.

I'll be there and to say that I'm excited is a vast understatement.

I have heard nothing but good things about Austin, and I've always wanted to go. Combine that with some of the nicest, most enthusiastic librarians in the country and I think it'll be stellar.

As if anticipating all this, one of my favorite food blogs, Endless Simmer, just posted about the food truck scene in Austin (and check out this Austin post too). All I have to say is please, please, let me have time to visit at least one food truck while I'm there. Please! Or, barring that, do you think our authors would be down with having dinner there instead of an actual restaurant? Unlikely...depending on the author...

At the very least, maybe some fabulous librarian will deliver the goods to our booth! Volunteers?

Eat, drink, and look forward to Austin in 2011!


Texas Library Association conference recap

As mentioned before, April was a bit...um...hectic. Two conferences in three weeks? Awesome*.

The first conference was Texas Library Association in San Antonio. Having never been to San Antonio - nay, never having been anywhere in Texas - I didn't know what to expect. But Texas delivers, man. The people were super nice, the cabbies were uber-chatty (in a good way), and the conference organizers are some of the best I've encountered so far.

I have a ridiculous amount of highlights to share with you so stay with me, folks:
  • Hanging out with my fabulous publishing friends at Liberty Bar. It's hard to describe but it's this bizarre building, almost an Old West homage to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I was introduced to Shiner Bock, which all my Texan friends told me I had to have, and it was every bit as awesome and refreshing as I had heard. But the stand-out was the venison burger - holy crap, it was out-of-this world.

  • Meeting the ladies of Oops...Wrong Cookie. I've been a fan for awhile and it was fantastic to meet them in person. When I say to all of you, "Hey, stop by and say hi to me in booth #2222", I have to confess that I never believe anyone will. Shows me that I need to stop underestimating bloggers! This was a huge highlight for me, as evidenced by the happy-dance I did when Patti introduced herself!

  • Meeting Ryan Smithson, author of Ghosts of War, who signed in our booth and spent quite a bit of time with us during the week. I've met people that served in Iraq before but, for some reason, meeting Ryan was just incredibly poignant for me. He's incredibly smart and bright and has so much to say and so much to add to the conversation (the conversation, of course, being teens serving in the military). It was an honor for me, truly, to spend time with him.

  • Dinner out on Thursday night. A couple of us took out Sophie Jordan for dinner ( What, you haven't read Firelight yet?! The directions are easy: get yourself to a bookstore come September and buy a copy. You won't regret it. Or if you've read an ARC already, let me know what you think). But our reservation was canceled because we were too late. So, long story short, they were ridonkulously accomodating and set us up in their "sister" restaurant, Zinc. And we had our own little table in this little alcove on the patio while the rain fell five feet away - it was private and fun and intimate. In short, everything you want an author dinner to be. It's a HIDEOUS picture but feast your eyes on the truffled Parmesan fries:

    Need I point out that this photo does NOT do them justice?

  • This is a walking town. Seriously, you could walk everywhere, which was just heavenly. I can't say the same for my next conference recap...

  • Lastly, the Watermark Hotel. I can't recommend it enough. Remember the line in Ferris Bueller's Day Off? "I love driving it - it is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up." He could have been talking about the Watermark. Is there a better place to stay on the Riverwalk? I doubt it**.
San Antonio, I love you...just as others who have come before me have declared. I will gladly return...in 2013! Can't wait!

Eat, drink, and look forward to your next Shiner Bock.

* When will someone finally perfect the sarcasm font?!
** Keep in mind that it's the only hotel I've ever stayed at anywhere in Texas. So no disrespect to other San Antonio hotels.