Book Review, Books

Hungry Hearts Food Crawl! Moments to Return by Adi Alsaid

Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love edited by Elsie Chapman & Caroline Tung Richmond

From some of your favorite bestselling and critically acclaimed authors—including Sandhya Menon, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rin Chupeco—comes a collection of interconnected short stories that explore the intersection of family, culture, and food in the lives of thirteen teens.

A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.

Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one and the same.

Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home.

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Photo Credit: Michael Meskin

Elsie Chapman grew up in Prince George, Canada, and has a degree in English literature from the University of British Columbia. She is the author of the YA novels Dualed, Divided, Along the Indigo, and Caster as well as the MG novel All the Ways Home, and co-editor of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings and Hungry Hearts. She currently lives in Tokyo, Japan, with her family.

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Caroline Tung Richmond is an award-winning young adult author, whose historical novels include The Only Thing to Fear, The Darkest Hour, and Live In Infamy. She’s also the co-editor of the anthology Hungry Hearts, which features stories about food and will come out in June 2019 from Simon Pulse. Her work is represented by Jim McCarthy of Dystel & Goderich.

Caroline is also the Program Director of We Need Diverse Books, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that advocates for diversity in children’s publishing.

After growing up in the Washington, D.C. area Caroline now lives in Virginia with her family.

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Welcome to my stop in this delicious Hungry Hearts Food Crawl! Today we’re going to talk about Adi Alsaid’s story, Moments to Return.

Adi Alsaid was born and raised in Mexico City, where he now lives, writes, and spills hot sauce on things. He’s the author of several YA novels including LET’S GET LOST, NEVER ALWAYS SOMETIMES, and NORTH OF HAPPY.

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Moments to Return is about a tourist from Montenegro desperately seeking a magic soup dumpling to help cure his fear of death. And it starts with him inside the restaurant trying to decide what he would like to eat because he’s made the choice to try to cure his fear with food. The story made me extremely hungry and to crave delicious soup dumplings (the ones that have the soup inside them, if you’ve never had them, you should, it’s worth it!). The first time I had them, I also didn’t know the trick our narrator is told, which is to bite the top off to let it cool down a tiny bit and well, of course I burnt my mouth. Woops!

However, the reason he’s having this magical food is to cure his fear of death and as I read this story I couldn’t help but keep thinking of how differnet the perspective on death is and how tied to food it is even in my own culture (Mexican).

I now live in the UK, but Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) is one of my favourite parts of our culture. Now, I didn’t really know other countries were drastically different in treating death, for me it was something that happens and inevitable but we do our best to celebrate what has been rather than regret and be sad about it (it doesn’t mean we don’t do grief).

Anyway, once I moved to the UK, I realised how different the perspective on death was and how much of a taboo subject it was, so I decided to host my own Day of the Dead celebration explaining the culture, sharing food and bringing people together because at the end of the day, the magic of food is how it connects us and bring us together.

A feast of salsa’s, dips, toppings and chips to eat with the rest of the meal.

Being Mexican means I love preparing too much food and making people smile with food. And Day of the Dead is about making the favourite foods of those that passed away, going to visit our dead and talking to them, but also, sharing that food with others to rejoice in the life that was lived. It is a celebration of life, full of colour, with many skulls everywhere (I couldn’t get my hands on the classic sugar candy skulls we make, but those are a treat).

However, I made Pan de Muerto, which has a “brioche” base, a slight orange blossom flavour and it is rich and buttery, and the top has a cross of “bones”. Some say it is to represent the way the Dead have to go and to guide them home and back to the Land fo the Dead, others say it comes from Aztec knowledge of gods. To me it has always been a representation of our dead and to share with others.

Pan de Muerto, tortillas in a teacloth to keep warm, vegetarian taco filling and meat taco filling.

Of course, the party was a success, making people a little bit less shy about death and more open to talk about their loved ones that have gone ahead of us/them. It was a moment of sharing a meal, talking and opening up. Maybe there wasn’t the magic to cure fear of death, but it definitely makes you a little bit less afraid, a little more human and glad to have others there to share with.

A happy me hosting the party!

In the end, food has magic, and all the stories in Hungry Hearts let you experience some of that magic. Because making food is a kind of magic but eating it is also magic.

It delights you, fills you, and provides nourishment, what else do you need?

Come join the rest of us in our delightful food crawl (and probably go find some awesome places to eat delicious food, because you will be hungry after reading each of the short stories in it!).

Hungry Hearts Food Crawl Schedule:

June 10th – Introduction
Vicky (Welcome + Interview)

June 11th – Karuna Riazi
Naadhira (Review)

June 12th – Rin Chupeco
Bianca (Review + Creative Post) & Kate (Review + Recipe)

June 13th – Jay Coles
Nikki (Review + Creative Post)

June 14th – Elsie Chapman
Kevin (Review + Creative Post) & Natalia (Review + Creative Post)

June 15th – Sara Farizan
Em (Review)

June 16th – Caroline T. Richmond
Lili (Review + Creative Post) & Tiffany (Review + Creative Post)

June 17th – Adi Alsaid
Moon (Review + Creative Post)

June 18th – Sandhya Menon
Aimal (Review + Aesthetic/Mood board) & Dia (Review + Fave Quotes)

June 19th – S. K. Ali
Mish (Review + Creative Post)

June 20th – Phoebe North
Kayla (Review + Aesthetic/Mood board)

June 21st – Rebecca Roanhorse
Lila (Review + Aesthetic/Mood board) & AJ (Review + Aesthetic/Mood board)

June 22nd – Sangu Mandanna
Nandini (Review + Creative Post) & Prags (Review + Fave Quotes)

June 23rd – Anna-Marie McLemore
Nox (Review + Creative Post)

June 24th – Closing
CW (Review + Food Crawl)


Moon Writes: Cat I

He saw her first.
She walked to where he was. Even though she was told his name, her mind didn’t register his existence at all. To her, he was just part of the scenery, a piece of this moment, she was not the focus of what was happening.
She still can’t remember if she said goodbye.
He remembers.
He was curious about this new being, the way she looked, everything that made her who she was. A tug of the heart, a leap of the soul, and somehow the need to know more was born.
Someone made her aware of him (yet again, for at the time she thought it was the first time), a name given to his being. She thought he looked sweet. But her head was lost in the tiredness of her body, and she left without really trying to connect with him. There was no need, she’d probably never see him again.
He had made her smile.
He strolled towards where she was living in the field. Mind set on finding out more, he was invited to wait while she ate and then, he was drawn. Sketched up, a part of the scenery that had caught her eyes.
He had been looking for her.
They kept each other company the rest of the evening. The fire warmed them up, and she let him rest against her thigh, while she sat on her chair. When she stood up to leave, she wasn’t sure if he’d follow, there was no debt there to make him do so.
Yet, he did.
The night wrapped them up with her darkness. They walked through the fields, and where she should have stopped and parted ways, the decision to keep on walking was made. So they walked and kept each other company until dawn started to break night’s embrace.
They parted ways at her doorstep, and she couldn’t help but wonder if she’d see him again.
She didn’t dare to hope.
Almost everybody was leaving, except those few that’d be gone the next morning since they were headed to another field. She was one of the former, so there was no hurry in her. There had been no sign of him at all, and she knew she shouldn’t hope.
He was a wild one, and she wasn’t ready to tame anymore.
It seemed like not being aware of him was a trick of hers she didn’t do on purpose. She almost stumbled on him before she saw him. He had been looking for her, again. Too busy minding his own affairs in the field, he still hadn’t forgotten her.
She was surprised.
He had to leave her.
And it wasn’t part of the plan for him to be on the next field. She had smiled knowingly, one couldn’t really expect one such as him to stay… So he was meant to be just a memory of the time spent in that field, good moments lived that would only be relived when looking back on the past.
She was taken aback, when a couple of days later, he arrived on the field. Not part of the plan, unexpected indeed. It warmed her up inside, and she felt flattered. Others noticed his presence and knew he was there because of her. Yet they didn’t seem to mind his being there.
Time ticked by slowly. Found them resting under a tree, enveloped by the night and mists, cold rattling their bones, so that they sought shelter. That night, his wildness tied itself with a pretty lace around her.
He wasn’t going to let go.
Once she realised it was a tight knot, she tried to push him away, untie the intricate bow. When she put her finger to work on the lace, he looked up at her. Round lovely deep eyes, in which she could get lost, won her over and she let go.
She tried to explain that she was not his best choice. The words she uttered just made him more resolute on his decision to stay by her side. She couldn’t understand why, and he couldn’t explain it in a language she’d understand.
Still, he made her smile.
If you glance into the window of their home, you’ll see them happily sharing a bed.
A contented sigh from her, her hand softly stroking his head.
And he…
He will softly purr.

I wrote this a long time ago, but it is still one of my favourite short stories. After a lot of back and forth trying to decide if I should post the “Cat” collection, I decided to be a little brave and open and post it.
The “Cat” series was written during a very difficult time in my life, and each one was written with a specific friend in mind, who had helped me along it. The title actually comes from the name of one of those people. And it works charmingly for the whole “reveal” at the end.
Hope you liked it and didn’t mind I added some writing in here.