Limón in the Cazuela

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos is a delightful Hispanic incarnation of The House that Jack Built. It tells the story of a rice pudding from the farm to the table. The reader is introduced to two new words, first in English, every time he turns the page. From then on, those key words are only written in Spanish.

Before I opened the book, Mr. Glad was enjoying it and noticed that the word for lime was much like our lemon. That made me wonder what the word for lemon is.

New World Spanish-English Dictionary sits on the reference shelf here as a leftover from the days when four of our children in turn studied Spanish. Even though their father and I never did study that language that is so useful, almost essential, in California, we’ve lived here our whole lives and have picked up some vocabulary, sometimes by consulting this word book, as I did on this occasion.

The hen helps by grating the limón

I don’t know why, but my dictionary is wrong about limón. It says that it means lemon, and that if you want to talk about a lime you say lima. I found it hard to believe that this book written by a woman with a Hispanic name, illustrated by a man with a Hispanic name, with the intent of teaching 21 words, would get any wrong.

But I have a friend who is married to a Mexican man and teaches at a bilingual school, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask my local expert. She wrote, “Okay babe. Limón means lime and limón agria or limón Amarillo can mean lemon. There is a lemon-like fruit called Lima limón. There are not lemons like we have here in the U.S. in Mexico.” That seemed a pretty authoritative word on the subject.

This is a picture book, an Easy Reader, so I must not forget to mention the illustrations, which as you can see from these sample pages I photographed are party-bright, full of the joy and fun of cooking together.

At the back you will find a glossary with pronunciations, in case your Spanish is rusty, and best of all, a recipe for rice pudding. What I would love to do with a young child is read the book, make the pudding together while using the English and Spanish words to talk about the ingredients, and then read the book again while the cazuela simmers.

I would rather one of my grandchildren helped me in the kitchen, while we keep the animals outdoors or in the pages of the book. But an arroz con leche pudding with plenty of crema and some zest of limón would suit me just fine.

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