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AMERICAN MOSAIC - June 20, 2003: Question About Foods that Americans Like / Music from a New Album of Women in Jazz / Report on a Movie About a Spelling Competition - 2003-06-19



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC -- VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.


This is Bob Doughty. On our program today,

We answer a question about foods Americans like to eat ...

We play music from a new album of women in jazz ...

And we report on a new movie about a spelling contest.

Spellbound Movie


A spelling competition might not sound like the most exciting subject for a movie. But critics and the public have praised a new movie called “Spellbound.” The movie also has won many awards and was nominated for Best Documentary at the most recent Academy Awards. Shep O’Neal has more.


The movie “Spellbound” was released in the United States last month during the seventy-sixth yearly National Spelling Bee competition in Washington, D.C. It is the true story of eight young spelling champions from different parts of America. They competed with about two-hundred-forty other students at the national spelling competition in Washington in nineteen-ninety-nine. Students between the ages of eight and fifteen compete each year to be named the best speller in America.

The National Spelling Bee may seem like a simple competition. An official reads a different word to each student. That student must say the word and spell it correctly. Those who misspell a word must leave the competition until only one student remains as champion. The champion wins twelve-thousand dollars.

But this is not an easy contest. The students must spell very unusual and difficult words that almost no one has even heard of before. Words like “euonym” or “vivisepulture” or “succedaneum.”

Jeff Blitz and Sean Welch made the movie “Spellbound.” It was their first movie. Mister Welch says the Spelling Bee is a celebration of education. Other people say their movie is a celebration of America. Some of the students in the documentary have rich parents who employ special spelling teachers. Others have parents who do not have a lot of money.

One of the students in the movie is from Texas. Her parents came to America illegally from Mexico twenty years ago. Her father still does not speak much English. Two other students in the movie have parents who came from India. The eight students in the movie are very different from each other. But they all share a love of words.

The movie shows the students and their parents at home, preparing for the contest and competing at the National Spelling Bee. There is a great deal of tension, pressure, surprise, happiness and sadness until only one speller remains as champion. But we will not tell you who wins. That would take all the suspense out of “Spellbound.”

Food in America


Our VOA listener question this week comes from India. Meena Shukul in Uttar-Pradesh asks about the kinds of foods American people love to eat.

Because so many different people live in the United States, many different foods are found here as well. Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Lebanese and Indian – these are just a few of the different foreign foods that Americans enjoy.

Many Americans also love local foods that are special to their area of the country. In the southern state of Louisiana, people enjoy spicy Cajun and Creole foods. Creole uses traditional French cooking with Spanish, African, Native American and other influences. The city of New Orleans is known for its Creole, while Cajun is more popular in other areas. There are differences between the two kinds of cooking. Many have been lost, though, as Louisiana food has gained national appeal.

In the middle of the United States, farmers grow wheat, corn and other grains. Corn boiled in water is especially popular here. But Americans everywhere like to eat corn that expands with a loud noise when heated -- popcorn. It is popular at movies.

In the northern state of Wisconsin, farmers raise a lot of cows, so people eat a lot of milk products, like cheese. And in coastal states, especially, people love fresh seafood. In Maine, boiled lobster is popular with local citizens and travelers. This shellfish is caught in traps that are set on the bottom of the water.

Some foods are enjoyed all over the country. These include pizza. This large, flat bread is usually round and covered with cheese, tomato sauce and other toppings. Another food is ice cream, a sweet frozen milk product. Fried potatoes cooked in oil are also popular, and often eaten with hamburgers. Really these are not made with ham from a pig, but with beef from a cow. Still another favorite is chocolate.

Americans call foods without much health value “junk food." Junk food is one reason the number of overweight people in the United States and other countries has increased. Public health officials say more than sixty percent of American adults are overweight or obese. Not only do many people eat junk food, they also eat more food than they burn off as energy. This energy imbalance leads to weight gain. Officials are urging Americans to exercise more and to eat more fruits and vegetables in place of foods high in fats and sweeteners.

Lady Sings The Blues


Capital Records has released a new album that honors women in jazz. It is called “Lady Sings The Blues.” Steve Ember tells us more.


“Lady Sings The Blues” has twenty-eight songs by some of the most popular women jazz singers of all time. These include Billie Holliday, Keely Smith, Rosemary Clooney, Diana Krall and Norah Jones. Here, Sarah Vaughn sings “Stormy Weather.”


Another singer heard on the new album is Ella Fitzgerald. She was known to millions of jazz fans as the “First Lady of Song.” Listen as she sings “Solitude.”


Record company officials say most of the sales of jazz music these days are of albums recorded by women. One of the most popular of these singers still recording today is Etta James. We leave you with one of the songs by Etta James included on “Lady Sings The Blues.” The song is called “Body and Soul.”



This is Bob Doughty. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

Our program was written by Shelley Gollust, Jill Moss and Nancy Steinbach. Our studio engineer was Rick Barnes. And our producer was Paul Thompson.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC -- VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.