Every child should have this recipe book.
I don’t often say things like that, so it must be true. I’d even go so far as to claim that every child needs to have this recipe book.
The book that has so totally captured my children’s imaginations is Mud Pies and Other Recipes by Marjorie Winslow. It was originally published in 1961 but has fortunately been reprinted more recently, which means you don’t have to pay bucket-loads for it on Amazon. And no, I’m not being paid, blackmailed or otherwise encouraged to say wonderful things about it – the publishers don’t even know I exist. I do have a copy of this book that I’d like to give away, but it isn’t some freebie sample or review copy from anywhere. I bought it myself.
So – what’s so good about this book, anyway? Although its contents are divided into Appetizers, Soups, Salads, Sandwiches, Main Dishes, Pastries, Desserts and Beverages, and although there is even a section on Suggested Menus, it doesn’t contain any recipes that you would actually want to eat. Unless you were a doll, that is – or perhaps a garden sprite or an imaginary friend.
And that’s exactly where the power of this book lies. Using ingredients found easily in a backyard or on the seashore, children learn skills of food preparation and serving that would be worthy of any Michelin-starred chef or restaurant.
I have watched my children sieving, stirring, pouring, seasoning, baking, spreading, sprinkling, skewering and cutting their ingredients. They have arranged their meals on serving platters, plates and in bowls, and carried everything carefully to the pass. Whether as Chef de Cuisine, Sous-Chef, Commis or General Dogsbody, they have negotiated their roles and responsibilities in the industries of Food and Beverage Production, Service and Kitchen Stewarding. And they have done all of this themselves in a world entirely of their own making.
Pine Needle Upside-Down Cake, Crabgrass Gumbo, Dandelion Soufflé, Leaves en Brochette …
And Mud Pies, of course …
To a coffee can filled 3/4 full of rich dirt, add just enough water to make a very firm mud. Pack this mud into the cups in the bottom half of a heavy cardboard egg carton. Set in the sun to dry slightly, then turn the carton over and unmold on a sunny terrace or sidewalk. When the pies are hard, they are done. Serves 12.
These mud pies keep indefinitely and are good to have on hand for impromptu entertaining.
This is exactly the sort of book that I would have spent hours poring over as a child. Heck, I’d love to have more free hours to spend poring over it even now as an adult! It’s charming, whimsical and dated, yes. But it’s also creative, sophisticated, inspirational, magical and timeless. My only regret is that I didn’t come across it sooner in the lives of my children.
I haven’t forgotten that I mentioned a Giveaway …
I have a spare copy of Mudpies and Other Recipes by Marjorie Winslow that I will send to someone who promises to let it get a bit muddy in the name of creativity. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in the space below this post. You don’t have to say anything much – a quick ‘Hi’ will do. Just something to let me know you’d like to enter the draw. Random.org will choose the lucky winner (make sure you leave a valid email address so I can contact you – it won’t be published, but I’ll need to contact you to find out your mailing address if you win).
The deadline for entry to the giveaway is at midnight (BST) on the day that my children break up from school for their summer holidays – Wednesday 11th July 2012.
Good luck 🙂