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October 8, 2010

New Books: Mud Pies and Other Recipes

Every few months, another reissue from the New York Review of Books Children’s Collection comes out. And every few months, I have to rave about it here, because they’re all just amazing. This time, it’s Marjorie Winslow’s 1961 gem Mud Pies and Other Recipes, a “cookbook for dolls,” as author explains in the introduction, “written for kind climates and summertime.” (Not all kids are into dolls, true, but I find these recipes work just as well for loveys and stuffed animals.)

Winslow’s tone is studiously serious, as befits the subject matter, and children will appreciate the lack of any hint of a patronizing tone. Yet she accomplishes this while never losing a certain twinkle: “Doll cookery is not a very exacting art. The time it takes to cook a casserole depends on how long your dolls are able to sit at table without falling over.” (You can almost hear Julia Child saying it, can’t you?) The accompanying illustrations by Erik Blegvad are equally charming.

The recipes themselves range from basic appetizers (Stuffed Sea Shells: “Scoop up a shovelful of sand.... Pack this into the tiniest sea shells you can find. Sprinkle these with a pinch of dry sparkling sand and serve.”) to main dishes both spare (Fried Water: “Serve small portions, because this dish is rich as well as mouth-watering.”) and more complex (Left-Handed Meatloaf and its variant, Right-Handed Meatloaf). Desserts are not neglected (e.g., Pine Needle Upside-Down Cake), nor are appropriate wine pairings (Mums ’61, from the flowers, of course).

The whole thing is executed so brilliantly from start to finish, and is, like every NYRCC reissue, so gorgeously packaged, that this slim volume may just need to spend some time on adult nightstands as well as on kids’ shelves. (I know it did in our house.)

[Photos: Whitney Webster]

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