I was guilty of considerable sighing and whining this week when I discovered that one of my favorite titles to handsell is in the spring is now out of print: Mudpies and Other Recipes: A Cookbook for Dolls written by Marjorie Winslow and illustrated by the brilliant Erik Blegvad (who illustrated another out-of-print favorite, Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear! by N.M. Bodecker). At some point I ought to write this book a proper bibliobituary, but first I’d like to give it a lengthier salute here.
Originally published by The MacMillan Company in 1961, Mudpies is one of those perfect little gift books that I suspected suffered some for its inability to fit perfectly in any one section of a bookstore. It’s got the trim size of a chapter book but doesn’t really belong with those like-sized titles as it hasn’t got true chapters — it’s a recipe book (obviously). It would easily get lost in a cookbook section, though, as it’s so very small and thin, and besides, it doesn’t really BELONG in the cookbook section, unless you’ve got small children and dolls browsing in yours, which most of us do not.
In our store this book took up residence in our "small books" section, which sits above our picture books and (I’ll admit) is often overlooked by our customers. Occasionally the book would also get moved to a place of honor among the featured gift books or "small gems" that routinely rotate in and out of position near our cash registers. But my favorite spot to feature Mudpies was on our annual spring-themed book display, where some lucky customer would inevitably find it and utter audible chuckles as they found themselves being completely and utterly charmed by its contents, which are indeed completely and utterly charming.
Yes, this book is indeed a cookbook for dolls, and a very detailed, deadpan one at that. Allow me to reprint a few selections from the text for you from my very own copy of the book which (THANK GOODNESS) I bought before it couldn’t be easily had.
First, a snippet from the book’s foreward:
Doll cookery is not a very exacting art. The time it takes to cook a casserole depends upon how long your dolls are able to sit at table without falling over. And if a recipe calls for a cupful of something, you can use a measuring cup or a buttercup. It doesn’t much matter. What does matter is that you select the best ingredients available, set a fine table, and serve with style.
Here is one of the book’s five recipes for Appetizers:
STUFFED SEA SHELLS
Scoop up a shovelful of sand that has just been licked by a wave. Pack this into the tiniest sea shells you can find . Sprinkle these with a pinch of dry sparkling sand and serve.
From Soups, Salads & Sandwiches:
Pick a flower from a dogwood tree. Remove the petals and place them on a flat pan or rock. In each petal wrap a long green pine cone and secure with a toothpick. Broil in the sun.
From Main Dishes, my favorite recipe in the book:
Melt one ice cube in a skillet by placing it in the sun. When melted, add 1 cup water and sauté slowly — until water is transparent. Serve small portions, because this dish is rich as well as mouth-watering.
The Pastries & Desserts section follows in the same manner and includes recipes for Mud Pies, Mud Pies à la Mud, Pie-Throwing Pies, Easy As Pies, Sawdust Cake, Pine Needle Upside-Down Cake, Pencil Sharpener Pudding, Putty Fours, Instant Mud Custard, and this one…
Pick a dandelion from the lawn carefully, so as not to disturb the fluff. Hand it to your doll and tell her to lick.
By now you have the idea. The book concludes with four recipes for beverages (including Rainspout Tea) and Suggested Menus.
What you don’t get from my little snippets here is the joy of seeing this text alongside Eric Blegvad’s perfect pen and ink illustrations. To get the full effect, you’ll just have to get your hands on a copy of this book. Somewhere… Somehow… (sigh)