Just in case you were wondering, the reason we usually look so spiffy around here is because we have the best washerwoman.
Her name is Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and she hails from the Lake District. Do you know her too? A tidier, more conscientious “clear-starcher” you’d be hard pressed to find. The other day, when untimely Spring (?) snowflakes were drifting down from the sky, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle chanced by to deliver a freshly laundered stack of tea towels and table linens.
We couldn’t very well turn her out in a snowstorm, so we invited her in for tea. Coincidentally, Cornelius and I had just baked a fresh batch of Littletown-Farm Carrot Cookies. Every Easter we get into a “Peter Rabbit mood” and crave carrots. We found the cookie recipe in Peter Rabbit’s Natural Foods Cookbook, and since we’d made Fierce Bad Rabbit’s Carrot-Raisin Salad from that book many times before, we thought the cookies would also be a good bet.
Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle was ecstatic when she saw the cookies because it reminded her of home and the time she had tea with Lucie, the little girl who wandered into her cottage kitchen one day while she was busy ironing.
Even though she’s now an international celebrity thanks to Miss Potter’s book about her, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle remains modest and sweet, not the least bit prickly, and Cornelius, in particular, was totally taken with her little black nose that went “sniffle, sniffle, snuffle” and her eyes that went “twinkle, twinkle.”
Over tea, she shared a few tidbits about her book. She proudly reported that she was modeled after Miss Potter’s pet hedgehog and the Potter family’s Scottish washerwoman Kitty McDonald. Lucie is based on a child friend named Lucie Carr, daughter of the Newlands Church Vicar. Because Lucie once left her gloves behind after tea, Miss Potter decided to have the Lucie in her story be in the habit of losing her handkerchiefs. It was while searching for her lost “pocket-handkins” that Lucie stumbled upon Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle’s house.
Miss Potter loved sketching her pet hedgehog, but struggled with depicting Lucie. Seems she was far more comfortable drawing animals than people. Never mind, it was a good story all the same with lovely watercolors of farm animals and the Newlands Valley, the paths, the fells, and a spring, with warm, cozy interior views of rustic domestic life.
We definitely could have chatted for hours more, but Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle had a few more stops to make. Both Benjamin Bunny and Peter Rabbit make cameo appearances in her book, and now she was most anxious to deliver Peter’s blue jacket so he would be all set for Easter Sunday. We sent her on her way with a basket of cookies and our best wishes, and she thanked us with an extra twinkle, twinkle in her eyes.
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♥ THE RECIPE ♥
Just in case you have an unexpected furry guest (with or without prickles), you might wish to whip up a batch of these yummy cookies. They’re soft and cakey and not overly sweet. I like that the recipe calls for golden raisins because I find regular raisins too cloying.
I was surprised to see “soft vegetable shortening” (Crisco?) in the ingredients list as this is supposed to be a natural foods cookbook, and for the most part, the recipes do comply with that (smaller amounts of sugar, use of honey, orange juice, unbleached or whole wheat flour, yogurt, etc.). We don’t stock Crisco in-house so I substituted butter and they turned out fine, a light cookie that goes nicely with a warm cuppa (you might get a firmer cookie if you use vegetable shortening). Mind you don’t eat too many, though, lest your nose start to wiggle or your whiskers twitch.
LITTLETOWN-FARM CARROT COOKIES
makes 4 dozen 3-inch cookies
3/4 cup water (more if carrots go dry)
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup soft vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup golden raisins
1. Wash and scrape the carrots, rinse and cut them into 1/4-inch slices. Measure 1-1/2 cups of carrot into a saucepan, add the water and a little salt, and cook (covered) over medium heat or until the carrots are tender for about 15-20 minutes. When they are done, drain the water, place into a mixing bowl and then mash the cooked carrots with a fork.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
3. While the carrots are cooking, put the white flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a mixing bowl and stir lightly with a fork (or whisk) until they are thoroughly mixed.
4. Add the soft shortening, butter or margarine and brown sugar to the mashed carrots and mix well. Beat in the 2 eggs.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the carrot mixture and stir until they are completely blended. Stir in the raisins.
6. Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake 10 minutes, then cool on wire racks.
Adapted from Peter Rabbit’s Natural Foods Cookbook by Arnold Dobrin, illustrated by Beatrix Potter (Frederick Warne, 1977).
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♥ A TAD MORE ♥
♥ Beatrix took her animal friends with her wherever she went, carrying Mrs. Tiggy-winkle in a basket, her rabbits and mice in wooden boxes. She grew close to the Warne family — not only her editor Norman, but also to his nieces and nephews. She once sent a picture letter from Wales to Winifred Warne (Fruing’s daughter) about her pet hedgehog:
My hedgehog Mrs. Tiggy-winkle is a great traveller, I don’t know how many journeys she hasn’t done. She enjoys going by train, she is always very hungry when she is on a journey. The next journey will be quite a short one, I think I am going to the sea-side on Saturday. I wonder if I shall find any crabs and shells and shrimps. Mrs. Tiggy-winkle won’t eat shrimps; I think it is very silly of her, she will eat worms and beetles, and I am sure that shrimps would be much nicer. I think you must ask Mrs. Tiggy-winkle to tea when she comes back to London later on, she will drink milk like anything, out of a doll’s tea-cup!
♥ You can read The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle in its entirely at Project Gutenberg.org.
♥ In case you’re ever lucky enough to be visiting the Lake District, look up the Littletown Farm Guest House, a working farm offering bed and breakfast accommodations at the foot of the Catbells, where you can see for yourself the beautiful countryside that inspired Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle’s story.
♥ If you find yourself in a Peter Rabbit-y mood, check out any of these three little cookbooks for more recipes.
Hope you’re having a nice Easter Week!
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This post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your bunny ears and bibs, and come join the delicious fun.
Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.