mrs. tiggy-winkle comes to tea

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.

lucie and tiggy large
“Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle’s hand, holding the tea-cup, was very very brown, and very very wrinkly with the soap-suds; and all through her gown and her cap, there were hair-pins sticking wrong end out; so that Lucie didn’t like to sit too near her.”

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.

lucie entering
“Lucie opened the door: and what do you think there was inside the hill? — a nice clean kitchen with a flagged floor and wooden beams — just like any other farm kitchen. Only the ceiling was so low that Lucie’s head nearly touched it; and the pots and pans were small, and so was everything there.”

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.

Beatrix_Potter,_Mrs_Tiggy-Winkle,_Peter_Rabbit
“All the way down the path little animals came out of the fern to meet them; the very first that they met were Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny!”

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.

tiggy collage

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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.

Ribbet collage

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

5 carrots
3/4 cup water (more if carrots go dry)
salt
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
2 eggs
3/4 cup golden raisins
extra shortening

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).

cookie stack 500

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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 entirety at Project Gutenberg.org.

Little_Town_from_Cat_Bells
Little Town is a hamlet located in the Lake District National Park in Cumbria, England.

♥ 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.

Beatrix_Potter,_Mrs_Tiggy-Winkle,_Little-Town
“Once upon a time there was a little girl called Lucie, who lived at a farm called Little-town . . . One day Lucie came into the farmyard crying — oh, she did cry so! ‘I’ve lost my pocket-handkin! Three handkins and a pinny! Have you seen them, Tabby Kitten?'”
littletown b&b
Littletown Farm looks much the same as it did back in 1905 when Potter wrote this story.

♥ If you find yourself in a Peter Rabbit-y mood, check out any of these three little cookbooks for more recipes.🙂

IMG_0424

Hope you’re having a nice Easter Week!

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weekend cooking button (2)180This 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.

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Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

48 thoughts on “mrs. tiggy-winkle comes to tea

  1. What a delightful way to begin the day! And thanks for the link back to the Carrot-Raisin Salad—that fierce bad rabbit was one of my childhood favorites. (Yeah, I was kind of a dark kid.)

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  2. What a playful post for Easter! Thank you, Jama. Cornelius and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle are obviously good buddies. Seeing your photos, with the tea and goodies carefully arranged, brought back memories of outdoor “pretend” tea parties (with grass and acorns and pine cones) with my brothers and sisters when we were kids.

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    1. Outdoor tea parties — what great memories, Mary. Your mention of grass, acorns and pine cones reminds me of Mud Pies and Other Recipes, which I love.

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  3. Hi, Jama. My British mother loved reading the Potter stories to us. It was a way of keeping the little “Yanks” connected to her family and home. Peter Rabbit was always my favorite. I loved the bad characters, too, like Squirrel Nutkin. I’m going to try the cookies. They look wonderful *and* healthy.

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    1. I find something new to delight me every time I reread any of the Potter books. I’m especially fond of The Tale of Samuel Whiskers and have been obsessed with roly-poly puddings ever since.

      All the recipes in the Peter Rabbit Natural Foods Cookbook are simple enough for kids to make with adult supervision and do lean on the healthy side, with small lists of ingredients, lots of fresh veggies, etc. The soft vegetable shortening was a surprise. These cookies taste even better the next day; they will likely be less sweet than what you’re used to (or maybe not).

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    1. Squee! Thanks so much for the link, Laura. I’d seen some of Potter’s letters, but found some new ones at the online exhibit. What treasures — it makes me a little sad that so few people send handwritten letters these days, and even fewer make sketches of what they see because everything is about digital cameras. I’ve always loved illustrated letters and journals.

      I do hope you get to visit the Lake District someday. It is just gorgeous and thanks to Potter, who left over 4000 acres of her property to the National Trust, the pristine beauty of the countryside has been preserved. When I visited Hill Top Farm in the early 80’s, her original watercolors were on display in the basement (they’ve since moved her art to a gallery in Hawkshead). The colors were much more vivid than what you see in the published books.

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  4. Such a lovely post full of whimsy and wonder! If you haven’t seen the movie Miss Potter, you may want to give it a go. Animation is used sparingly to depict the relationship between Miss Potter and the characters of her imagination.

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  5. There may be piles of snow outside my windows but this post brought spring into my home. Everything here today is simply precious. Thank you Jama for the Beatrix Potter memories.

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    1. Piles of snow? We are lucky ours melted away by day’s end. Hope Spring arrives to your neck of the woods soon. She seems quick fickle this year.

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  6. We have most of the Potter books & loved reading them. Now time to introduce my oldest granddaughter to Peter & Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and all the animals, and tea parties! I think your photos of the Lake Country are so inviting-I wish… And the carrot cookies look delightful. Thanks, Jama, as always for a special post.

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    1. Oh boy — it’s going to be SO wonderful to share the books with your granddaughter. I can picture you two having tea parties and reading and giggling. No doubt she will love meeting all the little animals.

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  7. Wonderful post! I visited Hill Top in the 80’s, too, and still use the tea cozy which depicts the animal characters popping out of windows and scattered in front of the house. Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is posed in the front door. Thanks for a delightful post!

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  8. Yummy! I love all that Peter Rabbit crockery! I used to visit Penrith in the Lakes every summer.

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      1. Yes I was. Can’t get there now I’m in Canada. We might see some bears this summer though, going to Edmonton to see family.

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  9. SO cute!!
    Sorry, Jama, I’ve been MIA… Still dealing with this job, but it’s finally winding down. I’ve been missing reading blogs and visiting favorite peeps!

    Hope you are well!

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    1. Hi Melissa! We’ve definitely missed you at The Hungry Artist but know you’ve been working really hard. Hope the project is panning out as you had hoped. Sounds like a huge challenge where you’ve maybe even surprised yourself at how you were able to meet it.🙂

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  10. Those cookies look like they would be good to draw or paint — I can imagine Ms. Potter’s illustrated versions. They seem scone-y. Did you think so?

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    1. Yes, you could say they’re like flatter scones. Definitely soft, at least they turned out that way with all butter and no shortening.

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  11. I can’t tell you how much I love your posts. I love the way you write and your photos and information. You’re an inspiration. And I just love Potter and her stories and drawings. I have two of the cookbooks you show here, but not the natural foods one. This is such a timely post too because I seem to have an excess of carrots and was thinking that a little baking was in order to use them up.

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    1. Thanks so much — you are too kind, and this means a lot coming from you. I’ve mentioned before how much I love your cookbook reviews. You have taught me a lot about the right way to focus on the essentials and make it interesting and personal.

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  12. What a sweet post with all of those pictures and information. It’s been ages since I’ve read a Beatrix Potter book but you’ve inspired me to look for some when my daughter is a little bit older and we can have our own tea parties. Perfect for the Easter season!

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  13. What a beautiful post for Easter weekend. I enjoyed the story, the Beatrix Potter pictures, and the carrot cookies — even virtually!

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  14. I love Beatrix Potter and would adore this cookbook. I find it interesting that they would use shortening also but still worth it. I agree about golden raisins, much better for baking.

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    1. Glancing through, I didn’t notice any other recipe that called for soft shortening. Unusual, but there it is. Nice to know you’re also a BP fan, Michelle!

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  15. Completely adoring your blog header right now. I used Beatrix Potter bedding and books in my eldest daughter’s nursery.. so delicate and beautiful. I love her stories, the gardens, the names of her characters and they way she personifies little country animals. So delightful.

    As far as these carrot cookies are concerned? I must make them!

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