mother goose recipe archive

Here are the Mother Goose recipes featured during Children’s Book Week (November, 2007):

1. Pease Porridge Hot split pea soup

2. Cheesecake to clap for (Pat-a-Cake)

3. Queen of Hearts Strawberry Tart 

4. Pumpkin Applesauce Tea Bread (Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater)

5. Apple Mushroom Omelet (Humpty Dumpty)

my life for a tart

                                  The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer’s day;

                                  The Knave of Hearts,
He stole the tarts
And took them clean away.

                                  The King of Hearts
Called for the tarts
And beat the knave full sore;

                                  The Knave of Hearts
Brought back the tarts
And vowed to steal no more.

I can’t believe he thought he could get away with it. But I guess knaves will be knaves.

Welcome to Day 4 of my Children’s Book Week Celebration featuring recipes inspired by Mother Goose. Just for you, I have once again thrown caution to the wind in order to bring you the real stories behind the seemingly innocent rhymes we all learned as children. At least for me, peas and pumpkins will never be the same.

The Queen of Hearts first appeared in print in the European Magazine (1782). The rhyme actually had three more stanzas which were normally not printed because they were deemed too bawdy for children. (Here we go.) Although the Queen of Hearts was included in some nursery rhyme collections, she didn’t become well known until Lewis Carroll included her in Alice in Wonderland, published in 1805. He depicted her as a playing card with an attitude. Very clever, indeed.

The Queen was always grumpy and liked to play croquet, using a flamingo as a mallet and a hedgehog for a ball. She liked to say, “Off with his head!” at anything that moved. When she saw three gardener cards painting white roses red, she demanded that their heads be cut off. She wanted the same thing for the Cheshire Cat, even though his was only a floating head. Basically, she wanted everybody’s head cut off. It could have been a PMS thing.

And when the knave stole the tarts? She demanded that he be sentenced before the trial. Kind of like having dessert before the meal.

So just who was this Queen, really? Historians, of course, disagree. Some say she was actually Elizabeth, granddaughter of Mary Queen of Scots. Others say the Queen could have been Judith from the Bible. But these speculations fail to take into account the Queen’s appearance on playing cards, which date back to 1650. These early French decks contained illustrations of kings and queens over 100 years before the rhyme appeared, so it seems unlikely that the Queen of Hearts was based on an actual queen from history.

Evidence is different for the knave, though. Apparently he was a French rapscallion named Etienne de Vignoles. Just your typical pillager, gambler, and mercenary, who appeared in many funny nonsense rhymes. Not someone you’d want your daughter to marry. Unless he swore off tarts.

Speaking of which, I have found the perfect recipe! It comes from Ruth Ann Zaroff’s Alice in Wonderland website. She calls it “the Queen’s secret recipe.” Apparently, if made correctly, they are good enough to steal. Make these for someone you love. 

(makes one 9″ pie)


1 stick butter, melted
1 tsp sugar
1 cup flour


4 cups whole strawberries, hulled
1-1/2 cups warm water
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 T corn starch
1 3-oz package strawberry gelatin
1 drops red food coloring

Whipped cream

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all crust ingredients and pat into a 9″ pie plate. Prick the bottom with a fork and bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool.

2. Arrange whole strawberries in the crust.

3. In a saucepan, cook water, sugar, and corn starch until the mixture becomes clear. Add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Add food coloring. Pour over the strawberries that are in the crust. Chill well.

4. Top with whipped cream before serving.

5. Beware of women eating chocolate and carrying flamingos.


Weekend Wrap-up:  Simply Eggs-traordinary!

peter peter peter


Peter Peter Pumpkin eater,
Had a wife but couldn’t keep her.
He put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her very well.

That saucy Mother Goose is full of surprises. We started out fine on Monday, talking about Pat-a-cake and how comforting and life affirming it was to hear those words when we were little. Yesterday, I discovered pease porridge was made from peas. I admit that rattled my pod some. Now, I learn that Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater has some X-rated connotations.

As they say in some polite circles, “Butter my butt and call me a biscuit!”

Unlike the vast majority of nursery rhymes which originated in Europe, Peter and his pumpkin sprouted right here on American soil. This makes perfect sense when you consider that pumpkins were not indigenous to England. The British had never seen or eaten pumpkins until recently. That lets them off the hook.

On the surface, this nursery rhyme seems simple enough: Peter, a pumpkin connoisseur, doesn’t get along with his wife. He locks her up at home so she’ll behave. End of story. Then, along come some literary historians who love to analyze, interpret and speculate. They say that Peter’s wife has strayed, so he makes her wear a chastity belt (pumpkin shell). Supposedly the word “pumpkin” was a euphemism for a woman’s genitalia in Colonial America. Hence the chastity belt being a shell for the pumpkin.

Another interpretation cites the practice of nobility exiling unwanted wives to remote locations, such as nunneries or castles. Case in point: Henry VIII sending Catherine of Aragon to Kimbolten Castle, so Anne Boleyn can become Queen Bee.

But the darkest take of all is that Peter has murdered his wife, and married someone else. This is a loveless relationship, but after educating and improving himself, all is well. Read about it in the second verse to Peter’s tale:

Peter Peter pumpkin eater,
Had another and didn’t love her;
Peter learned to read and spell,
And then he loved her very well.

Hmmm. What can we deduce from all this? It sounds like Peter blames his poor wife for everything. But, if he hadn’t spent so much time eating pumpkins, and paid more attention to his wife, she wouldn’t have acted up. Exiling her didn’t solve anything. On the rebound, he caroused with a woman he didn’t love. His only saving grace was that he educated himself and finally came to his senses. My conclusion? No pumpkin pie for the guys this Thanksgiving.

Another disturbing event: it seems that Peter isn’t the only one eating pumpkins. For Halloween, we put two almost perfectly shaped pumpkins on our front doorstep. We don’t usually carve our pumpkins, since we want them to last until after Thanksgiving.

About a week ago, I saw this:


Bad, bad squirrels. I’m guessing they’re all named Peter.

Their wives must have been very naughty, because look:


You have to admire the perfectly rounded entrance, though. The squirrels are gorging themselves. Sign of a cold winter? Len even saw two chipmunks munching away inside the pumpkin, or what’s left of it.

Dear friends, after seeing the remains of my pumpkins and reading about Peter, I am fairly traumatized. I must go lie down. While I’m resting, consider this recipe delish from the Birchwood Inn in Temple, New Hampshire. I’m sure you’ve had pumpkin bread before, but not like this.

(makes one 9×5″ loaf)

2 cups sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 cup cooked and mashed pumpkin
1 cup applesauce
2/3 cup oil
3 eggs
1/3 cup milk
3-2/3 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup raisins or dates (I prefer dates)

1. Beat sugar, molasses, pumpkin, applesauce, oil, milk, and eggs on medium speed.

2. Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

3. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Pour into greased 9×5″ loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

4. Cool 10 minutes in pans. Wrap in foil and store overnight.

5. Never trust a man alone with a pumpkin.

Tomorrow: Off with their heads!

pease porridge, please

Pease porridge hot,
Pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot,
Nine days old.

Some like it hot,
Some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot
Nine days old.

Welcome to the second day of my Children’s Book Week celebration featuring recipes inspired by Mother Goose. Hope you had fun patting your cheesecake.

While researching Pease Porridge Hot, I made a startling discovery. Pease porridge is actually made from peas! (Duh.) Why didn’t somebody tell me this? Do you realize I lived my whole life thinking pease porridge was oatmeal?

I mean, I really have to get out more.

I’m sure it’s the word, porridge, that threw me off. I think it’s an American thing to call oatmeal or cream of wheat, or any hot cereal, porridge. How deceiving! Somebody, notify the Mush Police!

Anyhow, pease supposedly comes from the Old English, pise, and the Latin, pisum. Basically, it was a collective term for mushy cooked vegetables. You know how it is with peas. They hang in groups. Just as well. Any time a pea is on its own, it gets into trouble, usually lodging itself in a child’s nostril, or gleefully hurtling itself from a shooter.

As with many familiar nursery rhymes, the exact origin of Pease Porridge Hot is unknown, but it does date back to Medieval times. Dried peas, water, salt and other spices simmered for hours in a big kettle hung over a fire. Sometimes other vegetables were added, if available, with pork or bacon for flavor. The peasants ate this day in, day out, since they couldn’t afford meat. Each morning they added more liquid to the pot, in order to extend the porridge for one more meal. It’s unlikely, but not wholly inconceivable, that the porridge lasted a full nine days.

In 19th century England, hot pease pudding was sold by street vendors. It was originally associated with the industrial Northeastern part of the country, especially around Newcastle. Now it is more widely available, and sometimes sold in butcher shops, since it is often eaten with pork.

You probably guessed that pease porridge, pudding, or pottage (how very British!) is the precursor to our modern day split pea soup. It’s still a thick affair, but not as viscous as the original pease pudding, which supposedly resembled hummus.

Now I’m definitely in the mood for some split pea soup, since the weather has turned cold. Here are two recipes: the first is from the Mother Goose Cookbook (illustrated by last week’s guest, Carol Schwartz), and the second is one that can be made in the crock pot (ideal for writers who don’t want to keep watching the stove). Try the first recipe for an authentic Mother Goose experience, the second, if you’re simply after soup.

Laura Ingalls Wilder said she liked her pease porridge hot or cold, but it never lasted in their house for very long.

(makes 4 cups)

1 cup dried green split peas
3 cups cold water
1 tsp salt
1 peeled medium yellow onion, studded with 2 whole cloves
1 tsp fresh marjoram, or 1/2 tsp dried
1 tsp fresh tarragon, or 1/2 tsp dried
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 T unsalted butter
1. Place split peas and water into a 2-quart heavy-bottom saucepan. Add salt and onion. Bring peas to a boil and simmer uncovered over low heat for 1 hour. Thin with additional water as needed; mixture should be thick but not dry.

2. Remove onion with a slotted spoon. Discard cloves and return onion to pot. Add marjoram, tarragon and pepper. Cook very slowly on very low heat 1 hour more, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. The mixture should be very thick, but again water may be added if it’s too dry.

3. If desired, transfer porridge to a food processor and puree 1 minute. Add salt, if necessary. Spoon into heated bowls and dot with butter or plain yogurt.

(6 servings)


2 cups dried split peas
2 quarts water
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup sliced celery
1 ham hock or 1/4 pound salt pork
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
6 whole peppercorns

Soak peas in water overnight. Combine all ingredients in crock pot. Cover with water. Cook on low 10-12 hours, or on high 5-6 hours. (Soup may be thinned with hot milk if too thick.)



Tomorrow:  Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater