Fried Water, Putty Fours: A double review of Marjorie Winslow's "A Cookbook for Dolls"

Baby Doll with ButtonsPart I: A review of Marjorie Winslow's Mudpies and Other Recipes: A Cookbook for Dolls
by Emberly Davis

This book has been rated nine stars out of ten.

Emberly Davis is a 4th grader at Drachman Elementary and enjoys cooking, writing, reading, acting, swimming, and building parachutes for eggs.

If you like dolls and like feeding your dolls and if you like cooking, baking, or boiling you would like this book. There are so many recipes. My favorites are: Fried Water, Mock Mud Puddle Soup, and Pencil Sharpener Pudding. I like this book because it is very imaginative and very nice--not violent at all. What you'll need to read this book: a good imagination, stuffed animals or dolls, some sand, some water, pebbles, leaves, and other little trinkets. Possibly a tea set for dolls. So when you read this book, I think you'll like it. If you like dolls.

Many of the ingredients are found mostly in a more green area than Tucson, AZ. I had to use substitutes for some of the recipes. For example, in the recipe Boiled Buttons I used mesquite leaves instead of berry tree leaves and dried agave for crab grass. I drained the whole thing over a palm tree.

My dolls really loved the food. Some of their responses were, "MMmmm it taste like strawberries," and "the Fried Water is walking down the street of my tongue." Your dolls should always take a bath after you cook with them, a hot one.

Here are some recipes I made on my own:

Rock Tea
Put 7 very odd colored rocks in a bowl with water and let it sit for five minutes. Pick 3 spines off a cactus and poke each rock then take rocks out and serve.

Dandelion Raspberry Pudding
Fold a raspberry good
and tight bring it home
and turn on the light
dandelion fisk it
through bake it nice and
hot serve cool.


Part II: A second review of Mud Pies and Other Recipes: A Cookbook for Dolls
by Renee Angle

Renee Angle is the Poetry Center's Program Coordinator as well as a teacher, a writer, and a step-mom to Emberly.

"If you like cooking"

My step-daughter Emberly and I share a love for playing with dolls. She recently adopted several of my own Cabbage Patch Kids from childhood and we had already been cooking up tea parties and various treats out of salt dough, play-dough, pomegranates and grasses from our backyard when Poetry Center Intern Elizabeth Falcón reminded me of a vintage classic, Mud Pies and Other Recipes: A Cookbook for Dolls. As soon as I saw the book, I knew I needed to bring it home. While there is a rich body of literature for children and young adults available today, it's not always easy to find books that match Emberly's interests so perfectly. She is, already, a budding foodie, who does a lot of cooking and experimentation in the kitchen. Plus, she's a reader that likes to read for facts and information. I was excited by the opportunity to explore her cooking interests in the imaginary realm of poem making, where we could eat foods we've always wanted to but couldn't, like poison mushrooms (come on, they do look good) or a clarinet (we differ in opinion on how this might taste). In our poem writing and our play making, "my tongue" becomes a literal instrument-a tuning fork--and the verb "to cook" takes on a whole new connotation--it began to mean, for us, to transform, concoct, warp, and wield. How fun.

"It is very imaginative and very nice"

The book itself is a slim volume and its formatting instantly reminded me of Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons, especially the "Food" section, of course. Those readers who crave vibrant, textured, musical language might be disappointed, though. For the most part this is an amazingly straightforward book, it is as the title suggests, it is a cookbook and the recipes are short and informational. Or, at least that was my first impression. After spending more time with the book it really grew on me, and I began to appreciate the straightforward approach as one in which the imagination is assumed and not pandered to. Despite the straightforward approach, the spirit of fun about the project of cooking for dolls is not lost on Marjorie Winslow. "Mock Mud Puddle Soup" is "mock" in that its what you make for lack of a rainstorm, which Emberly, a Tucson resident most her life, instantly understood. Cooking time is relative "This takes about as long as chasing a butterfly" and there are plenty of puns like "Putty Fours" in which children are instructed to ask a neighborhood plumber to fill four acorn cups with putty for them. Okay, so the book was written in the 60's, but still...

Muddy HandsWhile Emberly and I both enjoyed reading this book, I have a feeling it won't be one we return to often. What this book does best is invite children to create for themselves, using materials at hand. Again, I think the straightforward approach is what makes the invitation work. Emmy has already begun amassing a collection of her own recipes. It's nice to see her using what she reads as a bridge to what she does.

"If you like dolls"

I agree with Emberly in her assessment that this is a book for children with an inclination for playing with dolls. Though, as a teacher, I can see how the concept for A Cookbook for Dolls could be adapted to suit a more general audience by asking students to "cook with their imaginations" and invent recipes for any type of creature, or imaginary companion they may live with. It's also a great opportunity to explore the five senses, and within that, the concept of synesthesia, which for us came up without much effort. We were cooking with sounds, favorite songs and artworks, gross bodily functions, objects and items that are far from appetizing. We used a three column technique to compose our poems. In one column we wrote down directional phrases from our favorite cookbooks. In the second column we listed an assortment of favorite foods. In the third, things we wish we could taste but couldn't. Or, things we would never want to taste (like a unibrow). Next, we mixed it up, writing poems that used words from all three columns.

I was also able to use this book as a touchstone for Stein's Tender Buttons and introduced Emmy to a few of the poems in the "Food" section. At first, she didn't like them at all. But about a week later she came back asking me to read "clear soup and oranges" for her again. Pairing Stein's Tender Buttons with A Cookbook for Dolls might be the reason why we naturally gravitated to tasting sounds in our recipes. One of Emmy's poems even ended up using some musical notation and I noticed that she began to compose aloud as she wrote which she hadn't previously done. I was pleased by the pairing of sound and taste that resulted from our poems. After all, like food, words taste good in your mouth. But, like so many things, Emmy already knew this. I'm glad to have had her remind me.

Created on: 
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Arizona Board of Regents