Marks in Books 11: Hanukkah Gift Inscriptions

The gift exchanges, which are central to American winter holiday rituals, are not so easy to document.   Opening presents within the family circle may be a familiar subject for advertisements, book and magazine illustrations, and family photographs, but how often is it possible to reconstruct who got what from whom any given year?   Gift tags, with hand-written notes identifying the giver and the recipent go the way of wrapping paper and ribbon, as do lists of presents made for the purpose of writing thank-you notes.

So it was pure luck to discover a handful of books from the Cotsen family’s collection that Mrs. Cotsen gave to her children during the eight days of Hanukkah in 1966.  Mother carefully wrote the child’s name and the occasion on the blue family bookplate illustrated with a faun by Robert Anning Bell.  And her picture book selections were so imaginative…

There were, of course, books appropriate for the season.  The older of her two sons received a copy of A First Chanukkah Word Book.He also received from his mother a rather sophisticated picture  book with see-through pages by Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson, featuring her characters from the Moomintroll series.  It was designed in such a way that there was no good place to put the book plate!For her younger daughter, there was a book about nature issued by Ladybird Books, the English equivalent of Golden Books, that was so successful that the publisher never needed to expand the market overseas.  Perhaps Mrs. Cotsen found it in a London bookshop and brought it home. The littlest member of the Cotsen clan got the book in a most unusual format about a little bear cub who did everything his mother told him to grow up big and strong.  The story is imposed on a giant uncut signature, which is folded up like a map and  placed in a folder with a ribbon tie.  The reader has to unfold the sheet to see how the cub changed during the course of his regimen…The last book given as a present to the entire family in 1966, was a traditional fairy tale retold as a Hanukkah story, complete with snow, dragons, and a good reb overcoming an evil one:  It still finds its way into lists of books for the Jewish holiday.   And when it was read aloud, everyone liked it.   Mrs. Cotsen gets credit for identifying a story that would bring the family together.In memory of Florence Sacks, a wise and steadfast friend.

Get Jack Horner out of the Corner with Treats from Children’s Cookbooks!

Set the butter on the counter to soften.  Rummage around the cupboards for mixing bowls in all sizes needed.   Arm yourself with wood spoons and electric mixers.  Run out to the store for parchment paper.  Invest in the latest in baking sheets.  And most important of all, don’t run out of sugar!  Still can’t decide what to make?  Take some inspiration from cookbooks for children in Cotsen highlighted in a previous holiday post.

In honor of little Jack Horner, here is a menu for a holiday dessert buffet concocted from children’s cookbooks in the Cotsen collection. The recipes, as prepared by some of the best-loved characters in children’s literature, have been edited for length, but were not tested in Cotsen’s curatorial or outreach kitchen.

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From Easy Steps in Cooking, or Mary Frances among the Kitchen People, written and illustrated by Jane Eayre Frye. Oakland, CA: Smithsonian Co., c1912. (Cotsen 40860).

CHRISTMAS DESSERT BUFFET

Pepparkakor

Inspired by Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking

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From Astrid Lindgren, Kaenner du Pippi Langstrump? Illustrated by Ingrid Nyman. Stockholm: Raben & Sjoegren, 1947.

3 1/2 C. flour; 2 tsp. ginger; 2 tsp. cinnamon; 2 tsp. cloves; 1 tsp. baking soda; 1/2 tsp. salt; 1/2 C. dark corn syrup; 1 tsp. grated orange zest; 1 C. butter; 1 C. sugar, 1 large egg, lightly beaten; pearl sugar

Whisk together dry ingredients in a bowl. In a small saucepan, warm the butter and sugar, stirring until melted. Cool to room temperature, then whisk in the egg. Pour over flour mixture and stir until blended. Form dough into ball, wrap tightly with two layers of plastic wrap and chill overnight. Preheat over to 375 degrees With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out dough on a lightly floured kitchen floor to 1/4 inch thickness. Using a star cutter, cut dough into cookies. Put stars on baking sheets covered with parchment paper and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake until edges begin to brown, about 7-8 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

Thanks to Epicurious for this recipe.

*****

Blackberry and Apple Meringue

Arabella Boxer, The Wind in the Willows Country Cookbook (1983). (Cotsen 15424)

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From Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows. Illustrated by E. H. Shepard. London: Methuen, 1970. (Cotsen 32085).

1 large cooking apple; 50 g. (2 oz) granulated sugar; 450 g. (1 lb. blackberries); juice of one lemon; 2 egg whites; 75 g. (3 oz) superfine sugar

Heat the oven to 150 degrees C (300 degrees F or Gas Mark 2) Peel and core the apple and cut into thinnish slices. Put the apples in a pan with 2 T water and the granulated sugar. Cook gently, covered, for 4 minutes, then add the berries, return to the simmer and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Tip into a pie dish. Beat the egg whites until stiff, fold in the superfine sugar, and pile over the fruit, covering the dish entirely. Bake for 30 minutes, then cool for about 30 minutes before serving with cream.

*****

Hidden Window Dessert

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Carolyn Keene, The Hidden Window Mystery. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, c1958. (Cotsen in process 7305311).

1 package EACH of cherry, orange, lemon, and lime gelatin; 1 C. pineapple juice; 1/4 C. sugar; 1 1/2 Tbsp. melted butter; 12 graham crackers, crushed; 4 C. whipped cream or other whipped topping

In a saucepan, boil enough water to make 1 cup. This means you must start with a little more than a cup. Dissolve the cherry gelatin in this. Stir well. Add 1/2 cup cold water and pour gelatin into a ice tray with no divider. Do the same with the orange and lime gelatin separately. (Use the same pan, but rinse it each time.) In the same pan again. boil the pinapple juice with sugar. Dissolve the lemon gelatin in this. Add 1/2 cup cold water. Let set in a large mixing bowl to the syrupy stage. Fold in the whipped cream. When firm, cut the cherry, orange, and lime gelatins into cubes. Fold them into the lemon gelatin mixture. Grease a springform pan. Stir melted butter into the crushed graham crumbs and spread on the bottom on the pan. Pour in the mixture. Chill 12 hours. You’ll have many colored windows in each slice of cake!

Mrs. Tiggy’s Tipsy Pudding

Margaret Lane, The Beatrix Potter Country Cookery Book (1983, c1981).

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Beatrix Potter’s prickly little washer woman from The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy Winkle.

1 large spongecake; 125 ml. (1/4 pint) sweet sherry; juice of an orange; 75 g. (3 oz) superfine sugar; 250 ml. (1/2 pint) double cream; raisins; 100 g. (4 oz flaked almonds)

Cut a hollow on the underside of the cake, keeping the bit for later. Fill the hollow with the sherry and orange juice; pour the remaining wine and juice over the top. Refrigerate overnight, spooning the mixture over the cake from time to time. In the morning, replace the bit of cake in the hollow. Split the almonds into narrow bits and brown lightly in the oven. Stick them all over the cake. Use the raisins for nose and eyes. Whip the cream stiff and fold in the sugar. Pile in peaky dollops all around the cake and serve.

*****

Treacle toffee from Hagrid

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Christmas at Hogwarts as imagined by Mary de Grandpre.

75 g. (3 oz) Golden Syrup; 75 gg (3 oz) black treacle or molasses; 150 g. (6 oz) brown sugar; 75 g. (3 oz) butter; 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Line a 6 x 8 inch baking pan with non-stick parchment. Measure all ingredients into a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until the butter is melted and sugar dissolved. When the mixture is smooth and nicely combined, bring to a rolling boil. When the mixture reaches 140 degrees C/ 285 degrees F on the candy thermometer (analog or digital), pour carefully into the pan. For even pieces, wait until the toffee is cool enough to hand, but leaves a slight impression if poked with a finger (15- 20 minutes). Cut into the toffee deeply enough to leaves lines and when it has cooled completely, break along the lines. For toffee that will break your teeth, let it cool completely, then break into pits with a hammer or rolling pin. Store in an airtight container with parchment in between layers.

With thanks to BBC Food

*****

Boston Cooler

Nika Hazelton, Raggedy Ann and Andy’s Cookbook (c1973). (Cotsen 28282).

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Endpapers for Johnny Gruelle, Raggedy Ann in Cookie Land. Joliet, Wisconsin: P. F. Volland & Co., c1931. (Cotsen in process 0000).

12 oz. can root beer; 4 small scoops vanilla ice cream

Pour the root beer into two glasses. Carefully put two scoops ice cream in each glass. Serve with a long spoon and a straw.

And happy holidays to all!

For a stronger sugar rush, read junk food in picture books…