Holiday Baking with Wild Boars

Have things been left to the last minute?  Can the holidays be perfect without that special treat that your grandmother, mother, or aunt made every year?   There’s still time today and tomorrow to roll up your sleeves, cream the butter, chop the nuts, sift the flour, sling the cookie sheets into the oven and dust the perfectly browned beauties with confectioners’ sugar.  The more ambitious influencers among readers can make fondant in perfectly matched colors for the cut-out decorations.

Or does family tradition demand fruitcake or Christmas pudding instead of cookies?  The Wild Boars Boris, Horace, Morris, and Doris are here to show the way to a perfect bake—messy, sticky, gooey, chewy, and massive.  Have you met before the Wild Boars who are dirty smelly,  bad-tempered, and rude every day all day?  They figure if Paul Hollywood can be a star in the culinary firmament, there’s plenty of room for them.  Who needs steely blue eyes when you’re got tusks?First, it helps to be starving when you are deciding upon a recipe.Second, a recipe is a guide to creativity in the kitchen.  Feel free to improvise: if one cup of sugar is good, then ten are divine.  Maybe the pan can’t accommodate dozens of donuts or five hundred chocolate-covered chocolates, but you’ll never know until you try.Third, no concessions to health.  Broccoli in a dessert served up at the most wonderful time of the year is unthinkable.Fourth, make any last minute additions before stirring the batter with abandon.  Bananas are always appreciated, but squid will make your guests sit up and take notice.Fifth, plate it beautifully, so all your hard work can be admired by the diners.Sixth, it’s probably a waste of time to remind merry-makers of their manners.  Look the other way if everyone is chewing with open mouths, no one has napkins on laps, the biggest piece was not politely offered to the guest of honor, or a Labrador retriever could not have eaten the whole thing faster.Seven, repeat.Eight, leave the clean-up to someone else.Author Meg Rosoff, who says she is old and crabby, and illustrator Sophie Blackall, who pretends to be nicer than she looks, should be ashamed of themselves for creating such bad examples for children to imitate, I mean avoid, in their Meet Wild Boars (2005) and Wild Boars Cook (2008).  The least they could have done was given the real recipe for the massive pudding…


How to Pass for a Good Girl: Tales for Perfect Children (1985) by Florence Parry Heide

This worldly little chapter book could have only been written by an adult like an elementary school teacher with a great deal of experience blocking children’s underhanded exercise of  agency.   Florence Parry Heide (1919-2011) had the requisite qualifications, as the mother of five, grandmother of eight, and great grandmother of four, to describe supposedly perfect little girls.

Ruby plays a mean game of butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth.  At the end of a long day, her mother wants to relax in a hot bath and asks her to keep an eye on her brother, who has just learned to crawl.   Ruby has other plans and quickly figures out a way to get to her friend Ethel’s house more or less on time.  She watches Clyde, just as her mother asked, but does no more than that.   As soon as mother is out of the bath, Ruby skips off to Ethel’s, leaving behind the colossal messes Clyde made while being watched.Gloria knows how to shirk without flouting Mother’s orders by taking advantage of her dutiful and careful sister Gertrude. Asked to clear the table, wash, dry, and put away the dinner dishes, Gloria drops the plates and puts the survivors away in the wrong places. By doing such a miserable job in comparison to Gertrude, Gloria is excused from helping with this daily chore.  “Good for Gertrude,” comments Heide.Dawdling is Bertha’s preferred strategy.   On a beautiful day her mother tries to tear her away from the television and schoo her outside to play in the fresh air.  Bertha continues to watch cartoons while getting dressed, which means misplacing necessary garments to slow down the process of getting ready.  Her mother succeeds in finding the shoes and jacket in their hiding places, but by that time the rain has started up, leaving Bertha in repose on a cushion in front of the tube.Harriet has learned that whining loud and long for something will eventually fray her mother’s nerves and result in victory.  To get a slice of blueberry pie before the company comes, she just has to follow her mother around the kitchen, tug at her apron, and keep on message.“Sneaky” describes perfect Ethel once her parents forbid her to chew bubble gum in their sight.   Had they specified “in their presence” it would not have been so easy for Ethel to feign compliance and continue indulging in the prohibited substance.Heide’s wry and dry humor is heightened by the quirky, slightly macabre illustrations of Victoria Chess, whose thick, squatty, catty creatures with perfectly round staring eyes and sharp little fangs are more menacing than adorable.  They act as sly as they look, perfect representations of girls who maintain a façade of goodness through passive aggression.