February is quickly coming to a close which means March 2 is almost here. For a lot of kids, that is a very special day. It is the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, known to most of us as Dr. Seuss.
Last week I did a little video, reading a Dr. Seuss book, at the request of a couple of elementary school principals. It was a fun time to revisit all of my Dr. Seuss memories and stories.
To get ready for the reading, I went around my house looking for all the Dr. Seuss books. I found 19 different books. I had multiple copies of some, and they were in all sorts of conditions. Many of my early ones were taped together, showing how loved they were. Some had missing covers. I hand stitched one back together. I realized I had memorized so many parts of many of them!
I decided first I wanted to tell the kids a little about young Ted. He grew up in Springfield, Massachussetts. His dad was the superintendent of parks for the city. That included running Forest Park Zoo. His father would take young Ted and his sister there to walk the trail, fish and visit the zoo. Young Ted liked to take his sketch pad to draw animals. His mom worked at the family bakery. She would sing her children to sleep with the rhythmic chant that she used to sell pies: “APPLE, MINCE, LEMON… PEACH, APRICOT, PINEAPPLE… BLUEBERRY, COCONUT, CUSTARD… AND SQUASH!” She loved reciting rhyming chants and Geisel credits her with his inspiration to enter into the world of rhyming and poetry.
Geisel’s early career was actually in advertising. He did cartoons, including for Flit Bug Spray for Standard Oil Co.
For my reading video, I chose Dr. Suess’s very first book: “And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street.” Geisel is said to have come up with the idea for the book aboard a ship in 1936, returning from Europe with his wife. To the rhythm of the ship’s engine, he wrote: “And that is a story that no one can beat. And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street.” In the book, Marco’s dad tells him to keep his eyelids up and see what he can see. But the only thing he could see was a horse pulling a wagon on Mulberry Street. Marco wanted to make his story more interesting, so he imagined more and more elaborate, preposterous scenes. But when his dad asks him what he saw on his way home, his face turns red and he says, “Nothing … but a plain horse and wagon on Mulberry Street.” Geisel’s book was actually rejected 27 times before it was printed in 1939.
Geisel’s publisher later challenged him to write a story that first graders wouldn’t be able to put down. He wanted him to write a story using only 225 words, out of a list of 348. The result was “The Cat in the Hat” (1957). It is a great repetitive tale that really got kids to read.
But the book that we think of when we think of food is “Green Eggs and Ham.” In this story, Sam-I-am has a hard time getting the narrator to try the food, no matter with whom or where he serves it. Of course, when he does try it, he likes it. That book only contains 50 words. All of his books contain easy words, exciting pictures and inviting rhymes.
So to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday, and to promote kids reading, I’m going to make some fun food — starting with green eggs and ham. I don’t have recipes for most of the things I’ll make. But if you read Dr. Seuss, you have a good imagination! Here are a few ideas:
Green Eggs and Ham
I don’t like to use food coloring, especially not in ham or scrambled eggs. But I made a green pesto sauce in my food processor using 1 cup baby spinach, a handful of fresh parsley, a handful of fresh basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil, about 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Add a couple of tablespoons of this to your scrambled eggs. Cook slowly. Serve with ham.
Make mini cupcakes with a box cake mix.
Mix: 1 stick butter and 3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar. (Beat sugar in 1 cup at a time). Add in 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Add green food coloring to make a grass green color.
To assemble: Pipe icing grass around cupcake. Put tufts of cotton candy on top of pretzel rods, using icing to make it stick. Push pretzel rod into cupcake. (You could also use marshmallow for the top of the trees instead of cotton candy if you snip them with scissors).
Thread sliced cherry tomatoes and sliced mozzarella cheese rounds on a wooden skewer to look like a hat.
Or use sliced strawberries and sliced marshmallow to look like the Cat’s Hat.
On a Nutter Butter cookie turned upright, put 2 edible eyes and pipe on a Lorax-like moustache.
Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.