Dr. Seuss’ birthday has earned its very own Fiestaware platter of sugar cookies; red and white striped hats, green eggs with a side of ham and for those with places to go, tri-colored hot air balloons. In fact, when a woman stepped up to the counter yesterday afternoon attired in Cat in the Hat street clothes, it seemed almost ordinary. Almost.
Dr. Seuss’ penchant for word musicality can be traced back to his grandfather and his mother. According to biographers Judith and Neil Morgan, Grandpa Seuss was a baker, and Ted’s mother, Henrietta Seuss, worked in her father’s bakery before becoming Mrs. Geisel in 1901. The Morgans claim that Ted and his older sister, Marnie, often went to sleep to the sound of their mother chanting to them “softly, in the way she had learned as she sold pies, ‘Apple, mince, lemon … peach, apricot, pineapple … blueberry, coconut, custard, and SQUASH!’” Theodor “Ted” Seuss Geisel credits his mother for inspiring “the rhythms in which I write and the urgency with which I do it.” Without discrediting Dr. Seuss’ contribution to literature, imagine Grandpa Seuss’ contribution to the culinary world, specifically anything double crusted, lattice-topped or hand-held.
In peak citrus season, my focus tends to be dominated by Meyer lemons, pink grapefruits and
chin-drenching sweet oranges. At Trader Joes, pineapples stand sentinel over baskets of free-wheeling lemons and limes. Having been fooled in the past by pineapple’s harlequin exterior, hinting at ripeness only to find disappointment, I casually select one for closer inspection. Just because it looks like a pineapple and claims to be a ripe pineapple, doesn’t make it so. Inhaling first one, then another and finally another, I invite the final pineapple into the front seat of my shopping cart. “What are you doing?” a neighboring produce shopper asks me. “The label says ‘Ready-to-Eat.’” Steering my cart with the three good wheels towards the checkout line, I reply, “Sometimes the labels lie.” Longing to say, “I do not like you, Ma’am you am,” my limping cart hobbles to the express checkout where thankfully, the man in the Hawaiian shirt is less judgy. “Nice pineapple,” he comments. I nod.
This week pineapple pie is on the menu, my menu. There are several fine recipes from which to choose, but I’m intrigued by one from brilliant pie-ess Allison Kave who adds a splash of dark rum to a tropically inspired filling. Taking the time to pluck a ripe pineapple from the clutches of Trader Joes and making a few tweaks to the recipe yielded sweet results, indeed. (Check out the recipe page.)
Would I eat this pie in the rain? On a train? In a car? I would eat this here and there and anywhere. Happy Birthday, Theodor Seuss Geisel. It's quite possible Grandpa Seuss could have impacted the baking world the way you impacted literature. Sadly, we'll never know.