The Sugar Plum Tree and other Culinary Delights of Childhood

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I don’t remember the first food I ever tasted, but I do remember all of the food in books my Grandmother and Mother read to me.  The Sugar Plum Tree by Eugene Field is probably the first one I recall.  Imagine a 2-year looking at this photo and seeing a little girl holding up an apron and have candy pouring from a tree! Wow!  As you can see, this page was well-loved and has old, yellowed scotch tape holding it together.  In fact, the whole book is falling apart.  It is called Poems of Early Childhood, one of a series of books from Childcraft.  Some of my most precious memories are sitting on my Grandma’s or Mom’s lap in our rocking chair, and having these poems read over and over again.  I learned all about Simple Simon and his pies; Peter who lived with his wife in a pumpkin shell; four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie; hot cross buns; kings who ate potatoes with their jackets off (apparently only “commoners” ate them with the jackets on!); or the one about Grandma’s cupboard which held such delight as lollypops and banbury cakes.  I used to wish I could be the little child eating animal crackers with cocoa, and laugh at the Grandpa who dropped his glasses in a pot of purple dye and had to eat purple apple dumplings while drinking purple cider.  My first fascination with cooking came from a poem called Jane Small Ate it All.  There are pictures of various girls named Jane, baking cookies, stirring cookie batter, measuring flour, and beating eggs with a rotary beater.

Isn’t it amazing how something as simple as childhood poems can spark food and cooking interests at such a young age, which leads to having a toy kitchen, which leads to a love of cooking as an adult?  Books stir the imagination, but as you grow up, you want the material results.  I can make fudge or other candy, but it will never be as good as the sweets gathered in the little girl’s apron from the Sugar Plum tree.  I have yet to make a banbury cake, but I’m sure it’s delicious.  I hope never to eat a purple apple dumpling or live in a pumpkin, but I still like being one of the “Jane’s” mixing up something in the kitchen.

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21 Responses to The Sugar Plum Tree and other Culinary Delights of Childhood

  1. Debra Hindlemann Webster November 23, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    i like your blog, first of all. visually, and content-wise. i have the childcraft book, was just emailing a friend about jane small; you are the Only “link” to jane on the entire internet, it seems. looks like there are 2 of us who remember what it was like to have a family, nursery rhymes, poetry, etc., and be surrounded with wonderful literature. thanks and be well..

    • Daun March 10, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

      Oh, no, there are 3 of us!! I loved this poem and “Grandpa Dropped His Glasses In a Pot Of Purple Dye” I was really happy to get a copy of this poem today!

      • Debbie March 10, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

        I love Grandpa Dropped His Glasses, too! My copy of the Childcraft is also falling apart and scotch-taped. I still can recite many of those poems. My grandmother read them to me endlessly!

  2. Debbie Vanni November 23, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    Hi Debra! I am thrilled someone else remembers Jane Small and the joy of the Childcraft poetry. It’s like my comfort book, and I still pick it up and read through it occasionally. I am looking forward to my future grandchildren, who I will also read to as my mom and grandma did to me. Thank you so much for writing – you made my day!

  3. Gail Wiley January 9, 2014 at 5:44 am #

    I’m looking for the Jane Small poem. Do you know where I could find the words. I, too, remember being read this poem from the Childcraft book by my mother, but the book is lost.

    • Debbie January 9, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

      Here is the Jane Small poem!

      Jane Small Ate It All

      Jane Brooke was the Cook
      But Jane Small ate it all.

      Jane Dwyer lighted the fire
      And Jane Brook was the cook
      But Jane Small ate it all.

      Jane Power measured the flour
      And Jane Dwyer lighted the fire
      And Jane Brook was the cook
      But Jane Small ate it all.

      Jane Cutter creamed the butter
      And Jane Power measured the flour
      And Jane Dwyer lighted the fire
      And Jane Brooke was the cook
      But Jane Small ate it all.

      Jane Clegg beat the egg
      And Jane Cutter creamed the butter
      And Jane Power measured the flour
      And Jane Dwyer lighted the fire
      And Jane Brooke was the cook
      But Jane Small ate it all.

      Jane Dilk poured in the milk
      And Jane Clegg beat the egg
      And Jane Cutter creamed the butter
      And Jane Power measured the flour
      And Jane Dwyer lighted the fire
      And Jane Brooke was the cook
      But Jane Small ate it all.

      Jane McCann buttered the pan
      And Jane Dilk poured in the milk
      And Jane Clegg beat the egg
      And Jane Cutter creamed the butter
      And Jane Power measured the flour
      And Jane Dwyer lighted the fire
      And Jane Brooke was the cook
      But Jane Small ate it all.

      Jane Lake iced the cake
      And Jane McCann buttered the pan
      And Jane Dilk poured in the milk
      And Jane Clegg beat the egg
      And Jane Cutter creamed the butter
      And Jane Power measured the flour
      And Jane Dwyer lighted the fire
      And Jane Brooke was the cook
      But Jane Small ate it all.

      Jane Poole put it out to cool
      And Jane Lake iced the cake
      And Jane McCann buttered the pan
      And Jane Dilk poured in the milk
      And Jane Clegg beat the egg
      And Jane Cutter creamed the butter
      And Jane Power measured the flour
      And Jane Dwyer lighted the fire
      And Jane Brooke was the cook
      But Jane Small ate it all.

      • Daun March 10, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

        Thank you , thank you!! I have been searching all day for this poem!! I am a product of the 1940’s – this volume of Childcraft books was almost worn out by my sister and me!!

      • deb May 3, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

        Thank you for posted Jane Small ate it all. I have been searching for years.

        • Debbie May 5, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

          So happy I could find it for you, Deb!

      • Marjorie September 20, 2016 at 10:16 am #

        Thank you, thank you, thank you! I too grew up with that book, and recently was wanting those very words.

        • Debbie September 20, 2016 at 11:33 am #

          Happy that you found the right blog, Marjorie! I love that book and can’t wait to read it to my first grandchild, due in January!

      • Twyla July 20, 2019 at 1:52 pm #

        Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been looking for the words to this poem for a long time!

        • Debbie July 20, 2019 at 11:05 pm #

          So happy to help, Twyla! I can still recite that poem.

      • Judith Brodhead April 11, 2020 at 10:43 am #

        Thank you! My sisters and I were talking about this on our Zoom Cocktail Hour last night. It was hard to find! Somewhere I may still have the Childcraft books that were given to us by a neighbor when he outgrew them. Our father read this to us many times!

        • Debbie July 18, 2020 at 11:59 pm #

          Judith, I love those Childcraft books. My mom and grandma read them to us, and now I read them to my granddaughters. The Sugar Plum Tree was always my favorite, and that page is literally held together by very yellowed tape.

  4. Laura November 3, 2014 at 8:41 am #

    What was the publication year of your copy of Poems of Early Childhood? I would like to find the same publication date as I love the artwork. My mother had the same version but I believe it’s been lost over the years. I found your old posting looking for the image you had posted of The Sugar Plum Tree.

    • Debbie November 5, 2014 at 11:32 am #

      Laura, my copy is from 1945. My grandmother first bought it for my older brother, then it got passed down to three more of us. It’s almost falling apart and so many pages are kept together by yellowed tape, but it’s still one of my most treasured items. The Sugar Plum Tree is taped the most because it was my favorite.

      • Teri January 27, 2018 at 8:25 pm #

        My favorite poem! I grew up with the 1860’s edition. The picture is a little different!! I just bought the 1954 edition. It is the same as the 1960. But I can’t find Grandpa Dropped His Glasses In a pot of dye! I’m trying to find the volume that poem is in!

        • Debbie January 30, 2018 at 9:30 am #

          Teri, the Grandpa poem is in the 1945 edition which is the one I have. I remember that poem well!

  5. Piano Mike March 31, 2020 at 3:31 pm #

    Had a whole set of Childcraft books — orange covers — as a kid in the ’40s — my parents and grandmother read them to me, especially the poems (I loved “The Owl and the Pussycat” in addition to “Jane Small Ate It All” and many others). I learned to read early, and discovered stories and legends in some of the other Childcraft books … I remember “The Fisherman and His Wife” and some scary Grimm brothers tales…. So glad you put “Jane Small” into the interwebs; I’m self-isolating at home in the early stages of the covid-19 crisis, and doing a lot of reflecting on the past….

    • Debbie July 19, 2020 at 12:07 am #

      Mike, I loved all those others you mentioned; they were favorites of mine too. That book has such a warm place in my heart. It’s a comforting book to read during the self-isolating times. I hope you are doing well, and let’s hope the world will be well again soon.

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