Tag Archives: Mother Goose

Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater

Delving deep into history can be fascinating – even if you’re not by nature a history lover. Can you guess why we know that “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater” probably came from the U.S. – and not England, as so many other Mother Goose rhymes did? Because the English weren’t familiar with pumpkins when it was written (and, apparently, they still aren’t big pumpkin fans).

From Eulalie Osgood Grover’s Mother Goose.  Chicago, [1915].  
Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater,
Had a wife but couldn't keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.

I admire Peter for being a pumpkin eater – but egads, he kept his wife in a pumpkin shell? And – as a naive little kid – I was supposed to read that and think it’s okay? It’s all for fun? And, actually, the story gets more sinister when you read that supposedly it was about unfaithful wives and murder!

Or how about another familiar ditty from Mother Goose

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. 
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do. 
She gave them some broth without any bread; 
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

Oh and there’s so much more. Babies falling from cradles (Hush-a-bye, Baby, on the tree top), drowned pussy cats (Ding Dong Bell), lady bugs with burning babies (Lady-bird-Lady-bird, fly away home), starving dogs (Old Mother Hubbard), blind mice (no doubt you know that one.).

There may be some complex political references in the rhymes, but they’re tricky to figure out w/o Wikipedia or some web search or in-depth historical knowledge. Who could possibly know that “Mary Mary, Quite Contrary” may be about England’s Bloody Mary – and “Ring Around the Roses” about the Bubonic Plague? It’s just more fun stuff for the young’uns to think about!

The cover of Eulalie Osgood Grover’s Mother Goose.  Chicago, [1915].  

Have you ever wondered who this delightfully fun Mother Goose was? In 1697 a Frenchman, Charles Perrault, wrote “Contes de ma mère l’Oye,” which gets credit as the original Mother Goose, but it’s mostly comprised of fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and Puss in Boots. According to my 1915 edition of MG, there has been speculation that a Boston grandmother, Mistress Elizabeth Goose (I kid you not) told these stories and her son-in-law assembled her ditties and published them as Mother Goose’s Melodies for Children in 1719. Our 1916 edition of The Real Mother Goose states that the rhymes were first published by John Newberry in 1791.

Our version is the Fifty-Fourth printing of this 1916 classic, released in 1970, just before our daughter was born. We were ready to give her nightmares!

Digging out our 1916 Mother Goose book gave Andy pause about the bedtime tales he told our kids and our grandkids when they were little. Had he ruined their lives? See today’s Andy’s Corner.

But back to eating pumpkins. My grandmother may have sometimes made her own pumpkin puree (using the small pie pumpkins, of course) for her wonderful pumpkin pie, but I’m too lazy. Canned pumpkin works fine for me – and anyone who wants to simplify things. And there are so many great pumpkin recipes that it’s a shame we mostly think of pumpkin pie and Thanksgiving. Here are two winner recipes for pumpkin (eaters). And because I like pumpkin seeds maybe even better than I like pumpkin, let me remind you of some of my favorite recipes with pumpkin seeds….for snacking, for dipping, for a salad, for breakfast, for tacos (of course!).

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