Then the Queen left off, quite out of breath, and said to Alice, `Have you seen the Mock Turtle yet?'
`No,' said Alice. `I don't even know what a Mock Turtle is.'
`It's the thing Mock Turtle Soup is made from,' said the Queen.
`I never saw one, or heard of one,' said Alice.
`Come on, then,' said the Queen, `and he shall tell you his history,'
From Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 9
Why is the Mock Turtle depicted as a turtle with the head of a calf? What is Mock Turtle Soup?
In the 18th and early 19th centuries turtle soup was enjoyed by many. President Taft even hired a special chef to make this delicacy for him. Because the population of turtles is not replenished quickly, many sought something other than turtle to make the soup with. Most used various organs of cows, specifically the head of a calf, since the texture was similar to turtle meat when cooked.
With the older children gone on a trip for the weekend, I was afraid the younger ones may become somewhat like the Mock Turtle, a bit sad and lonely. So I planned a journey for them, a trip to Wonderland. While there we enjoyed Mock Turtle Soup.
Travels of the imagination do not need much encouragement. We began the trip with a tea party.
While the children enjoyed tea and cookies along with their sandwiches, I read the story of the Mock Turtle from Alice in Wonderland to them.
These little delights were a gift from a friend's family. They are homemade and sold here.
With a few simple props or words of encouragement, the children were on their way. This cow creamer doesn't get used often, but today it was a welcome guest at the table.
Later we had Mock Turtle Soup (recipe for the soup is at the end of this post) and turtle bread. I got the idea from this recipe. I used our favorite bread recipe, Valerie's Communion Bread, and shaped the dough.
First I divided the dough into 5 pieces. Each piece was then divided into two equal pieces. The first piece (of the second division of dough) was shaped into a ball for the turtle's body, and the second piece was shaped into five pieces: a head and four legs. Using a sharp knife, I scored the body of the turtle in crisscross shapes and the legs with lines mimicking claws.
I pinched the outer edge of the head piece to form a little beak for the turtle's mouth.
While enjoying our soup, we had a delightful time watching a movie based on the book. The Disney version of this story is really a brief retelling of both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. This version is wonderful, especially the character of the Mock Turtle who is played by Gene Wilder. As with any movie, there are changes made from the book, a little bit of the screen writer's own ideas and interpretations. But this version really captures the fun of the book in how the characters are represented. It is a classic.
Another treat was the Green Turtle; this is just green powerade with green cherries (I found these in the mixed drink selections at the grocery). The children enjoyed the drinks but said the cherries tasted a little different.
If you wanted to make this into an all day party or a birthday party, just add some fun decorations. Most party stores have a selection of poker decorations that work well with this theme, things like large cards to hang about and various heart, diamonds, clubs, and spades decorations.
A fun activity would be to make crazy hats in the spirit of the Mad Hatter. I found these accordion hats from Oriental Trading. In the past my children have decorated them with fuzz balls, foam shapes, pipe cleaners and ribbons to make a crazy hat.
You could finish up with a game of croquet. A regular croquet game set will do, just add a few pink flamingo lawn ornaments for whimsy.
Recipe for Mock Turtle Soup
from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Comprehension Guide
The guide has all kinds of delightful ideas about teaching Alice in Wonderland. Buy it from Veritas Press.
1/2 c vegetable oil
3/4 lb beef, cubed
1/2 lb pork, cubed
1/2 lb chicken, cubed
2/3 c all-purpose flour
1 c chopped onion
1/2 c finely chopped green onions
1/2 c finely chopped parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped celery
1 tsp dried thyme
10 c beef broth, hot
1/2 c tomato sauce
hot sauce to taste
salt to taste
Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat and brown all the meat. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside. Cook onions, green onions, parsley and celery in pan used to brown meat. Add more oil if needed to make about half cup in pan. Reduce heat to medium. Cook until onions are translucent.
Add flour to pan of onions. Stir. Slowly whisk in two cups of the hot stock and stir to form a thick paste, then stir in the tomato sauce. Stir in the remaining stock, then add the meats, salt and hot sauce. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer another hour.