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#15 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2011

Hello my little chickies!

Just in time for Easter weekend, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and her three children have brought some eggs to our poetry feast! They just happen to live at Heart Rock Farm, set on a sprawling 24 acres up in Holland, New York, where they cavort with Icelandic sheep, rabbits, cats, a dog, and of course, chickens.

L to R: Hope, Amy, Georgia and Henry VanDerwater with eggs used in today's recipe.

In this season of growth and renewal, it's good to celebrate life, ponder its mysteries, cherish its fleeting moments, and hold our loved ones close. Amy enjoys growing meaningful words and thoughts at her Poem Farm, cultivating the seeds of promising ideas, nurturing them as they blossom into words, and then sending them off into the big wide world. Whether you're hatching a brand new idea or gazing upon the faces of your biological offspring with wonder and awe, there's no better way to sing of these sweet miracles than with a poem.

Amy: I wrote this poem in 2000, the year our third child, Henry, was born. That same year, Mark's paternal grandmother died. Grandma's recipe for "Pineapple Slices" carries on, as do so many memories of her strength and goodness. Watching Hope, Georgia, and Henry grow up, I realize how quickly this cycle circles 'round, how swift is the time between egg and mother bird.

by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

you'll be
grown up birds.
You'll fly
to far-off places.
And I will keep
this memory
of your tiny
feathered faces.

you'll be
grown up birds.
You'll do
grown up bird things.
And I will keep
this place for you
right here
beneath my wings.

© 2000 Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. All rights reserved.

So lovely! And there's nothing I love more than hearing about a family recipe that's flavored with fond memories and becomes a precious legacy for succeeding generations. Amy wrote about Grandma VanDerwater's famous Pineapple Slices (or "cake") in this funny, charming essay/commentary  for WBFO/National Public Radio. Seems when she was dating her husband-to-be, Mark, she learned "the cake" would undeniably figure in their future together.
No, not an ordinary cake. It was something Grandma baked especially for Mark every Christmas and every time she visited. Heavy and not at all to Amy's liking, this golden monument of Grandma love was capable of turning a grown man giddy and make him sick because he'd eat the whole thing by himself in two days. And it's not easy to make -- so many painstaking steps, not to mention the pressure of maintaining Grandma's high standards.

    Thanks to Mark VanDerwater for sharing this pic of his Grandma!

In the name of poetry, Amy baked a batch of Grandma's Pineapple Slices just for us -- a rare occurrence, since she usually makes it only on Father's Day and for Mark's birthday. She even photographed her process, just in case you're brave enough to try the recipe yourself. But be forewarned: this pineapple-y pièce de résistance will likely attract a passel of eager suitors. ☺


First step -- make filling. Combine 1/2 cup and 1 T sugar, 3 T cornstarch, 3/4 cup water, 1 #2 can crushed pineapple and juice (2-1/2 cups). Cook until thick. Set to cool.

Next step -- add 1 T butter, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 beaten egg yolk. Filling done.

Batter -- Scald 2/3 cup milk. Cool to lukewarm. Add 1 T sugar and 1 package yeast. Set aside.

Then, mix 3 cups sifted flour, 1 cup butter. Mix like pie crust. Then add 3 beaten egg yolks. Add yeast to flour mixture. Mix well.

Divide dough into 2 parts. Roll one part on pastry cloth. Put on bottom of greased pan 14" x 10". Press dough on bottom of pan.

Spread with filling. Cover with other part of dough. Let rise for one hour or more.

Before putting in oven, spread with melted butter. Prick with fork, clear through, about 12 times. Sprinkle with streusel topping.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.


1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 T butter
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Sprinkle on top of cake before baking

Remove cake from oven and make a frosting of 1 cup confectioner's sugar and 1 T butter and water to make very thin frosting on top of streusel topping.
Wow! Now that's what I call a R-E-C-I-P-E!! Having grown up in pineapple country myself, I see that it's my civic duty to make this sometime. Yes, I'm willing to risk having Colin Firth beg me to marry him once he knows Pineapple Slices are part of my dowry. Sometimes I can't believe my own unflinching courage and dedication. ☺


Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is a writer, poet, and writing teacher living in Holland, New York. She gives workshops in and out of classrooms, demonstrating how to implement a writing workshop, study texts, and confer with children. Her poems have appeared in Ladybug magazine as well as numerous anthologies, the most recent of which are Sharing the Seasons (McElderry, 2010), Dizzy Dinosaurs: Silly Dino Poems (HarperCollins, 2011), and I Am the Book! (Holiday House, 2011). Amy's poem, "My Hand," is included in the brand new e-anthology, PoetryTagTime, selected by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong (Kindle Release, 2011).

Amy also reads and writes commentaries for WBFO, Buffalo's local NPR station, and writes a quarterly column for Edible Buffalo magazine. Her debut poetry book, Forest Has a Song (illustrated by Robbin Gourley), will be published by Clarion in Fall 2012. You can find Amy online at
The Poem Farm, where she participates in Poetry Friday and shares a wealth of teaching and writing ideas with students, teachers, parents, readers and other writers every day. Don't miss this excellent interview at The Writer's Armchair.

**And now, after careful consideration, the alphabet soup kitchen helpers have decided to present Amy with a special award in recognition of her exceptional pineapple prowess and inspiring spirit of sacrifice, as she unselfishly bakes Pineapple Slices year after year in order to preserve an important family tradition. 

*trumpet fanfare, please*

Amy, please accept the Crystal Pineapple with our undying admiration and best wishes for the successful production of thousands more pineapple cakes. We bow to you, O Pineapple Princess!


♥ Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is being hosted by Kate Coombs at Book Aunt.

♥ Previous Potluck Poets: April Halprin Wayland, Carol WeisJoAnn Early Macken, Heidi Mordhorst, Diane Mayr, Jessica Swaim, Irene Latham, Barbara Crooker, Toby Speed, Tabatha Yeatts, Jane Yolen, Marilyn Singer, Tracie Vaughn Zimmer.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 22nd, 2011 01:54 pm (UTC)
Great post!

laura ludwig hamor : )
Apr. 22nd, 2011 02:11 pm (UTC)
Will there be a pineapple cake in your future :D?
Apr. 22nd, 2011 03:03 pm (UTC)
Yes! it looks a lot like something my grandmother would make!
Apr. 22nd, 2011 02:18 pm (UTC)
tanita says:
I am ever trying to figure out what makes a dessert a cake, a pudding, a tiffin, or a "slice" in these parts. This "slice" looks like a bar, or a pie-ish, maybe? Either way, tasty. And the poem is very sweet as well. "Tiny feathered faces" are what only a Mama bird could love...
Apr. 22nd, 2011 04:37 pm (UTC)
Re: tanita says:
Whether you call it slice or cake, this dessert has got some serious heritage attached to it. I do want to try making it, so I can decide if it's more pie-ish or bar-ish. :)
Apr. 22nd, 2011 02:30 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness, that cake is a testament of love. Wow. I can't wait to read the essay! But the poem was my favorite part of this post. It touched my heart. Thank you for this.
Apr. 22nd, 2011 04:39 pm (UTC)
I love the gentle, reflective tone of the poem. If feels quiet on the surface, but the emotions run deep.
Apr. 22nd, 2011 02:30 pm (UTC)
Love the tiny feathered faces, and the picture of Amy and beautiful children with eggs. I'm afraid anything with more than two steps -- your lemon bars are totally worth it -- is beyond my reach. Hail to Grandma Vanderwater, and Amy for doing this two or three times a year!
Apr. 22nd, 2011 04:40 pm (UTC)
She does deserve an award, doesn't she? Lots of steps to be sure -- but accomplished with lots of love :).
Apr. 22nd, 2011 03:25 pm (UTC)
I had the pleasure of meeting Amy last November in Florida when I attended the NCTE Annual Convention. What a great lady she is! Her blog The Poem Farm is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in writing poetry or for teachers who are looking for excellent poetry writing ideas/exercises for their students.

I can finally return to reading the special Poetry Month posts in the kidlitosphere now that I've finally solved my Blogger problem. It was SO easy--yet I didn't figure it out until yesterday. All I had to do was change a setting on my blog from "old editor" to "updated editor." It was as simple as that!

Now...I've got to go and get some cooking and baking done for Easter!

Elaine M.
Apr. 22nd, 2011 04:42 pm (UTC)
How lucky you were to meet Amy. Poem Farm is definitely a gold mine of great ideas and pratical tips.

Hooray for fixing your Blogger problem!
Apr. 22nd, 2011 03:44 pm (UTC)
Now I'm all crying. I can almost feel a still-warm egg in my hand. (Recipes are like eggs, we pass them from one hand to another.)
Apr. 22nd, 2011 04:43 pm (UTC)
Love that comparison, Blythe. And I love the name "Blythe!" :)

*passes chocolate egg*
Apr. 22nd, 2011 08:00 pm (UTC)
If you marry Colin, may I be your matron of honor?

Thank you for that poem. And for all these posts this month. This blog is a national treasure, I tell you what.

Apr. 23rd, 2011 01:11 pm (UTC)
You bet! But as matron of honor, part of your "duties" will be to read me stories :).

And thanks for the kind words!!
Apr. 22nd, 2011 11:30 pm (UTC)
I am definitely trying that pineapple cake!!! And, being a grandmother, love the fact that Amy and her husband pays tribute to his ...
deliciously sweet in every way.
Apr. 23rd, 2011 01:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, good luck with the cake!! Looks like we'll both be embarking on a challenging baking adventure :).
Apr. 23rd, 2011 01:27 am (UTC)
Oh, Jama...it is such a treat to be here today! Thank you for sharing our family's story and this great old cake recipe. I am honored to receive a crystal pineapple, and I wish I could send you a slice! A.
Apr. 23rd, 2011 01:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you again for sharing all this family goodness with us, Amy! So wonderful of you to bake a cake just for us :).
Apr. 24th, 2011 10:57 am (UTC)
Blythe isn't the only one with tears running down her face reading this post. Leave it to Amy to tug my heartstrings with equal parts silliness, pineapple, and the passage of time.

There is no "THE CAKE" in my family. Casseroles are the recipes I make with my mother's hand over mine. I make bread with my paternal grandmother. Suddenly I'm feeling a small and fleeting regret about not having children. Who will make my three-layer from-scratch chocolate cake in that once-upon-a-never when I'm gone? Amy, may I borrow your children? You need a YUMMY cake in your family to go along with THE cake.
Apr. 24th, 2011 03:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Immortality
Amy may very well let you borrow her children, but I'm thinking of the thousands of children in your classes who've "inherited" so many intangibles from you -- more than a few of them could learn to bake your famous chocolate cake :).

Apr. 25th, 2011 01:06 am (UTC)
Pineapple prowess, indeed! Sweet poem, too. Thanks for sharing!
Apr. 25th, 2011 08:25 pm (UTC)
I love the photo of Amy plus children plus eggs and chicken, and the poem touches me, especially the "tiny feathered faces," as others have mentioned. Thanks for a great post. The cake looks difficult to make, but I would not turn down a slice!
Apr. 25th, 2011 09:50 pm (UTC)
How much do I love that image of

"someday you'll be grownup birds"

A lot! All this heart-string twanging going on around here lately.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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