Bamsie made his debut into our childhood after reading Astrid Lindgren’s Lotta series. The young protagonist Lotta, a more realistic child compared to Lindgren’s ever-popular Pippi Longstocking, was rarely without her stuffed pig Bamsie. His agreeable accompaniment to her adventures provided us poring over the books, trying to locate the tiny pig in the detailed drawn pages.
My siblings and I made clear our love of Bamsie to friends, squealing on about cuteness. We were living in England at the time, with a handful of American ex-pats in our school. My five-year-old sister Catherine had such a friend named Katie hearing our extols, and she felt the same.
Around bedtime one night, probably while we were reading one of Lotta’s stories, someone knocked at the door unexpectedly. It was Katie’s mother with a gift for Catherine. An almost complete replica, she had sewn a Bamsie from soft baby pink fleece, presenting it excitedly to pre-bedtime children. (It was weird to me that Katie’s mom would call on us so late. As an adult I wonder if she was perhaps cycling through a manic phase and felt compelled to bring gifts to many of her children’s playmates that night.) Catherine remembers a misshapen Bamsie, like a hotdog rather than a pig. Cuddly Bamsie was so popular in our family, Katie’s mother made another for my little brother Bryan (or maybe he was the recipient of the first Bamsie, and Catherine the second? Catherine and I don’t remember for sure), which soon appeared at an earlier hour of another day. I believe this twin was to replace Catherine’s hotdog pig, but Catherine refused the trade.
The Bamsies were well loved over many years. Their eyes faded into ghost like whites, staring into nothing. We used a Sharpie pen to color in the pupils temporarily. Their pigskin fleece became pilled and dirty. Both Bamsies were washed with little refreshment to their original states. My mother restuffed both of them to bring back their piggish figures. They each traveled around Europe, camping and living in a van for at least one summer. They also got into the US without passports and became citizens (perhaps they have dual citizenship — I’m not sure what the laws are for Swedish stuffed animals with extreme lifestyles). They were often blamed for sitting under our chairs and farting. They were easy scapegoats. And easy sidekicks for our adventures much like Lotta’s.
My sister moved from toy pigs to human babies, having four of her own. We were pregnant at the same time, with almost the exact same due dates for her second child and my first. We hoped that they would be born the same day and share a birthday. My Peach decided to arrive five weeks early, and Peach’s cousin was born on Peach’s original due date. Both of us were staunch babywearers when our children were young (and still as toddlers sometimes), toting them almost everywhere we went, they usually being agreeable observers like Bamsie.
The Bamsies still live at Catherine’s house, just as easy to blame for a squealy fart as they were years ago. Even with some farty pigs in the house, Catherine has more grace and aplomb than I do, and an agreeable accompaniment to any group like Bamsie could be, but without the pig-shaped body, pilled skin, pupilless eyes, or lack of conversation. She is willowy and freckled, pupils fully intact, and full of interesting conversation. She is selfless, with a knack for thoughtful gifts Our families convened for the holidays at our home, sounds reminiscent of this summer when our squealing children played in Maine for our parents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration. She and I revisited a subset of letters I sent her when I studied in Australia in college, ripe with laments of boys, views of feminism from newly minted women’s perspectives (we were indignant that we were certainly not girls…hmph!), alcohol, and the germane details of college life, all soaked in the jargon of the 1990s. Embarrassing, to say the least. We had a good laugh at how far we’ve come.
We have both come so far from those days, from being babies to having babies. Today’s recipe of pregnant pig bread is a juxtaposed homage to cute stuffed pigs — stuffed with Bamsie fluff or stuffed with sausage — and my sister’s birthday. These pregnant pig buns aren’t as cuddly and wizened as Bamsie, but they are no doubt exceptional hearty and cute. They are a deviation from a traditional birthday cake — because no one in my family would snub a nose at the non-traditional. We are cheerfully along for the adventures.
Happy Birthday, Cathy! Have a year full of squealy pigs!
One year ago: kohlrabi chips
Recipe minimally adapted from http://www.girlversusdough.com/2013/06/17/sausage-stuffed-piglet-buns/ . I’ve been eyeing this one for a year and finally did it!
- FOR THE DOUGH: 1 cup milk
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup butter (original recipe calls for oil)
- 1¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2¼ cups bread flour, divided (original recipe calls for all-purpose flour)
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- FILLING AND ASSEMBLY: 1 pound sausage without casing, divided into 12 equal parts. (The original recipe calls for sausage with casing, cooked and cut into 12 pieces of 2-inch lengths.)
- Azuki beans, cloves, or peppercorn (for eyes)
- 1 egg
- Place milk, sugar, and butter over medium heat. Heat mixture until almost boiling. Let cool until lukewarm.
- Sprinkle the yeast over the liquid, mix briefly, and let it sit for a minute.
- Stir in 2 cups of bread flour. The mixture will be very sticky and wet. Cover with towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sausage. Mold each piece into a short log shape. I browned and pan-steamed the pieces to fully cooked. Allow to cool completely before using.
- After rise, stir in the remaining ¼ cup flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. The dough be stiff enough to handle. If still too sticky, add in a little more flour.
- Divide the dough evenly into 13 pieces. Wrap one of the pieces in plastic wrap and set aside (this will become the snouts, ears, and tails).
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- GETTING THE PIGS "PREGNANT": Flatten one of the dough balls into a circle about 4 inches in diameter.
- Place a piece of sausage at the center of the circle and gather edges. Pinch edges and seam together. It should be the shape of an oval. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, with the seam facing down. Repeat this process 11 more times.
- Cover the dough balls with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes. They will puff a little.
- "FACE" TIME: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Beat the egg and brush 3 of the dough balls with the egg wash. Allow to sit and dry slightly while you make the snouts, ears, and tails for the three.
- Unwrap the dough ball you set aside. FOR EACH PIG: Break away a piece of dough about the size of a large pea and flatten it. Place the it on one end of the dough ball. Stick two toothpicks into the oval to make the two nostrils. These will stay in the dough while baking to keep the holes from closing up in the oven.
- Place two peppercorns (or beans or cloves) above the snout for eyes.
- Form two pea-sized pieces of dough into triangles. Place above the eyes for the pig’s ears. Pinch the appendages on fairly well; they can fall off while baking.
- Place a pea-sized piece of dough on the back of the pig for a tail.
- Repeat this process for the other 11 dough balls, working on 3 at a time.
- If you still have egg wash left over, you can gently paint the snouts, ears, and tails. (I don't do this and everything still looks cute.)
- Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown, checking at 12 minutes to observe the amount of browning. Cool, and carefully remove the toothpicks from the pigs’ snouts.
- These reheat well in a warm oven for a few minutes. Advise your guests to remove the pigs' eyes before eating the bread.