I spent a lot of time reading as a child. I loved it so much that I read at night under the covers with a flashlight long past my bedtime.
I had two fictional friends who had a huge impact on me early on in life. The first was Dr. Seuss’s character, Horton the elephant. My first and favorite book was “Horton Hatches the Egg.” I renewed it so many times from the library that my parents finally bought it for me.
I was intrigued with Horton’s determination and courage. I used to walk around quoting him all the time – “I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant’s faithful 100 percent.” I’m sure my parents were sick of it after awhile.
I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Seuss in 1986 at a book signing in New York City. He was promoting his new book, “You’re Only Old Once.” I stood in line to meet him with my copy of “Horton Hatches the Egg” tucked under my arm. When it was my turn I told him about my love for Horton and he smiled. He looked over my well-worn book and said, “Do you know this is a first edition?”
I didn’t. What I do know is that I now have a SIGNED first edition!
My second, and most influential, fictional friend was Heidi. I found everything about her fascinating and wanted to be just like her. I wanted to be a little blonde girl, live in the Swiss Alps in a cozy house with my grandfather, sleep in a little alcove in a bed made of straw, and play with the goats.
I could only dream about these things, but there was one detail that became real to me. According to the story, when Heidi first arrived at her grandfather’s rustic mountain home he fixed her something to eat. He toasted cheese over the fire and served it to her on bread with some warm milk.
Right away cheese toast and warm milk became my new favorite meal. I got tired of warm milk pretty quickly but my taste for cheese toast stuck with me. Even today it rates right up there with my favorite things to eat.
In 1972, my husband and I traveled through the Swiss Alps and went to the top of Mount Pilates. The view from the summit was stunning, but the most exciting thing I saw was a small chalet down the mountainside. It was just what I imagined Heidi’s house would look like!
Later that day at a small restaurant I ordered something that, roughly translated, was cheese toast. It was the best I’ve ever eaten. This recipe is about as close as I can get to reliving that experience. Here’s to Heidi, cheese toast, and a day in the Swiss Alps!