Annual Dr. Seuss tribute brings page to plate

Vancouver and Evergreen schoolkids dig into, or around, green eggs and ham

By Jacques Von Lunen, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

Many of the children screwed up their faces when the mayor handed them their plates of food. The eggs were green!

But once the initial surprise faded, most of the first-graders at Hough Elementary in Vancouver gobbled up their bookish breakfast.

It was the downtown school’s turn Tuesday to get a donated meal of green eggs and ham as part of Read Across America, a weeklong tribute to the late children’s author Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Seuss Geisel. The wildly popular writer was born March 2, 1904, and dedicated much of his life to literacy programs.

In honor of the event, all first-graders in the Vancouver and Evergreen school districts this week receive books provided by the districts’ nonprofit foundations.

And staff from Vancouver’s Beaches Restaurant & Bar, aided by about 120 volunteers -- including, on this occasion, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt -- are dishing out the Seuss-inspired meal, as they have for the past 16 years.

This year, the good Samaritans -- or better, good Sam-I-ams -- will serve meals to about 7,000 students and parents in 48 schools, said Mark Matthias, owner of Beaches.

Just like in years past, mixed reviews arose when fictional food jumped off the page and onto grade-schoolers’ plates.

“They’re delicious,” crowed Isaiah Gray, a 7-year-old first-grader.

It was his first time eating the Seussian fare.

A few tables over, a veteran of the annual breakfast once again munched his green eggs with delight.

“They’re good,” Gavin Nelson managed to get out between bites of egg. “I had them last year.”

Funny thing is, the 7-year-old doesn’t eat normally colored eggs at home, said his mother, Sarah Nelson.

To be sure, not everyone shared Gavin’s color preference in egg dishes.

Amani Acevedo Alonso offered up a one-word review:

“Yucky,” she said.

In front of her was a paper plate cleaned of ham, fruit and sweet snack. Just a lonely pile of green eggs sat untouched on one side.

Some kids approached the food with scientific precision.

“I think it’s food dye,” 7-year-old Isabelle Haskin-Ponton said matter-of-factly. “You can’t buy eggs at the store like that.”

She’s right, Matthias confirmed with a laugh. He and his staff are mixing about 12,000 eggs with food coloring this week, he said.

It wasn’t just the food that jumped off the page. An actual Cat in the Hat mingled with the children at Hough. School volunteer Ryan Colgrove reprised his role as the famous character from Dr. Seuss’ book.

Many of the children have seen Colgrove in street clothes -- he’s been a lunch buddy at Hough for five years. But once he donned a cat suit and striped hat, no kid called him Ryan.

“They really believe you’re the cat at this age,” Colgrove said. “They see more with their imagination than with their eyes. You grow up and you forget about that.”

But for one class period Tuesday, children and adults lived in a world where cats wear hats and eggs are green.

Jacques Von Lunen: 360-735-4515; jacques.vonlunen@columbian.com;http://www.twitter.com/col_schools.