Dinner with Walt

all things Walt Whitman

Dinner with Walt - all things Walt Whitman

David Goodale & Pinapple Upside-Down Cake

Driving home from work one day recently, I was thinking of W’s upcoming birthday and how I might celebrate it. Naturally for a birthday celebration you have to have a cake, but what sort of cake would be fitting for W? From out of nowhere, I had the idea to make a pineapple upside down cake. For reasons unknown to me, the idea seemed perfect! It’s unlikely W had much access to pineapple, given the tropical nature of the fruit and the fact that the shipping industry in W’s day was primarily by train and/or ship, taking many days to reach a destination.  And pineapples were not commercially grown and distributed in the US until many years after W’s death.


Always with a curious mind in regard to Whitman and his life, I went to The Archive and did a search for ‘pineapple,’ which resulted in only one finding.  I was surprised there was even one result returned, but this result is an interesting find.


It’s a 1984 Walt Whitman Quarterly Review tribute to David Goodale, a “freelance Whitman scholar.” Authored by Florence B. Freedman, I can closely relate to David Goodale’s personal cultivation to Leaves of Grass.  Goodale is quoted, [Leaves of Grass] “was dead straw and shavings to my uncultured mind,” he confessed.  He was enroute to return it when he decided to give it another look:  “It was as if the top of my head opened up and Walt Whitman entered in.”


But this next passage is where I find the greatest significance. Freedman writes of Goodale, “For the rest of his life he devoted as much time as he could to the study of Whitman and later of the poet’s friend and defender, William Douglas O’Connor. Goodale was the true amateur-student and researcher not as part of an academic field of study, for he was never part of academia, but for delight in reading, collecting, research, and writing, and equal delight in sharing his collection and knowledge with others.”


That to me is beautiful and benevolent! Copious and exuberant praise to you Mr. Goodale! Thank you for sharing and advancing the knowledge of Walt Whitman.  And also a big thank you to The Archive for making this tribute article available.


Oh yea!  So what in the World does any of this have to do with the pineapple!?! Mr. Goodale worked for the Dole Pineapple Company for 40-some years in California.  So there you have it, an introduction to a fellow “freelance Whitman scholar” – whose discovery is linked to a sweet, prickly tropical fruit!



Here’s the recipe for the pineapple upside cake I used, I consulted several recipe’s I found online and ventured on my own with a few ingredients.


Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

(makes one 9-inch cake)



4 Tbl (55g) unsalted butter

¾ cup (160g) raw sugar

1 medium fresh pineapple (peeled, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick)



1 ½ cups (195g) flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

½ cup (113g) unsalted butter (at room temp)

¾ cup (160g) raw sugar

2 large eggs, separated

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbl Cognac

½ cup (120ml) milk

¼ tsp cream of tartar


  1. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan. Pre-heat oven to 350?F.
  2. Add butter and sugar to a saucepan, cook over medium heat, until the mixture starts to turn golden brown and the edges begin to bubble, remove from heat. Pour the mixture into the cake pan. Add the pineapple slices on top of the mixture, set aside.
  3. Mix together flour, baking powder salt, set aside.
  4. In a standmixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks, vanilla and Cognac and mix well.
  5. On low speed, add flour and milk in two alternating segments.
  6. In another bowl, or a clean standmixer bowl, add egg whites and cream of tartar and wisk on high until stiff peaks (approx. 3-5 minutes).
  7. Fold a few big spoonful’s of the egg whites into the batter, then fold the remaining egg whites into the batter.
  8. Bake at 45-55 minutes.
  9. Wait approx. 15 minutes before inverting on a rack to cool.
  10. Best when served slightly warm, garnish with fresh whipped cream (optional).

Handwritten Letter from Horace Traubel


With as much eagerness and ‘hunger’ as Traubel exhibited when receiving letters and memorabilia from Whitman himself, I too am thrilled and delighted to acquire an original handwritten letter by Horace Traubel. The letter is a significant addition to my ever-growing collection of Whitman (and Traubel) “heap of nothings and somethings,” – the description Whitman himself used for his own collection of books, papers, letters and memorabilia.


Written 105 years ago, to the day, its recipient is unknown as it is addressed ‘Dear Friend’. As best as I can transcribe Traubel’s handwriting, the letter says:






















The provenance of the letter is the estate of Gene DeGruson, a noted literary collector.

It’s also interesting to note that DeGruson also possessed a handwritten and signed manuscript of Whitman’s poem, Ah, not that Granite Dead and Cold, that was later published as Washington’s Monument that sold at auction for the staggering price of $57,750!


I can assure you, dear reader, I paid far less for the Traubel letter, but nonetheless, it’s a gem and I am very pleased to acquire it. With a hearty salute to Traubel, “I attach the letter here:”





Traubel, Horace. (1906). With Walt Whitman in Camden (March 28 – July 14, 1888). Boston: Small, Maynard & Company. pp. 3.


Another 328 Mickle Street story

Interesting, in this new book I’m reading, Keller describes the condition of the house when Whitman purchased it in the winter of 1884-5. Keller writes of the house:



Fast forward to 1906, 14 years after Whitman died – here’s an image of Whitman’s house from a postcard I recently added to my collection. The exterior of the house looks to be in pretty good shape. The house, at that time, was still embroiled in a bit of a squabble, but looks good.



Fast forward again to 2012 – here’s an image of the house from my visit in March. Not too bad for a 165 (+/-) year old house, huh!?!



Keller, Elizabeth Leavitt. Walt Whitman in Mickle Street. New York:  J. J. Little and Ives Company, 1921. pp. 18-19.