It’s time to check in on the third in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series: Farmer Boy. Even more than Little House in the Big Woods, it’s full of practical tutorials for self-sufficiency and colonial skills. However, some of my favorite passages describe the food nine-year-old Almanzo Wilder eats with his family.
“Almanzo ate the sweet, mellow baked beans. He ate the bit of salt pork that melted like cream in his mouth. He ate mealy boiled potatoes, with brown ham-gravy. He ate the ham. He bit deep into velvety bread spread with sleek butter, and he ate the crisp golden crust. He demolished a tall heap of pale mashed turnips, and a hill of stewed yellow pumpkin. Then he sighed, and tucked his napkin deeper into the neckband of his red waist. And he ate plum preserves, and strawberry jam, and grape jelly, and spiced watermelon rind pickles. He felt very comfortable inside. Slowly he ate a large piece of pumpkin pie.”
And then after dinner they sat around and ate popcorn and apples by the fire. Good heavens.
There are plenty of passages like that, swoon-worthy descriptions of meals to make your stomach growl. Most punctuate a long day of work – hauling ice, harvesting oats, etc. They worked hard enough to eat like that. However, here is a passage about Sunday dinner after the family returns from church.
“Mother sliced the hot ry’n’injun bread on the bread-board by her plate. Father’s spoon cut deep into the chicken-pie; he scooped out big pieces of thick crust and turned up their fluffy yellow under-sides on the plate. He poured gravy over them; he dipped up big pieces of tender chicken, dark meat and white meat sliding from the bones. He added a mound of baked beans and topped it with a quivering slice of fat pork. At the edges of the plate he piled dark-red beet pickles. And he handed the plate to Almanzo.”