Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Butter Churning and Page Turning

This was the year that I suddenly became obsessed with Little House on the Prairie.

I've read at least four nonfiction books related to the series and am finally now re-reading the actual novels for the first time since elementary school. (Thanks to her sweet teacher connections, my mother was able to get me a free set of all the books. They looked so glorious, I could hardly bear to remove the plastic wrappings. But I did. Oh, I did.) I feel that my sudden devotion to all things Laura Ingalls Wilder must say something about the way my life is heading, perhaps some inner call to a simpler life, or some need to learn needlepoint or learn to spell in a one-room schoolhouse.

Or maybe I just like long descriptions of how to build log houses.

Anyway, a few nights ago, I finished reading Farmer Boy, which is a year in the life of a young Almanzo (Laura's future hubby, whom she later nauseatingly refers to as "Manly"-- please. Only Pa Ingalls could pull off that nickname, amiright ladies?). By the way, who names their kid Almanzo? Mr. and Mrs. Wilder do. I digress. I only really remembered the chapter where Almanzo, in a fit of Laura-esque rage, throws the polish brush and it hits the parlor wall (gasp!).

Here's what I didn't remember: ALL THE FOOD. Seriously, this book is NOTHING BUT FOOD MANIA. Food, food, and more food. ALSO, FOOD. It. Is. Awesome.

It also makes you hate Almanzo and his family a little, but in a very enjoyable way, because you've just read about Laura and Co., who are almost obsessively grateful for their cornmeal and lone tin cup and pathetic Christmas gifts of a piece of candy and a penny ("the best Christmas ever!"), and how the Ingalls fall asleep to the sounds of war cries from the Indians who want to slaughter them (ALLEGEDLY*) AND scrimp and save and then eventually have to abandon everything because of the durn government and so on. Meanwhile Almanzo's on his fifth slice of pumpkin pie.

*Little House on the Prairie is chock full o' racism. I tell you, there must be dozens of graduate dissertations out there on this topic, and I am absolutely filled with spite that I didn't write one myself.

Also, spoiler alert, at the end of Farmer Boy, Almanzo is given two hundred bucks because he found a dude's wallet. TWO HUNDRED AMERICAN DOLLARS. Back on the prairie, Laura and Mary nearly die of malaria and then have to give their Indian beads to Baby Carrie, who wouldn't appreciate an Indian bead necklace if it slapped her in the face. Life on the prairie is rough.

Next up, On the Banks of Plum Creek. I have to find out what happens to Laura. I've heard she grows up to become a writer but right now all she does is help Ma churn butter and not speak unless spoken to because children must be seen and not heard. So I'm waiting for the big twist.

Note to self: Research vinegar pie. If it's good enough for Almanzo, I must have it.



  1. "Life on the prairie is rough." - hilarious!

  2. Vinegar pie? You try it first. ;)

    I'm really amused that you're reading Little House on the Prairie because lately I've been thinking about them. I looked at a boxed set the other day but decided I wasn't ready to spend $45 on it. I didn't even read them when I was younger (or watch the TV show) so I don't know where my sudden interest came from!

  3. Oh man, the food porn is like all I remember about Farmer Boy. I actually am really interested to read those books now just so I can dissect all the institutionalized racism and sexism, not to mention the class differences between Laura and Almanzo (which I feel stupid to not have paid attention to before this, because it smacks you over the head).

    But I LOVED Little House when I was a kid, because I felt like I was Laura and my (okay, younger) blonde, blue-eyed sister was Mary -- still do, actually. MAH CHILDHOOD.

  4. Thanks, Bren!

    Crystal-- I know, right?! I Googled it yesterday and it sounds, um, interesting. :) And yeah, I was extremely grateful that my mom was able to get it through her school book orders, but Amazon has a really decently priced box set I can link you to if you're interested. And how did you avoid watching the LHOP TV show?!

    Meg-- they are really fascinating to read as an adult, because they were so idealized and perfect when I was a child. Suddenly I'm all, "Whoa, Ma, way to reinforce gender stereotypes," and "Whoa, Pa, way to be racist while thinking you're not racist" and so on. It's fascinating.

    I recently read The Wilder Life and it really dealt well with that whole "we all identify as Laura" theme; I loved it.

    1 c. brown sugar
    2 c. water
    1 c. vinegar
    2 tbsp. butter
    1/2 c. flour and a little cold water
    1 recipe of plain pie pastry

    Combine sugar, water and vinegar and bring to a boil. Add butter and stir till it melts. Mix the flour with a little cold water to make a smooth slurry. Add this to the boiling liquid slowly, and stir till thickened. Line a pie plate with your pastry. Pour in filling and cover with strips of pastry in lattice fashion. Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce to 350 degrees and bake for 25 minutes more.

  6. Jason, I've googled some pictures of it, and if your recipe turns out like those, it's sure to be, um, scrumptious.

  7. I have never seen or tasted a vinegar pie. I just searched for it on cooks.com. If you would like to make a pie and bring me a piece I will happily taste it. For now I'm far too busy eating cookies to worry about such things.