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Chow-centric books

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General Discussion 7

Chow-centric books

Ruth Lafler | Dec 11, 2001 02:04 PM

The recurring donut discussion on the Bay Area Board triggered a craving that prompts me to resurrect the ongoing discussion of books that have lots of good chow in them.

In this particular case, the book that came to mind so strongly I had to pull it off the shelf and re-read it was _Farmer Boy_ by Laura Ingalls Wilder -- the book she wrote about her husband's childhood. Unlike the Ingallses, who were scraping out a living on the prairie (and almost starved one winter), the Wilders had a prosperous farm in upstate New York, and though the work was hard, they fueled themselves well, and the descriptions of the meals eaten by the hungry growing boy are mouth-watering.

Here's the donut passage (I hope it isn't too long for the copyright purists):

"All day long Mother had been baking, and when Almanzo went into the kitchen for the milkpans, she was still frying doughnuts. The place was full of their hot, brown smell, and the wheaty smell of new bread, the spicy smell of cakes, and the syrupy smell of pies.
"Almanzo took the biggest doughnut from the pan and bit off its crisp end. Mother was rolling out the golden dough, slashing it into long strips, rolling and doubling and twisting the strips. Her fingers flew; you could hardly see them. The strips seemed to twist themselves under her hands, and to leap into the big copper kettle of swirling hot fat.
"Plump! they went to the bottom, sending up bubbles. Then quickly they came popping up to float and slowly swell, till they rolled themselves over, their pale golden backs going into the fat and their plump brown bellies rising out of it.
"They rolled over, Mother said, because they were twisted. Some women made a newfangled shape, round, with a hole in the middle. But round doughnuts wouldn't turn themselves over. Mother didn't have time to waste turning doughnuts; it was quicker to twist them."

In addition to the lavish meals, there are descriptions of the pie-laden tables at the county fair; baking potatoes in a bonfire during the potato harvest; collecting maple sap for syrup and drinking the "thin, sweet icy-cold sap"; and pawing through the snow for wintergreen berries until he "found the red clusters and filled his mouth full. The cold berries crunched between his teeth, gushing out their aromatic juice."

This is a great book to read with kids, by the way. You can enjoy the wonderfully detailed descriptions, and it's a fun way to teach kids a little social history.

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