Thursday, April 16, 2009

A "Farmer Boy" Lunch

Dear friends,

I've been reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's book Farmer Boy to the kids the past few days. (This started because I read one of the Little House picture books and the kids decided they wanted to read the whole chapter books again since we hadn't done it in quite some time. ) Farmer Boy is the story of Laura's husband Almanzo's New York farm upbringing. It always makes me hungry because she describes in detail how he stuffs himself with all of the goodies that his mother makes from scratch: sausages, apple pies, preserves, crispy ham, doughnuts, mashed potatoes with gravy, baked beans, fresh baked rye 'n' injun bread, fat pork, beet pickles, roast turkey, pop corn, cider, corn bread.... Yum... (Except for the beet pickles, which I will pass on down the table.) Sigh... It made me so hungry that I got up and started flipping through The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker, and drooling over what we could have for lunch.

We don't usually do big lunch meals at our house. Basically, the kids fix their own grub, which could be heating a frozen burrito, making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or fixing black bean quesadillas on the stove. But today was different. Today was inspired. :-) We were going to have a "Farmer Boy" lunch -- or at least a taste of one. Don't be too impressed. Naomi made the cornbread from two boxes of Jiffy mix, and we served it with store-bought butter and a jar of strawberry jam. (I did make homemade jam last year, though.) The baked beans were from cans (Bush's and Great Value, if you are very curious), and I fried up a bit of leftover turkey ham from the fridge to add to it. That was our Farmer Boy lunch. The kids loved it. So did I. I managed to save a little cornbread for Rachel when she gets home from classes, but the beans and ham were devoured. I've also started making an apple pie for tonight -- using a frozen pie crust -- but at least I'm cutting up fresh apples for that!

It strikes me that our 21st century lives are extremely easy compared to 100 or 150 years ago. I should say that our modern suburban American lives are easy. Some people in other areas of the world and country still live like they did back then, if they are even fortunate enough to have subsistence food to eat and a piece of wood to make a fire to cook it on. Julia sure did have to "rough it" in Bolivia for three months.

Our kitchens boast microwaves, dishwashers, electric ovens, refrigerators, and running water. Our cupboards and refrigerators are stuffed with canned, boxed, and frozen convenience foods. We can drive to modern supermarkets with cars instead of horse and buggy. We're getting just a wee taste of the old way of life this week since our electric dishwasher bit the dust and we're using human dishwashers. (Micah is finishing a load at the sink as I type. Oh yeah, they didn't have computers or blogs back then, either.)

Oh, and I often hang our bath towels and bedsheets on the clothes line to save electricity. Something just feels wholesome about getting out of the house into the fresh air for a few minutes anway. Speaking of fresh air and modern technology, this morning we went outside and watched a humongous cement truck and several workers pouring a new sidewalk across the street. It may not be traditional book work but it's education in real life -- a field trip outside our front door.

But back to my original topic: personally, I don't want to go back in time. History seems to have a certain romance to it, but real life back then was grueling. It would be a nice "place" to visit (with books and food we can sort of do that) but I wouldn't want to live there. I like my conveniences. I just need to be grateful for them, and make the best possible use of the time that they save me. And right now, that means getting off of the computer and getting on with the rest of the day!


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