Friday, July 6, 2018

The Harsh Reality of Pioneer Food

From Atlas Obscura:
There is perhaps no better-known account of American pioneer life than the Little House series of children’s books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which was subsequently adapted for the stage and big screen. Over the course of nine books, set between 1870 and 1894, Wilder recounts a fictionalized version of her childhood and adolescence as the Ingalls family moves west, variously living in Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Missouri.

Nowadays, however, the books are divisive. Many readers see them as a racist relic worth removing from the children’s literature canon altogether. In June 2018, in fact, the American Library Association excised Wilder’s name from the Children’s Literature Legacy Award book prize due to these concerns. Yet there are still those who love the books, celebrating them in memoirs, blogs and listicles alike—often with a particular focus on the novels’ food.

Mealtime scenes are some of the most memorable in the books, laid out meticulously in calm, deliberate prose. A salted pig’s tail, sizzling over the flames, is so good that the main character, Laura, scarcely minds that she’s burnt her finger. Hard candy, made with boiled molasses and sugar, is made by drizzling the dark syrup “in little streams” onto “clean, white snow from outdoors.” A candy heart, printed with red letters, is “wrapped carefully in her handkerchief until [Laura] got home and could put it away to keep always. It was too pretty to eat.” (Read more.)

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