Stuff and Nonsense: November 2010


"What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?"

Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie

Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored;
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before;
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye,
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

-- excerpted from "
The Pumpkin" by John Greenleaf Whittier


Oh, Laura

The Long Winter & These Happy Golden Years written by Laura Ingalls Wilder & read by Cherry Jones (HarperCollins, 2005)

The Long Winter tells the story of the Ingalls family during their the first winter in De Smet, South Dakota. The winter is a terrible one -- blizzard after blizzard descends upon the town and soon no trains can get through with food or fuel. The Ingalls family makes do as best it can, but the situation is quite desperate by the time spring finally comes.

These Happy Golden Years is set two years after that hard winter (a period covered by Little Town on the Prairie). Laura is a young woman now and teaching school miles away from home. Every weekend, Almanzo Wilder comes to fetch her home across the frozen prairie. When winter turns to spring and Laurie is home again, Almanzo still keeps coming by. Is it possible Laura has a beau?

I have read the Laura books many times over and still I find myself continually astonished by how much I had forgotten and by how well these books are suited to adults as well as children. All the homesteading and daily domestic details are utterly fascinating. And the food! Even in The Long Winter, when everyone is near to starving, Wilder manages to make a dinner of coarse brown bread and boiled potatoes sound pretty darn tasty. But then, as Ma has told us, hunger is the best sauce.

If, like me, you're interested in cooking like Ma, Barbara Walker's Little House Cookbook (HarperCollins, 1989) is a pretty good start as it includes recipes for dishes like fried apples 'n' onions, rye 'n' injun bread, and green pumpkin pie.


Her Perfect Earl

Miss Esmerelda Fortune agrees to act as governess to the Earl of Ashforth's unruly brood of children so that she might search his house for an ancient manuscript she desperately needs in order to establish herself as a True Scholar worthy of some big prize money. While she locates the manuscript quite easily, its appearance annoys her perfect Earl and he becomes very cross with her. Very cross, indeed.

I found Her Perfect Earl at my library a few weeks ago while I was looking for a short, fluffy historical romance. Her Perfect Earl definitely ticked all the boxes -- short and delightfully fluffy. Truly, this is a novel best not pondered too deeply -- I almost ruined my fun by thinking too much about the impropriety (and unlikelihood) of Miss Fortune spending several nights alone in her employer's company, roaming his manor in her nightgown! Surely, she would have put her clothes back on (or not taken them off to begin with) to go prowling for manuscripts?

Her Perfect Earl by Bethany Brooks (Signet, 2005).


Dirge for Two Veterans

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music;
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

~ excerpted from "Dirge for Two Veterans" by Walt Whitman