Monday, February 8, 2016

Little House Cookbook Review // Guest post by Hamlette

Thanks so much Hamlette for writing this post! I enjoyed reading it, and I'm sure you will too! Go check out her two blogs, The Edge of the Precipice and Hamlette's Soliloquy


The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker

When I was a kid, my mom read us Laura Ingalls Wilder's books over and over and over.  Mostly, she read them in the car while we drove down to Saginaw to go to the mall, or on our yearly pilgrimage to visit family in Iowa.  I've got bits of these stories so ingrained in my memory, I feel like I actually experienced them rather instead of having them read to me.  Laura Ingalls Wilder used such vivid sensory details that you can almost feel the prairie winds, hear the insects, taste the food.  And because they often didn't have much food in their lives, she focused on what they did have with a startling intensity.

But of course, there's a big difference between reading descriptions of food, no matter how lifelike, and actually tasting it yourself.  Which is why I love that Barbara M. Walker's The Little House Cookbook exists.  When I bought it a few years ago, I thought it would be like my Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook -- recipes for foods mentioned in the books, with a little paragraph for each about where the food is found and how it's important to the story.


Not so.  Instead, this is a book you will want to read cover-to-cover, even if you never try any of the recipes.  You'll savor the explanations of how people cooked over open fires and with an iron cookstove.  Walker discusses how the Ingalls family obtained their food, how Caroline would have learned to cook new-to-her foods, how they processed and preserved food, and on and on, a banquet of information about every aspect of pioneer cooking and eating.  This is as much a reference book as a cookbook, and I find it utterly fascinating.


But it does have recipes too!  Lots of them.  I've only tried a couple, most recently the one for corn dodgers.  I made them for my kids for lunch last week, and they liked them to varying degrees.  I enjoyed the way they were crisp and chewy on the outside, but soft and smooth inside.  The cookbook says the Ingalls family would have eaten them hot with butter when they were fresh, or cold with molasses as a leftover.  I didn't put butter on them because I fried them up in bacon fat and they didn't seem to need butter, but instead of molasses, my kids dipped them in maple syrup.  I tried mine with corn syrup, but liked them better on their own -- the bacon grease provided plenty of flavor for my taste.


Even if you don't like to cook, if you enjoy learning about people's day-to-day lives on the frontier, you will find this book enlightening and entertaining.

Thanks so much Hamlette! I loved this REVIEW and the pictures you sent me! I actually found this book in my school library last week! I flipped through it and I agree with everything Hamlette said. You all should seriously check this out cuz it's awesome!

22 comments:

  1. You're quite welcome, Ashley! I was honored to be asked :-) I'm so glad you found it at the library too -- isn't it fascinating?

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    1. It is fascinating! I'll be reading it soon!

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  2. I totally agree with you on how clear the details were in Laura's books; I had the same feeling of having *almost* experienced it myself.
    Just last month I tried the Molasses on Snow candy from "The World of Little House" book. It was awful! It left a horrible mess, and the candy was not even mildly sweet, even though there was brown sugar in it. I'll bet it would taste better if it were maple syrup instead, but now I'm pretty timid of trying new recipes!

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    1. Abby, what a bummer that the molasses candy bombed! Sometimes recipes do that for me too -- cooking and baking is always an adventure :-D Even when I use a recipe I've made before, sometimes the results can be surprising!

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    2. Aww that stinks! It looks sooo good though :( I hope you try it again!

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  3. I agree - this book is nice to read, even if you don't plan to use any recipes from it. (Read: Me. :-))

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    1. Naomi, I'm also finding it's a great research tool for writing frontier fiction myself :-) Just things like, "Would this food be available and/or known?"

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    2. Oh yes! That's a good idea. :-)

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    3. Yes! I can't wait to read it!

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  4. Hamlette,
    We own this, too, of course - can't have a Little House school year without it! We made an excellent pumpkin pie using the recipe from the book; and we made several other foods. Our vanity cakes did not work out so good, but it was cook's error for sure.

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    1. Ooooooh, pumpkin is my favorite kind of pie! I'll have to try that one.

      I remember my mom trying to make vanity cakes once when I was a kid, and they didn't work either. Perhaps they're really tricksy?

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    2. A Little House school year sounds like so much fun!

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    3. Ashley, there is a book called the Prairie Primer, and it takes you through all nine Little House books, with projects and field trips and all kinds of ideas to do for school. It was excellent!

      Hamlette, I started freaking out when the oil started smoking, and I turned it down. I didn't like doing those vanity cakes. But I think the oil has to be super hot, or maybe it is the kind of oil we used. I don't know.

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    4. Probably having a "fry daddy" would have been the way to go -- something specifically made for frying with hot oil. I would have freaked out too!

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  5. Great review, Hamlette! I remember seeing this book in the library once and I agree with you--it's as much a history book as it is a cookbook. I really should try reading the whole thing myself! :-)

    Ohhhhhh . . . my . . . YES. Her descriptions of food are positively mouth-watering sometimes. Especially in Farmer Boy--but really, in ALL the stories. One of my favorites is the pumpkin pie and the hot bean porridge at the beginning of "The Long Winter." They sound so . . . COZY, you know what I mean?

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    1. Thanks, Jessica!

      Some of the meals definitely are cozy! Like Ma making pancake men for them as a special treat :-9

      I also remember that they ate nothing but potatoes one winter and nearly starved to death. That sounded terrifying to me, because I hate potatoes.

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    2. The descriptions in Farmer Boy sound so stinkin' good! Especially the doughnuts!

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  6. This sounds like an amazing book!! I always loved reading about how they made the different foods in the books.
    I need to read it at once!

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    1. Reading about the details in books is the best!

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    2. Rose, I'm the same way! I have this cookbook, a Hobbit-inspired cookbook, a Harry Potter cookbook, a Jane Austen cookbook, an Anne of Green Gables cookbook, and a Nero Wolfe cookbook. I've been looking at some Sherlock Holmes cookbooks lately, so... yeah... I love literary-inspired cookbooks!

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  7. I have the cookbook at home, and I've glanced through it a couple of times but never really looked into it. Now I have to read the cookbook. :-)

    whenever I've glanced over the recipes, they always look so difficult, so I have shied away from trying to make some of them. Since you said that you made a couple of the recipes, I think I'll try some out myself since I'm not as scared. (Yes, I am kind of a cowardly lion when it comes to trying new recipes.)

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    1. They seem pretty manageable to me, though of course some are more complicated than others. I do cook and bake a lot, though. But they're all explained REALLY well! That's very helpful.

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