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!