Mr. Wilder, the Gangsta of Malone

A fully functional kitchen plus a couple of rainy, miserable days equals KITCHEN PARTY!  I spent yesterday making granola – hippie me – baking cookies, chopping fruit and veggies, and making hummous that would make you cry tears of joy.  Well, it made ME cry tears of joy.  I was skeptical – who puts yogurt into hummous? – but it was the greatest hummous I ever consumed, no hyperbole.  I need to put it on the cooking blog – which right now has back-to-back cupcake recipes on it, so you should really be checking it out anyway just for the porny cupcake photos.  My husband has a new portrait lens in his camera and I didn’t know how to change that, so I had fun taking some arty pictures of peanut butter/chocolate cupcakes. 

Sigh.  It was only yesterday that I was kitchen party-ing.  I miss my kitchen so much.  Today the electrician came to put in new lighting and there are currently giant holes in the ceiling and much woodchips and insulation scattered all over the floor.  Lalalala.  How much longer until I can crack open that wine bottle?  Ever since giving up booze on weekdays, I appreciate Friday nights so much.  SO VERY MUCH. 

A few months back the boys were reading Little House on the Prairie in their class, and they asked me to read them the other titles in the series.  SCORE!  Pretty excited to not be reading another Geronimo Stilton or Magic Tree House, I dug out my old box set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and we read Little House in the Big Woods.  Why, oh, why did the Ingalls leave the Big Woods?  It all sounded so lovely and cozy, what with the excitement of blowing up a pig’s bladder like a balloon and eating a roasted pig’s tail, and going to a sugaring-off dance, and having both a corncob doll AND a rag doll.  Every other book is a tale of narrow death escapes and crippling poverty and malnutrition. 

But now we’re reading Farmer Boy and it is both heartwarming and horrifying.  On the one hand, I greatly prefer wealthy, businessman-like, pillar-of-the-community Mr. Wilder to flighty, keeps-putting-his-family-in-constant-danger Pa.  For one thing, there is always lots of food.  The food descriptions in that book reach food-porn levels.  If Almanzo was alive today, maybe he’d be a food blogger.  There would be lots of pictures of pie, we know that much.  So that’s kind of nice, compared with the Ingalls’ meals of bread and molasses, with salt pork fat if they are lucky. Plus, Mr. Wilder is kind of a badass.  Remember that it is Mr. Wilder’s blacksnake whip that is lent to the teacher so that the teacher can beat the living hell out of the disruptive boys who intend to murder the him and dissolve the school?  Just like they did the previous year?  Kind of makes the kids nowadays who speak in class without putting their hands up look like pussies, no?

Old-timey life seems pretty grim, even for a well-to-do family like the Wilders, doesn’t it?  The joy and excitement of the tin-peddlar’s annual visit.  The constant drudgery and field work.  The cutting of ice blocks and packing of said ice blocks into the ice house at forty below temperatures.  Walking around in shoes that don’t fit because the cobbler was late in arriving.  I mean, it kind of sucks.  It makes me feel bad for even complaining that my kitchen is currently covered with drywall dust and insulation.  Soon, the kitchen will be cleaned up, and I will be eating the world’s greatest hummous and making my way through a nice bottle of shiraz, so what is there to complain about, really?


  1. We had the whole Little House series when I was a child, but I read all but one of the others multiple times before I ever tried Farmer Boy: I’d assumed it would be about boys, and therefore boring. (I assumed Those Happy Golden Years would be about old people and STILL haven’t read it.) Then one day in a state of book desperation I read it, and it ended up being my favorite of all of them. Eliza and the boot black brush! We didn’t eat ALL the sugar, mother. Watermelons in the ice house! Harvesting the nuts! Trying to save as many hills of some crop as possible from the frost!

    • It is pretty great. It’s nice to read a Laura Ingalls Wilder book that isn’t about devastating poverty and hunger! I love that part about not eating ALL the sugar.

  2. I read that book to my boys when they were 3 & 5, and five years later they still talk about it.

    I’m chuckling at your comment about bread and molasses and salt pork fat. My father grew up in conditions similar to Farmer Boy (no electricity, no running water, 1 room school house, working manual labour from a young age) and from him I’ve inherited a love of bread with molasses and salt pork. Though I do enjoy a good pot of hummous on occasion.

    • I feel fairly confident that your boys, like mine, enjoyed the part about the teacher beating the crap out of the “bad boys”. AWESOME! they yelled as we were reading it. GO MR CORSE!

      Then when it turned out to be Father’s whip…colour them thrilled.

  3. Farmer Boy is my favourite, too. Although These Happy Golden Years is great because of all the romance. Old-timey prairie homesteader romance, but still.

    I really want that hummous recipe now. My boys *love* hummous and I could get in their good books by whipping up a batch this weekend.

  4. Oooh, I do like the old-timey prairie romance. All the courting by going for sleigh rides and buggy rides! And then he brings Laura a pin for Christmas. He pinned her! Just like in the 50s! I do like that book, although the poor crazy Mrs Brewster who tries to stab her husband…that’s a little weird.

    The romance of Almanzo driving out to pick her up on the weekends, for like 24 miles or whatever, pretty much wipes out the creep factor that he’s 25 and she’s 15…well, maybe not…

  5. I like how Barbara Walker (who wrote the LH cookbook) says that Farmer Boy is Laura’s daydream of a childhood without hunger. Aw.

  6. I always wanted to live back in the old days when things were so simple and then I reminnd myself once a month how women used to ummm…you know….the Aunt flow?
    And how did they entertain their children? How?

  7. I am obsessed with Ma Wilder. She’s more woman than I’ll ever be. I can’t even handle a weekend of camping, for heaven’s sake.

    For ages now I have been wanting to read The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure – it’s the story of her own obsession with the Wilders and her trip around America to visit some of their homesteads. I hear it’s really good.

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