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Thursday, February 27, 2014

We Are All Total Losers Compared to #Farmer Boy          

I am obsessed with  "Farmer Boy"--Laura Ingall's Wilder's book about her husband Almanzo's childhood in upstate New York.  (Spoiler alert: it never explains where  they got the name "Almanzo"--possibly, there is a missing chapter about a traveling circus?) This book has me convinced that our culture is totally, completely going down the tubes. Whenever I am feeling really inadequatebecause I hate cooking and my kids have played way to many video games and I just can’t bring myself to mop up muddy dog footprints again, I think about Farmer Boy’s mom, and feel worse. For instance: this is what I make for dinner--

Open jar of Ragu
Open package of pre-cooked chicken sausage
Open bag of frozen gnocchi
Make all of this stuff hot and combine. 
Congratulate myself that I snuck an entire raw onion into the sauce! This counts as a vegetable. 
Add cheese.

This is how my son eats:

He approaches stove with trepidation. From his demeanor, you would think he is routinely held down and force-fed haggis, or wichity grubs. In fact, he is on a rotation of about six foods, none with vegetables, spices, sinister chunks, or more than 3 ingredients.  He eats each of these foods only after coating them exhaustively in parmesan cheese. (In fact, the food is only a vessel by which parmesan cheese can be more efficiently ingested; much like the relationship between toast:cinnamon sugar, or waffles:syrup.) He peeks in saucepan. Sees that the gnocchi is bathed in sauce. Distorts face. (I close my eyes, count to ten, and tries not to think about wine.)  I dish up a plate. Boy coats food with so much parmesan cheese it looks a lot the front lawn, which is frozen under two feet of snow. Boy delicately picks parmesan cheese off the top of the food with one tine of his fork and proceeds to eat parmesan cheese, one granule at a time

This is what Farmer Boy’s mom makes the family of six, plus a visiting teacher, for dinner:

There were slabs of tempting cheese, there was a plate of quivering headcheese, there were glass dishes of jams and jellies and preserves, and a tall pitcher of milk, and a steaming pan of baked beans with a crisp bit of fat pork in the crumbling brown crust….and a big willow-ware platter full of sizzling ham. 

This is how Almanzo ate:

He ate the sweet, mellow baked beans. He ate the bit of salt pork that melted like cream in his mouth. He ate mealy boiled potatoes with brown ham-gravy….He demolished a tall heap of mashed turnips, and a hill of stewed yellow pumpkin. He ate plum preserves, and strawberry jam, and grape jelly, and spiced watermelon-rind pickles. Slowly he ate a large piece of pumpkin pie. 

And, I’ll have you know, Farmer’s boy’s mom made all of that from scratch—including the head cheese, and the watermelon rind pickles—with no electricity, running water, or refrigeration. She did it all by lantern light!  
I wonder where I can buy some headcheese. 

(Ok, I just Googled "Almanzo." According to, in one of the Little House Books, Almanzo told Laura his name was passed down from an ancestors in England whose life had been saved in the Crusaded by an ancestor named Al Mansour! Well, how about that!) 

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