Monday, January 02, 2012

The Little House Cookbook


The Little House Cookbook, by Barbara M. Walker, which my darling daughter gave to me for my birthday in November, proved a perfect fireside read. I kept it by my reading chair in the living room, and read bits and pieces of it when I had a chance. It's that kind of book--not to be read like a novel or a bio, but one chock full of interesting tidbits about food, food preparation, and food production on the American farm in the mid-nineteenth century.

I loved the Garth Williams illustrations, one of my favorite aspects of the LH books already, as well as the quotes from the books, which are liberally scattered throughout. It was fun but not surprising how I recognized every quote and picture as an old friend.

I confess that I didn't read every recipe thoroughly, nor did I rush to the kitchen to try my hand at anything. It was enough for me to read the descriptions of how something was prepared, and I really enjoyed the discussion about how modern incarnations will taste different from what Laura and her family tasted because the ingredients are produced differently.

I think the most intriguing recipe I found was the one for chicken pie. My family loves chicken pie and I make one about once a month. This one called for hard-boiled eggs and bacon, but no peas or carrots! Anyone still make chicken pie with hard-boiled eggs? Is it good?

I have an abiding interest in "old-fashioned" food and I'm torn as to whether to shelve this book with my LH collection or my food books, most notably The American Heritage Cookbook and Illustrated History of American Eating & Drinking.

The bibliography at the end was enough to convince me that the author did her homework. According to the foreward, the book was 20 years in the making, and I believe it. Authoritative, well-written, informative, and loving, it is definitely a book worth having and reading by fire.


  1. I totally wanted to be Laura when I read these books as a girl. It would be fascinating to see the differences in cuisine. I think we really take for granted the ease of cooking and shopping in today's society.
    Do you remember her description of the different flour containers that Almanzo built for her in her new kitchen for when she was a new bride? I think I remember her saying that there was even a spot for buckwheat flour. And graham flour I think. It has stuck with me for this many years!

  2. Such a pleasure to read your review, full of warm regard for the Little House books, for their illustrator (thanks for including that wonderful picture at the end!), and for the kind of careful research and devotion that such a book as this cookbook represents. I think I have eaten a chicken pie thickened with hard-boiled eggs--very rich and delicious fare! But I'm with you--bring on the peas and carrots. :)