Guess who came to dinner last night? Almanzo Wilder! Well, sort of.
Since this is autumn and harvest season and all, I was in the mood to reread FARMER BOY. Of course I was shamelessly salivating all the way through, as Laura described meal after meal full of farm-fresh produce. I marveled at Almanzo’s ability to polish off huge quantities of food, and still have room for pie (usually more than one piece)! It was all I could do to keep myself from running to the farmer’s market, loading up on everything, then gorging myself.
I resisted this compulsion until I came to this passage
“He knelt on the ice, pushing sawdust into the cracks with his mittened hands, and pounding it down with a stick as fast as he could, and he asked Royal,
‘What would you like best to eat?’
They talked about spareribs, and turkey with dressing, and baked beans, and crackling cornbread, and other good things. But Almanzo said that what he liked most in the world was fried apples ‘n’ onions.
When, at last, they went in to dinner, there on the table was a big dish of them! Mother knew what he liked best, and she had cooked it for him.”
Apples and onions? How wholesome! How healthy!! I could do that! This one simple dish really spoke to me. Onions from the dark earth mingling with apples that grew high in the sky. I loved that beautiful completeness, one which I discovered over and over again in the book.
The story takes place in 1866, when Almanzo was nine, one year before Laura was born. The Wilders had a dairy farm up in Malone, New York, which in its prosperous years provided a sharp contrast to Laura’s pioneering childhood. Food was plentiful on the Wilder farm; lots to go around for Almanzo and his older brother, Royal, and sisters, Eliza Jane and Alice. But Almanzo was always hungry,and his insides gnawed and twisted as he waited for his turn to be served. Being the youngest, he always had to wait the longest for his food. Laura masterfully builds up this anticipation (the most effective of literary appetizers), so that when we finally read about the meal, it fills us up to the brim.