In the Kitchen Pepper Rings

Close Up of hand slicing peppers
Slicing Peppers

A Cornucopia

During their years in Pepin, Wisconsin the Ingalls family had more and a bigger variety of food then they would until they became established in De Smet, South Dakota. Being settled they were able to have a larger variety of livestock and a garden. Living in the border area between woods, prairie, and lake, there was a much larger group of things they knew about to harvest from the wild. Many of which are described in Little House in the Big Woods including honey, molasses, fish, bear, deer, and forage for their pigs, etc.

Hand pointing to tab
These tabs go in holes to hold the window up.

The variety of food stuffs followed various methods of preservation. Laura describes the attic of the little house full of food preserved for the winter. One of the things she describes are dried peppers. There are different ways to dry them, but here is a beautiful thing you can dry like Laura.

Woman in Apron Threading Pepper
Sarah threading pepper slices on the string to hang between windows.

A Pepper String

In old houses windows often had a peg on each side in the frame of the window. These pegs were used to press in to keep the window raised. Another use was an excellent way to dry pepper rings. Not only is this method useful, multicolored pepper rings drying in your window are lovely and give the sense that you are actively using your kitchen. Let’s walk through how you do this in both an old-fashioned kitchen and in your kitchen.

What You Need:

Washed Peppers, you’ll need several if you want the string to appear full

Cutting Board

Sharp Knife

String

Suction Cups (if you don’t have old windows)

What You Need To Do

Step 1: Grow or buy bell peppers of various colors. – It doesn’t matter to the rings whether you buy them at a store or farmer’s market or grow them yourself.

Step 2: Wash and dry the papers and lay them on their side on a cutting board. With a sharp knife cut the peppers into rings, leaving the circle of the rings intact. The width of the pepper rings can vary, but the thinner you make them the easier it is to accidentally cut a ring in two. Somewhere between a quarter and a half inch wide.

Step 3: Tie one end of the string to a peg.

Step 4: String the rings along the string. Leave space between the rings according to how you think look best.

Step 5: Tie the other end of the string around the opposite peg pulling the string tight.

Pepper Rings in Window
Pepper Rings in Window

If You Have New Windows

If your window doesn’t have pegs, use two suction cups instead. Stick the suction cups on opposite sides of the window, one on the far right side and one on the far left side of the window. Follow the rest of the directions as is except substitute tying to the suction cups for the pegs.

Close Up Dried Peppers on a String
Suction Cups for Pepper Ring String

How Do You Use Them?

Dried Peppers will last for a long time. If you get them completely dry they can last almost forever. It can be used in various recipes, normally they have to be rehydrated first. A benefit of using them is often recipes may call for a smaller amount than a whole pepper and this allows you to easily use part of the pepper without wasting or scrambling to use the rest.

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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One-Room School Lunch Survey 2018

A National Parks style poster for Homestead National Monument

Start With Research

I’ve been researching one-room school lunches for a long time. I’ve collected information from parent and teacher magazines. (I’m also very distraught that there is a thesis from the 1910s I can’t lay my hands on.) I’ve also collected  government publications talking about what you should have for school lunch.

What People Really Took

One of my on-going projects has been a survey on what people actually ate.  I’ve been collecting surveys for what people remember taking. So far I’ve got 468 responses with answers coming from everywhere between Canada to Louisiana. Answers on what they took ranged from hoe cakes to ketchup sandwiches to a hot dog kept warm in a Thermos with string tied around the natural casing knot to pull it out.

Politics

I was surprised about how school lunch, or at least providing a hot school lunch, turned out to be a pretty political topic as it was an excuse given as one of the reasons to close one-room schools. Many creative efforts were made to fill the gap  (until the Thermos made it unnecessary).

I also found out that where you ate lunch turned out to be a problem, if you ate on your desk how did you get it or keep it clean? Plus, were students made to wash their hands? It’s lead me down a lot of interesting questions besides food.

Handouts

I’ve put together a presentation what I’ve got so far, but I’m still going to be collecting surveys. So if you went or taught in a one-room school or know someone who did, please fill out the survey and spread the word.

Here is my latest update of my Handout 2018 about what I’ve learned so far.

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

In the Kitchen With Laura Supper vs Dinner

A late 19th century kitchen table
Kitchen Table Greenmead Historic Village MI

A Meal By Any Other Name…

If you follow me on social media you know that I just love passing on interesting articles. One recently caught my eye was about what you call the evening meal. Now if you’ve followed along with me, you’ll know that I’m concerned with words having meaning and the loss of that meaning on our culture.

Or Supper Is the Evening Meal To Begin With…

Although there are other non-related meal words out there (like breakfast and brunch), there are 3 thorny words that fight for dominance over just two meals: Lunch, Dinner, Supper.

Let’s start with Dinner since that’s the biggest meal and also the start of the confusion. The term Dinner doesn’t really mean a meal at any certain time of the day. It just means your biggest meal of the day.

So picture it — a traditional farming family back in the days when you worked on the land most of the time. The big meal is at noon. (See dinner bell to call everyone in.) That’s when everyone is together. It fuels people through the rest of the day and means that no one has to go to bed on a full stomach.

Supper was then the evening meal – supper is ALWAYS the evening meal and can’t be correctly used at a different time of day. Supper was usually a lighter affair. Just a light meal to end the day. The term supper clubs – where people went for a meal on the town – was also meant to imply a light, evening meal which would be accompanied by dancing, etc. and that is still the term used today.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The Great School Lunch Power Grab

Now I can’t say I have any numbers on this from my school lunch survey . (I tried, but you try to construct a question that asks did you start calling dinner lunch when you went to school without prejudicing the response or confusing people.) But I really think school has has much to do with this name change as anything. It didn’t take long for a dinner pail to become a lunch box with a much smaller meal than dinner. Once you’re used to calling the noon meal lunch at school (which was common school use), you’re not going to differentiate between the noon meal being called different things depending on whether you are at school or not. Also, in urban areas and office jobs, lunch became a light meal. You just “grab lunch.”

So if you now have your big meal of the day in the evening and the big meal of the day = Dinner, you start to refer to the big meal in the evening as Dinner.

Where Lunch  and Dinner Wins

So in this game of musical meal names, Lunch has grabbed the power position of the noon meal, Dinner has – in many cases – elbowed Supper out, and Supper is often let standing when the music stops. People today usually equate Dinner and Supper whether their last meal of the day is their biggest or not. Some people, me included, deliberately say Supper as the evening meal just to be clearer when I mean, but I think Dinner is going to win.

UPDATED May 27 2018: I got a great tweet in response that I’m including as an update.

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

In the Kitchen With Laura Kerosene Lamps

Beyond Candles

Although making candles is one of the major pioneer crafts that is demonstrated at museums or pioneer events today, as soon as they could people moved on to lamps that were fueled with whale oil, coal oil, and later with kerosene. People did definitely make candles, but mostly in the earlier years of American history, at lower economic levels, or in very isolated frontier areas without a settlement nearby. Lamps were easier to clean than candles, easier to keep functioning, and allowed a cleaner, sharper light. One of the many products once created by whaling was oil for lamps. The entire country ran on whale, but by the mid-19th century that was quickly shifting as the beginning of petroleum products stepped in to many of these uses – at least those that weren’t directly related to food.

Kerosene is Introduced

Robert Edwin Dietz patented the first practical kerosene lamp in 1859, independent of similar work being done in Poland. According to the Dictionary of Energy, “The Dietz Company went on to manufacture hundreds of lantern models, and became a pioneer in the automotive electric lighting industry.” Kerosene was the first useful product from crude oil and is produced by distilling it. Kerosene was where the money was. Gasoline was known during the same time, but didn’t have an immediately apparent use.

Karl and Jean Carrying Kerosene
Karl and Jean Carrying Kerosene

Laura and Kerosene Lamps

Although there is mention of candles in the “Little House” books, kerosene lamps or lanterns are definitely the rule as the series moves on in time. There is a lot of work to keeping a kerosene lamp operating properly and Laura wrote how glad she was that they could be put away in the cupboard in favor of electric lights.

While I was growing up we used to keep a lamp lit every time there was a storm and while I’m just as glad that our generator means no more blackouts, I still miss having a reason to get out the lamp and light it on a fairly regular basis.

Video

For this month’s In the Kitchen With Laura post we’re learning all about how you work and take care of a kerosene lamp.

Sources

These are resources I used for some of the invention details from our library, ask at your local library to ILL it.

“Cracking.” 50 Chemistry Ideas You Really Need to Know, Hayley Birch, Quercus, 2015. Credo Reference, http://resources.kirkwood.edu/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/quechemistry/cracking/0.  Accessed 03 Mar 2017.

“Dietz, Robert Edwin 1818-1897,” Dictionary of Energy, edited by Cleveland, Cutler and Christopher Morris, Elsevier Science & Technology, 2014. Credo Reference, http://resources.kirkwood.edu/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/este/dietz_robert_edwin_1818_1897/0. Accessed 03 Mar 2017.

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

In the Kitchen With Laura Losing Words

In the Kitchen With Laura, both the program and the blog post series, continue to be very popular. I really enjoy them too, so watch for more.

A book heart in a foodways reference book
A book heart in a foodways reference book

Words Have Meaning

In today’s post, I want to discuss the importance of words to food. Knowing the proper words for food helps you talk about it, helps you read recipes correctly, and generally makes eating a more pleasant experience.

A lot of the food words Laura Ingalls Wilder would have used or known, for things like a spyder (a type of frying pan) or mangoes (a specially prepared kind of pepper, NOT the tropical fruit) are no longer common place. This can cause a barrier of understanding whether you’re reading a cookbook or a “Little House” book. Keep the question “do you really understand what they’re saying?” in mind while you’re reading and if you don’t know, look it up! Also, talk with people especially older people and children about food. Learn how people used to describe things and pass on that knowledge and what words you use today on to young people.

Check out what Merriam-Webster has to say about the change of iced tea to ice tea:

Chronology of Food History
Chronology of Food History

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+, LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

Presentations March 2018

"By the Shores of Silver Lake" by the Surveyor's House
“By the Shores of Silver Lake” by the Surveyor’s House

This month I have four programs. There is a unique opportunity. I’m going to be doing both versions of my In the Kitchen With Laura program, pioneer AND 1930s. It shows the difference between cooking being an art and a science.

  • Historical Collections of Grundy County – Morrison, Iowa – General Laura Program – March 11, 2018 – 2 pm
  • Winterset Public Library – Winterset, Iowa – March 16, 2017
    2 pm – In the Classroom With Laura
    6:30 pm – In the Kitchen With Laura (1930s version)
  • Urbandale Public Library – Urbandale, Iowa – In the Kitchen With Laura – Pioneer Version – March 17, 2018 – 10 am

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+LinkedIn , SlideShare, and Academia.edu . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

One-Room School Survey Update Jan 2018

Please pass this on to anyone you know that is interested in one-room schools, went to one or taught in one. I want the widest possible numbers for my survey.

Orange oval lunchbox

The image is a common one, students trudging along a road to a distant one-room school house, clutching their school books and lunchboxes. What do you think is hidden in those lunchboxes? My mission is to find out. My research has covered reports in both teacher magazines and in parent/women’s magazines, teacher instruction manuals, and extension leaflets. In addition, I’ve been distributing a survey. The difference between what was called for in magazines and what people actually took was interesting.

It’s time again to remind you that my one-room school lunch survey is still on-going. I have 458 responses, the schools described range from Canada to Louisiana.

It’s a one-page survey and also makes an excellent story jogger if you fill it out with an older relative or ask them to fill it out. Anyone who attended or taught at a one or two room school is welcome to participate no matter when or where that school was located.

Please help us get enough surveys so we can see more trends. Anyone has complete copyright permission to run off and distribute as many as possible for any location.

Find the survey here:

lunch-survey

I update the handout with current numbers at each presentation. The most recent one was from the Association of Living History Farms and Museums. Find the latest circulated results here:
https://trundlebedtales.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/school-lunch-handout.pdf

For the Future

This summer I’m going to be doing an update on my results at the Country School Association of America.

If you haven’t yet filled out my survey (linked above), please do!

If you can come to the one-room school conference in Beatrice, Nebraska, it will be well worth your trip!

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook,  Twitter,  Google+,   LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.