In the Kitchen With Laura Braiding Onions

Still from Braiding Onions VideoMy In the Kitchen With Laura posts and videos bring you into the kitchen with Laura Ingalls Wilder as we learn about historic cooking.

In the Kitchen With Laura Braiding Onions

There is a lot of descriptions of food in Little House in the Big Woods. My favorite description is all the food in the attic where Laura and Mary play. One of the things she describes are braids of onions. This is one thing Laura doesn’t describe how to do, so I take a stab. I’ve been doing this for years, just because Laura did.

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 ,  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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Cooking at Ushers Ferry June 2019

Sarah in 1890s Outfit Baking
Sarah Baking in Usher House Kitchen

Are you looking for a fun project for Wednesday, June 20th? Then come on out to Ushers Ferry Historic Village in Cedar Rapids.

Ushers Ferry is where I got my start in living history and first and third person historical interpretation. In the last couple of years I’ve returned for a couple of events and gotten a chance to cook on a wood cookstove again.

I’m going to be heading back next week.

Stop by:

Wednesday, June 21, 2019 between 5:30 and 8:30pm, tour Ushers Ferry and stop in to see me cook!

I’ll be in the Usher House.

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 Update 2018

Another year and we’ve added at least a couple of our In the Kitchen With Laura posts. What is In the Kitchen with Laura? One of the ways I celebrate Laura is through historic cooking. These posts take you into a historic kitchen. Sometimes it’s something to try hands on, sometimes it’s just learning something about food and cooking. All of them are things you could do, In the Kitchen With Laura. Here’s a longer explanation. Enjoy the directory of all the posts from this popular series.

Sarah in costume holding Fannie Farmer and Joy of Cooking cookbooks
Fannie Farmer and Joy of Cooking Show the Change in Cooking

What is In the Kitchen With Laura?
http://littlehouseontheprairie.com/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-ingalls-wilder

Learn more about my program In the Kitchen With Laura:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/fizz-boom-read-and-in-the-kitchen-with-laura-ingalls-wilder

Check out these images from the program:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-test-shots

Pig Tail
Pig Tail

In the Kitchen With Laura Posts

Butter and Egg Money:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-june-2014

Cambric Tea:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2018/12/24/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-cambric-tea

Churning Butter as in the Little House books:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-churning-garth-williams/

Cook’s Country Food History Videos:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-morel-mushrooms

Fannie Farmer Cookbook and The Joy of Cooking:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-august-2014

Fire:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-fire

Ginger Water:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-july-2014

Goats:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-april-2014

Handwritten Recipes:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-project-jan-2014

Kerosene Lamps:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-kerosene-lamps

Losing Food Words:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-losing-words

Measurements:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-project-march-2014

Morel Mushrooms:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-morel-mushrooms

Pepper Rings:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2018/10/08/in-the-kitchen-pepper-rings

Roundup of Food History Videos:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-cooks-country-food-history

Shortening:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-may-2014

Spices:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-spices

Supper versus Dinner versus Lunch:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-supper-vs-dinner

Whipped Cream:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-whipped-cream

Woodstove Basics:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-project-february-2014

Wringer Washer:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/in-the-kitchen-with-laura-wringer-washer

UPDATED January 1 2018: I added more explanation in an introductory paragraph.

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  FacebookTwitterGoogle+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

In the Kitchen With Laura Cambric Tea

Teapot of brewed tea on table in 19th century kitchen
Brewed Tea in Pot

History of Cambric Tea

Cambric Tea was a common drink in America during the 19th century, primarily for children. Cambric tea gave children just a taste of tea and made them feel like they were getting tea like the grown-ups.

As Laura described it, cambric tea was made with milk, hot water, and brewed tea. Most traditional recipes I found also included sugar, but neither Laura’s books nor Barbara Walker’s Little House Cookbook included it. I prefer it without, but you may like it. Adding sugar brings it closer to a tea based version of hot chocolate, only without the chocolate.

My version is based on the fact that most of the year both sugar and milk would be valuable commodities to be used sparingly. Milk was a seasonal food based on the cow having a calf and giving milk for it. After the Ingalls family left Wisconsin and its sources of maple sugar, sugar was no longer something that they could easily find or make. (Sugar CAN be created in the prairie/plains area by growing things like sugar beets or sorghum and processing them, but there is no indication that the Ingalls family did.) That meant they had to buy it. So I’m assuming both ingredients would be used as little as possible. My directions are without sugar and with limited milk. The idea is that you would be stretching milk and not putting in too much tea because back then people didn’t think the children should be drinking much tea and children not raised on tea don’t like a strong tea taste anyway. So I changed the proportions to reflect that.

Teacup of water with milk pouring
Pouring milk into cup with hot water

Recipe

The historic recipes I found were also mostly a list of directions. There is a recipe for cambric tea in the Little House Cookbook, but this is my own from having experimented it making it. You could make it by the pot, but there are advantages to making it by the cup. It doesn’t stand well and it’s so pretty to make it by the cup so each person can see the reactions as the ingredients mix. It makes a lovely pattern as you do it by the cup that you wouldn’t see in a pot unless you have a clear glass teapot.

Recipe Instructions

Brew fresh tea. I think plain tea is the most like the Ingalls would have had rather than a complicated blend. Brew the tea until it is dark. If you’re making a couple of cups, a cup of dark brewed tea will be enough. If you’re making a lot of cambric tea, expect to give seconds, or plan on giving straight tea as an option, go ahead and brew a whole pot.

You’ll also want a pot of hot water.

For each individual cup, fill the cup roughly ¾ full of hot water. You’ll want to leave a space between the top of the drink and the lip of the cup so take that into account.

Pour the milk into the hot water and watch it swirl until it mixes together. Add 1 Tbsp full of the brewed tea, stir, and serve hot.

Brewed Tea in Pot, Water and Milk in Teacup
Tea, Water, Milk

Differences

My version is different than Barbara Walker’s . In her version the water and milk was equally divided and she made a tea concentrate to use instead of standard brewed tea. This is a fun and easy Little House recipe to try. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Sarah Sue’s Cambric Tea

For 6 servings You’ll Need:

  • Hot water, at least 3 cups
  • Milk, approximately 1 ½ cups
  • Strong brewed black tea, 6 tablespoons

Directions:

Step 1: Heat up water to the temperature you want the tea.

Step 2: Fill each cup half full of hot water.

Step 3: Pour in a quarter cup of milk in each cup. Be sure to have whoever the cup is for come and look as you pour in the milk it swirls beautifully and is worth seeing in.

Step 4: Pour in a Tablespoon of the tea in each cup and stir.

Drink Me!

Drink it up while it’s hot! Unless they have been raised drinking tea, young kids are hesitant to drink straight tea as I’ve found out at many kids tea parties. I think they may like this though.

You’re Not a Brick

While we’re on the subject of tea, you will often see sutler’s (people who sell historic “props” for living history) selling bricks of tea. While these are often very beautiful and they were a thing, they weren’t a thing in America where leaf tea was always the rule from colonial times through today. Learn more about the history of tea in The Social History of Tea (2015 updated ed.) by Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson.

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 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.

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.