In the Kitchen With Laura Churning Garth Williams

Today’s In the Kitchen With Laura is reworking an old post. We’re going to look at one of the things that is most closely associated with Laura, churning butter.

Garth Williams Pictures Farmer Boy

This last read through of Farmer Boy has convinced that Garth Williams has led me astray. I always liked the barrel churn Williams pictured in Chapter 17 “Summer-Time” (page 198 in the yellow back paperbacks). I always wondered why Almanzo didn’t get on and ride it like a rocking horse. I always wanted to see one like it. I haven’t yet, but I suppose there was one Williams based his drawing on as I can recognize most of the equipment in the drawing behind Almanzo.

Dasher Churns

There are different kinds of churns. The one that the Ingalls family is described using in Little House in the Big Woods is a dasher churn. The dasher is the paddle in the middle that you push up and down to create butter. They are normally high capacity and operated while standing up.

Dash Churn
Dash Churn

Barrel Churns

I have seen lots of barrel churns. They just looked nothing like the rocking horse model. Well, this time I read through a line jumped out at me, “Almanzo turned the handle, and the churn rocked.” There is nothing to turn on the one in Garth Williams drawing, but a normal barrel churn turns the barrel by turning the handle. Loaded with cream it’s constantly off balance and does rock, though not on rockers.

Dashe and Barrel Churns
Dasher and Barrel Churns

I’m including a photo of a normal barrel churn which I’m now 95 percent sure that it is like the one Mother Wilder used. The churn on the left is a dasher churn, like the Ingalls Family used in Little House in the Big Woods. The metal ones on the far side are new to me, but I would guess they might be from a commercial dairy to go with the other photos in the chapter.

Don’t Feed That Cow Turnips!

Just as a fun note turnips came in as fodder feed for cows in the 18th century. Laura Mason notes in the Encyclopedia of Food and Culture that when cattle feed was less uniform different feeds created different tastes in butter. Turnips were especially know “for giving a characteristic and much-disliked taint to butter.” (Vol. 1, p. 272) So the cow eating turnip tops in On the Banks of Plum Creek was probably not giving the best tasting milk, even if she was producing any. 🙂

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 Fire

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.

Prairie Burn
Prairie Burn

Was Fire a Big Danger When Laura Cooked?

Among re-enactors it’s a joke how people who aren’t aware of social history assume that most women died of fire back in the time of open hearth cooking. This isn’t true.

Fire was a normal presence in a house during most of the time Laura Ingalls Wilder was alive. It was a tool whether it was a camp fire, an open hearth, or within a cookstove. You got used to dealing with fire and wasn’t as big a deal as it is now. Still accidents did happen when you got careless or had a piece of particularly bad luck. Such an accident led to the little grey house in the west burning down.

Fire in the Kitchen Today

People are much less accustomed to dealing with fire today so it’s even more important to be prepared when cooking in your kitchen.

Here are some steps to help avoid kitchen fires.

Be aware of what NOT to do when putting out a kitchen fire. It’s NOT the same as a camp fire.

Be sure to have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen takes you through comparing fire extinguishers in the video below and recommends the Kidde ABC Multipurpose Home Fire Extinguisher.

And while we are talking fire extinguishers and road trips, it’s a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher in your car as well. You never know when a quick reaction can save the day.

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

September 2016 Presentations

Sarah in Ma's Kitchen on Ingalls Homestead
Sarah in Ma’s Kitchen on Ingalls Homestead

September tends to be a busy month. I’m very pleased to point out that I’ll be doing a hands on house at Ushers Ferry Historic Village in Cedar Rapids. I’m going to be doing some woodstove cooking so come on out.

  • Laura Days in Pepin, Wisconsin – Sept. 10 and 11, 2016
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder Activity – Ushers Ferry Historic Village – Cedar Rapids, Iowa – Sunday, September 18, 2016

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

 

Top Ten Posts July 2016

Here are the blog posts that have had the most views last month. Take a look maybe there is something there that will interest you too. :)

Pioneer in the Kitchen With Laura
Pioneer in the Kitchen With Laura
July 2016 Laura Ingalls Wilder Events
Laura Ingalls Wilder Conference 2017 South Dakota
Oregon Trail Again
One-Room School Lunch Survey
James Wilder’s First Wife
August 2016 Laura Ingalls Wilder Events
Laura Homesites Open for the Season 2016
Trip to DeSmet 2016 Day 3
Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame
Trip to DeSmet 2016 Day 2 Part 1
Selling Old Books

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.

Smithsonian Food Weekends

Smithsonian Food 2016aAt the wonderful Everybody Eats themed South Dakota State Historical Society conference, the other keynote speaker was Susan Evans McClure of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.  She spoke on collecting and preserving historic foodways material and also how they used food in their programming both as a draw and a subject. For example, they recently sponsored a discussion about foodways of the Supreme Court. They even have a focus page on their website to direct you to all of their food related collections and activities.

I’ve been enjoying their blog. So far my two favorite articles are on recreating meals from period cookbooks. This is something frequently done by living historians to learn more about how food was made, processed, and consumed. However, the most recent living history sites I know of focus on the 1930s so to see that applied to both the 1930s and 1940s is a real treat. Smithsonian Food 2016b

One of their most recent initiatives has been to dedicate an entire weekend to food history. This October 27-29, 2016 join the fun at the Smithsonian as they turn their attention to food and food history. The theme this year is “Politics on Your Plate.” The event will “explore the relationship between food, politics, and people. How have we participated, as individuals and communities, in shaping American food and foodways? Whose voices are influencing food policy today? What are the critical issues, and what role does democracy play in the future of food in America?”

The Smithsonian urges you to “talk and taste your way through food history” during three days of activities and events. Check out the schedule for specifics.
This is the second year that they have held the event, so here’s hoping that they have a good turn out so they will continue this new tradition. Learn more.

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 Spices

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.

Today’s In the Kitchen is combining something that Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family did every year and something she probably never would have done. We’re going to clean out our spice cupboard.

Spice Shelf
Spice Shelf

Spring cleaning was an important part of pioneer culture. Every spring you’d go to war with dirt, pulling things apart, refilling and restocking things, and washing every surface you possibly can. You’d also changed things over, pulling winter insulation away from the bottom of the house, putting up mosquito netting, covering up furniture with summer dressing.

This major cleaning would often include cleaning kitchen containers, etc. but you didn’t throw things out. Once you had something you thought you had it and it should last forever. This was especially true of the pioneer and Great Depression mind set. Once you had something it should last forever and you don’t waste it. It’s like the World War II slogan, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” You hold on to things, expect them to last or be good or at least usable forever. Sadly things aren’t.

I’ve been working on breaking out of this mind set and the spice shelf is a place to do it. (Now just FYI some of these containers I just love so these, especially the Tones cans, don’t have their original spice or herb in them. I’ve dumped them out a refilled them.) While it seems like that herbs and spice should last forever, they really don’t. As time goes by they lose both flavor and color and can really negatively impact your final product.

So to do your part for kitchen spring cleaning, go through your spice shelf. Replace everything that has outlived its date whether it’s empty or not. If you have cool old cans or bottles, just empty them out and refill with the new.

Spices, whole 1-2 years
Spices, ground 6 months
Herbs 6 months
Herb/spice blends 2 years (unopened)
12 months (opened)

These dates aren’t from the manufacturers (which of course want you to do this often, so you’ll buy more), but from the University of Nebraska Extension Service that conducts independent research. Find more information about things to check in your kitchen (including a printer friendly PDF) on their website.

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.

June 2016 Presentations

BlogSepia

Just one program this month so far, but I hope you can come out to it.

  • Historic Cooking Demonstration – Ushers Ferry Historic Village – Cedar Rapids, Iowa – Wednesday, June 29, 2016 6:30pm – 8:30pm

That’s it for this month so far, but it’s not too late. If you’d like me to come present near you make sure to tell your local library, museum or civic group.   Learn more here:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/booking-a-program
Find descriptions of the various programs available:
https://trundlebedtales.wordpress.com/program-descriptions

Sarah S. Uthoff 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.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.