For the past few days I have been (re)reading all the Little House books – beloved books of my childhood.
When I was young, I loved them because the books were simple to understand and filled with mouth-watering descriptions of food. As I read them now, I started thinking of how much things have changed in the time between Laura’s life and my life.
The one thing that have struck me is the disparity in material and culinary richness, but also in people’s mindset. When Laura was five, her sister Mary had a proper rag doll. Laura, however, played with a corn cob wrapped in a napkin as a doll. A corn cob!
Finally, on Christmas, Laura received a rag doll, a pair of mittens, and a stick of peppermint candy cane. She was so happy that she could not say a word. Can you imagine only having candy once a year?
All foods were prepared at home. Even though the dishes sounded delicious, there was really no variety in terms of ethnic offerings. There were no pizza or potstickers or pho. No gelato or chocolate mousse. No tacos or teriyaki.
There was no expectation that little girls shouldn’t not have a corn cob, or that women should have more than a couple dresses a year. I can’t tell from the Little House series if the adults were ever ashamed of not having more – but I imagine that when one is living in the Big Woods, with wolves and bears for neighbors, the Joneses are pretty far away.
When Laura was sixteen, she worked as a schoolteacher and a seamistress’ assistant to earn money for her family. I have often wondered if she would’ve liked to go to college – that subject, I gather, was never even broached because the Ingalls could only send one daughter, Mary, to a college for the blind.
And now, we enjoy a level of material, culinary, and informational richness that would have been mind-boggling in Laura’s days.