Back To The Root Cellar ~ The Garden of Eating - a sinfully good blog about food

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Back To The Root Cellar

Last week I read Little House in the Big Woods, the first in the series of Little House on the Prairie children's books (I realize that I'm about 20 years behind the curve on this but I figured better late than never...)

To my delight, a great deal of the book is devoted to descriptions of the family's preparations to grow, catch, kill, prepare, and store enough food for the long snowy winter.

I particularly loved reading about how Laura and her big sister Mary help their Ma and Pa bring in the harvest from their crops of oat and wheat, store the pumpkins, squash, onions, and peppers from Ma's garden, preserve the pig they butcher and the deer Pa shoots, and smoke the mess of fish Pa catches in Lake Pepin. Here is a quote from the story - winter has just begun in earnest and the girls are housebound but the house is packed with good food and all is snug and cozy.

"The attic was a lovely place to play. The large, round , colored pumpkins made beautiful tables and chairs. The red peppers and the onions dangled overhead. The hams and the venison hung in their paper wrappings, and all the dried herbs, the spicy herbs for cooking and the bitter herbs for medicine, gave the place a dusty-spicy smell."

The one downside to this literary pleasure was that it reignited my desire for a home of my own, complete with a cool, spacious root cellar, a commodious chest freezer, and a nice dry attic in which to store the summer's bounty long into the bitter cold of winter. I've fantasized about this ever since I left home and my longing grew even stronger last year when I read Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Unfortunately, since I live in a small apartment in Berkeley with neither attic nor cellar (and certainly no room for a chest freezer), it seems this dream of mine will probably just have to wait a bit longer. Luckily, winters here are mild, rainy affairs and one can always find fresh fruits and veggies at the local farmers markets.

But I was pleasantly surprised this afternoon when I stumbled on a NYTimes article about the rebirth of root cellars in New York City and beyond! Viva la root cellar! Here is the link if you're curious:


Karen said...

Yay for Laura Ingalls books, but the whole house building parts are a bit boring. Emily and I just finished all of them right up through Farmer Boy. I think there's even more cooking stuff in Farmer Boy...

Eve Fox said...

that is really funny. Part of what I liked about Farmer Boy was just how amazingly much little nine-year old Almanzo ate!

I just finished the entire series and am sad that it's over now. I actually liked the house-building parts (maybe because my dad is a builder?) but I was REALLY bored by all the song lyrics in the books. I pretty much just skipped over them entirely.