The Long Winter

Friday, January 9, 2009

My blogging-on-the-brain problem continues. I can't stop thinking about it. I was at the gas station this morning, feeling irritated because my gas card wasn't working, when I looked up and realized I was at the wrong gas station. I think it's time to institute a "no thinking about blogging or reading while I'm out of the house" rule so that I can avoid these unpleasant moments in the future. It seems that reading a book for 6-7 hours straight causes me to feel so immersed in it that thoughts of it follow me everywhere. So, the upside to this is that I feel more fully engaged with each book I read then I ever did in the past, and the downside is that I'm making an idiot of myself in public on an almost daily basis.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the book, here's a brief description, "Indian warning said the winter of 1880-81 would be a hard one in the Dakota territory so Pa moved his family from the claim into town. Blizzards soon snowed the little town under, cutting off all supplies from the outside."
Don't worry dear readers, I'm not going to read a Little House book every week. I promise. I decided to read The Long Winter today because I've reached the point of winter where I'm tempted to start whining about the weather. Whenever that happens, I know it's time to get out this book and regain perspective. It's so much harder to justify complaining about having to scrape the snow off my car so I can drive home to my well heated house with a fully stocked pantry after reading about people who lived on brown bread and potatoes through 7 months of almost continuous blizzards.
The book begins with the Ingalls family preparing for winter. Pa and Laura are out harvesting the hay and Ma sends out a pail of ginger water for them to drink. Ginger water is a concoction of water, sugar, ginger, and vinegar. It sounded disgusting, and yet my curiosity wouldn't let it rest, so I tried it. I wasn't sure how much of each ingredient to add because the book doesn't specify - so I tried 16 0z. water (I was clearly optimistic that this would taste really good), 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp vinegar, and 1/2 tsp ginger. It smelled awful, but I talked myself into trying it anyway by telling myself, "Maybe it'll taste like ginger ale." For the record, it didn't. Although, that could have been my fault for not knowing the correct measurements. It wasn't the worst thing I've ever tasted, but I'm afraid I just can't agree with Laura's assessment of it being "such a treat."
I'm kind of surprised that I never tried ginger water before. I think maybe I've just been gun shy all these years after the cup-a-cup-a-cup incident from when I was 11, in which I tried the recipe that was discussed in Steel Magnolias (a cup of flour, a cup of sugar, a cup of fruit cocktail with the juice, and you just mix and bake until golden and bubbly). I kept wandering through the whole movie, "Is that a real recipe?" Well dear readers, I'm going to end the suspense for you - it's not a real recipe. No matter how long I cooked it, it just wouldn't bake all the way. It ended up being a big wad of gooey dough. But, it seems that I still haven't learned my lesson, because all I can think about while writing this is, "I wonder what would have happened if I had just added an egg."
During the months of blizzards, the Ingalls' cow runs dry and they are left to eat nothing but plain bread and baked potatoes with salt. Curiosity took over again and I decided to try the baked potato with salt. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't great either. For the sake of authenticity, I tried drinking water with it, officially making it the most boring meal I've ever had. I cheated a little and used sea salt (my latest food obsession) - I'm not sure what kind of salt the Ingalls family used, but I think it's safe to say they didn't have organic sea salt on the prairie. I can't even imagine eating that day after day for months. No wonder the Ingalls were all cranky by February. I think I would have become cranky after the third potato.