Little Heathens, by Mildred Armstrong Kalish

So this economic downturn isn’t going anywhere.  Or maybe it’s going nowhere, fast.  When I read Little Heathens, by Mildred Armstrong Kalish, I was mostly fascinated by the necessity of hard work during the Great Depression.  And since it is about growing up in Iowa, and I grew up in Iowa, there was a bonus level of fascination for me.  Kalish is now about the age of my grandparents, so it felt a bit like reading into their lives.

What I especially liked about Kalish’s story was how matter-of-fact she was about describing family recipes or ways of doing basic things like laundry.  Her unabashed advocacy for bacon drippings as the main ingredient of a lot of foods definitely hit home with me.

I’ve started thinking more about frugality and consumption, especially since my income is pretty minimal these days.  Because my background is fairly privileged, I’ve never known deprivation and I’m certainly not experiencing it now.  Yet when I buy food or toiletries, I think harder about price, quantity, and necessity.  Oh tapioca pudding!  You are a luxury now!

Kalish’s upbringing on an Iowa farm is far from my own suburban childhood and adolescence, and my family isn’t much for do-it-yourself.  Can our own foods?  Grow things in a garden?  When I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle last year, I exclaimed with wonder at their ingenuity in growing/raising all their own food.  My friend JoAnn, who actually grew up on an Iowa farm, just looked at me like I was an idiot.  Of course people who live on farms provide most of their own sustenance!  What did I expect?  Maybe I’ve just lived too much with the sensibility that food comes from grocery stores, and that’s that.

I’m not ready to cash in my (sub)urban chips just yet and move to a farm.  I don’t like animals and I don’t like dirt, but it would be nice to feel of use.  I suppose it would be nice to provide for myself in a way that didn’t just involve a bank account.


3 responses to “Little Heathens, by Mildred Armstrong Kalish

  1. Bacon drippings, huh?

    I need to read this book.

  2. For the record, I don’t think you’re an idiot. Much like you had to stretch to imagine growing your own food, I had to stretch to imagine growing none of it. We did not, however, cook everything with bacon drippings, although I might be easily persuaded to do so.

    You are welcome to come help me in my wee suburban garden if you’d like to try it out sometime!

  3. Pingback: Postville, by Stephen Bloom « Lauren the Bookworm

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