He knelt on the ice, pushing sawdust into the cracks with his mittened hands, and pounding it down with a stick as fast as he could, and he asked Royal, “What would you like best to eat?”
They talked about spareribs, and turkey with dressing, and baked beans, and crackling cornbread, and other good things. But Almanzo said that what he liked most in the world was fried apples ‘n’ onions.
When, at last, they went into dinner, there on the table was a big dish of them! Mother knew what he liked best, and she had cooked it for them. –Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy
Of all the Little House books, which are so often concerned with how and what the family ate, it is Farmer Boy that features the most food, and is a virtually paean to the pleasures of old fashioned home cooking. The Wilder family breakfasts and suppers are Lucullan feasts of suckling pig, ham, roast goose, chicken pies, doughnuts, mincemeat, custard, raisin, berry, vinegar and apple pies, ice cream, and so on. The amounts of food Almanzo tucks away seem wildly improbable and indulgent–and also may have finally satisfied a writer who remembered living through periods of near starvation on the country’s frontiers.
Thinking again about the Little House–as I am wont to do–I remembered Almanzo’s beloved fried apples n’ onions when deciding what to have alongside Eli’s porkchops. They are a perfect accompaniment to pork, with an excellent balance of salty, savory, and sweet. We had the porkchops (that Eli is still perfecting), garlicky mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, and fried apples n’ onions. We’d planned on Brussel sprouts, too, but sadly did not see any we liked.
Eli devised these based on my suggestion; we feel that equal parts of apples and onions are important to balance it. We used more of my heirloom apples, Spitzenburgs this time, which were fantastic–and more likely to be similar to the apples consumed by Almanzo in nineteenth century New York. Be sure to use a good cooking apple that will retain both shape and bite. And we used white onions for a good onion flavor. I’m sure one could skip the bacon and simply use butter for a pork or meat-free version, or used sausage even. Ooh, good idea! The leftovers were great with fried eggs and bacon this morning.
- 1/4 lb sliced bacon
- 1 lb cooking apples
- 1 lb onions
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- Fry bacon in a cast-iron skillet to desired crispiness. Chop, and reserve on a plate.
- While the bacon cooks, slice onions crosswise into thin rings. Halve apples lengthwise, and laying flat on cutting surface, thinly slice.
- Using bacon fat, cook onions over a medium-low heat til they begin to look translucent. Add apples and sugar, cover, and cook til tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in chopped bacon and serve.
Constructing the Little House: Gender, Culture, and Laura Ingalls Wilder by Ann Romines
Little House, Long Shadow: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Impact on Popular Culture by Anita Clair Fellman
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little Town: Where History and Literature Meet by John E Miller
Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend by John E Miller