21 November 2009

A great book: We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich

One of the joys of examining another person's library is finding treasures. We Took To the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich, published by J. B. Lippincott, Philadelphia and New York, was, from the inscription, a gift from mother to daughter when it was first out, in 1942. Now in the daughter's daughter's library, its quiet oatmeal-and-brown-sugar cover had a plain appeal, but the memoir is nothing short of exotic.
In the woods the first question you ask anybody, no matter what time of day he arrives, is "Have you eaten?" . . . In the country, and even more in the woods, a kitchen is much more than a place to cook. It's the place where people sit, for warmth or sociability, or to do odd jobs . . . Often my pots and pans have to find what space they can around a soldiering iron thrust into the firebox and my pot roast is shoved back in the oven to accommodate a pair of newly oiled boots that must be dried.
There are many recipes and truisms, such as "People are so easy to fool. The real test comes when you try the fly out on a fish" and "Blueberries are apt to be flat."

There are many recipes, including this one for Mock Tripe:
It is an old home recipe of that almost legendary Norwegian guide, Travis Hoke, and is very useful in disposing of otherwise unusable odds and ends. If you have a fresh salmon you can put its skin in a light brine until you are ready to use it, or the skin of a baked fish, carefully removed, will serve as well. Save the daily leavings of the oatmeal pot and spread them out about a half inch thick to dry. When you have amassed a sufficient quantity and it is covered with a heavy brown crust, season well and wrap in the fish skin. Dredge this with flour and pit it in your roasting pan with a small amount of water or milk, cover, and bake at least an hour in a medium oven. The result is truly amazing.
Not everything in this great, wise book is so foreign.
I don't want my child ever to feel as lost in the world as I do right now; nor do I want to inculcate in him the doctrine of force and aggression at no matter what sacrifice of the rights of others . . . I don't want to raise my son to be a soldier—but if he has to be one, I want him to be a good and capable one. I want him to know what he's fighting for—and Freedom and Democracy won't mean a thing to him, unless they are all tied up with memories of things he has loved ever since he can remember—things like the sound of the river, and the way Kyak [the dog Rich calls her other son] lies and dreams in front of the open fire on a crisp autumn evening, and the picnics we've held at Smooth Ledge.
In the magic world of here and now, within half an hour of opening this book I had to have it so I bought it used on the internet, shopping for the cheapest postage, as there were several places that listed the 1942 edition for $2. I've got it now, and the only difference between it and the copy my friend has, is that the fly leaf has been torn off on mine, which is often the case when personally inscribed books lose their library.

1 comment:

Ed Y said...

Sounds great. The part of being a soldier and remembering what you care about.

Thank you for letting me know of this writer.