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Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression Paperback – April 29, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
But this is not Little-House-on-the-Prairie. Yes, Kalish can rustle up the poignant details of honey gathering and head-cheese making. She can tell you how to domesticate raccoons and explain the proper use of beets to draw boils. What's unique here, though, is Kalish's portrait of an austere people whose Puritan tradition frowned on joy, prohibited affection in word or touch, "built character" with an open bible and homilies that dotted their days.
Fortunately, while Kalish grew up hearing that "whistling girls and crowing hens will always come to some bad end," such warnings never dampened the spirits of the "little heathens" -- as her grandmother called the farm's children. Eight decades later she has brought those stern sepia-toned faces back to full color through their words (from "Oh my soul" to "shit from shinola"), their ideals ("better to wear out than rust out"), and their deepest pleasures ("the kinship of souls that is created when everyone gathers in the kitchen to prepare a meal"). Reading Little Heathens, you become part of that lovely kinship for a while.
After reading this book, I fervently wished I could know Mildred Armstrong Kalish. She is obviously a smart and sweet lady, appearing to be very much like my beloved grandmother who was raised in Kansas a few years prior to the time of which this author writes. It is amazing to think what changes she has been through, what changes our country has been through! I hope I don't sound too old when I say that I miss the good ole days, even though I wasn't fortunate enough to have lived through them. I miss the excitement over even the smallest things (birth of an animal, fresh-baked foods) and the simple but important teachings of her ever-present family. I would like more details about the members of her family and herself after she left town and began other adventures -- in the military, teaching, marriage and family, cars, television, etc. HOW this country has changed! Please read this book to re-connect with our roots. It is enlightening and funny and interesting and always educational and entertaining. And everyone today knows how we love our entertainment!
But here's what moved me to write this review: Ms. Kalish's recipe for Apple Cream Pie! It is an odd, open-faced creation with big chunks of apples and heavy cream poured on top. I've been baking apple pies from scratch all my life, but people keep telling me this is the best one I have ever made. Don't miss her recipe for pie crust, either. Her vegetable-oil crust is not only healthier and much easier than traditional pie crusts, but addictively delicate and crisp. When she tells you, in her intro to the recipe, that you'll never bother making any other type of crust again, she's not lying. I intend to try all the other recipes in this book. How generous of Ms. Kalish to share her time-tested gems with the world.
The key to this superb discerning memoir is Ms. Kalish avoids acrimony and sugared (except when grandpa bought some) nostalgia to provide a vivid picture of a bygone era in which an extended family was there to raise the children with positive values. Life on the farm during harsh economic conditions was fun to a preadolescent Mildred although some chores were simply work. With black and white pictures to enhance the era and "farm food" recipes that were not microwave, LITTLE HEATHENS is a well written winner providing a powerful look at the 1930s in the Midwest. Ms. Kalish showcases how different life was back then from today when for instance the three Klausner brothers live in Georgia, New Jersey and Texas respectively and outhouses is a Three Stooges' joke.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was a very interesting and informative book about how life was a long time ago. People worked hard and made do with what they had. It sounds like a great life to me. Read morePublished 1 month ago by cheyanne
This author has a gift of words that drew me into her story from their start. I hated to put this book down, it was that good. I only wish that way of life were still a choice.Published 1 month ago by Arla Farmer
This is a real joy. I'm from Iowa and I can relate to some of her childhood as it came close to mine.Published 1 month ago by Mary P
This is a lovely read, old times are not forgotten. This book should remind us all what our familys indured, it must strengthen us to savor what we have in this time in this world... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kristi E. Hudnall
I found this book tedious and I couldn't finish it. The most interesting item is the fact that the writer's paternal grandfather kicked his son-in-law out of the family,... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Robert Slocum
Having been born in the late thirties, in Northern Iowa, I could relate to much of the book - which was recommended to me by my brother who was born in the early thirties. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Granny S.
I come from a long line of men and women who "worked the land" and this book gave me such a great appreciation for the generations that came before me. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Arizona Rose