This picture book is one of our favorites. Boy In The Mid-west brings it to me quite often, and I almost have it memorized. ;) The rhyming words give clues to what is going on, but the pictures are where the real story is told. The artwork is exquisite, and well researched.
This story is set in colonial America. The day to day life of the eighteenth century is portrayed through the illustrations. Goody O'Grumpity is up early, even before the story starts (in the cover page illustrations), stiring her pot over the open hearth. She has to tend the fire. Milk the cow. Churn the butter. Collect the eggs. Prepare her cake, (which, true to eighteenth century cooking resembles a yeast bread more than anything we consider "cake" today.) All the while, the sing-song words to the story barely touch on these tasks, and focus more on describing the sights and sounds.
When she takes the cake to bake in the oven, you can see another aspect of colonial cooking. The oven is an earthenware structure, built on on elevated surface, and protected from rain by a slanting roof. To cook in an oven like this you have to start a fire inside the oven and let it burn for a few hours. When the oven is thoroughly heated, the coals and ashes are removed from the oven, and the, un-baked, baked goods are added. The oven would stay hot for hours, and the whole village would do all of their baking on one day in the community oven or ovens.
As the cake bakes the aroma fills the country side. The pictures take us through the settlement. We observe that is fall. The tree leaves are changing color. Families are harvesting pumpkins. A man is catching a trout from the river. A fine lady sits and stitches on a tapestry. We get a glimpse into the neighboring Indian village. The story ends with all (of the many) children getting a slice of Goody's freshly baked cake.
At the end of the book is a recipe for Goody O'Grumpity's Cake, which is good because my mouth is watering by the end of the story. I hope to try it someday. Maybe it will make it into a future blog post. ;)
When Goody O'Grumpity Baked A Cake
By Carol Ryrie Brink
When Goody O'Grumpity baked a cake
The tall reeds danced by the mournful lake,
The pigs came nuzling out of their pens,
The dogs run sniffing and so did the hens,
And the children flocked by dozens and tens.
They came from the north, the east and the south.
With wishful eyes and watering mouth,
And stood in a crowd about Goody's door,
Their muddy feet on her sanded floor.
And what's do you s'pose they came to do!
Why, to lick the dish when Goody was through!
And throughout the land went such a smell
Of citron and spice - no words can tell
How cinnamon bark and lemon rind,
And round, brown nutmeg grated fine
A wonderful haunting perfume wove,
Together with allspice, ginger and clove,
When Goody but opened the door of her stove.
The children moved close in a narrowing ring,
They were hungry - as hungry as bears in the spring;
They said not a word, just breathed in the spice
And at last when the cake was all golden and nice,
Goody took a great knife and cut each a slice.