Picking Plums with Laura and Mary

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s works are a staple when it comes to fictional food. She contrasted spare, careful phrases with big, indulgent, mouth-watering language, and the result is potently elegiac. Her emotions about childhood come through excellently in her writings regarding food and music– the sensory experiences of childhood that stay with you for life. 

“When they came to a plum thicket they set down their big pails. They filled their little pails with plums and emptied them into the big pails till they were full. Then they carried the big pails back to the roof of the dugout. On the clean grass Ma spread clean cloths, and Laura and Mary laid the plums on the cloths, to dry in the sun. Next winter they would have dried plums to eat.

The shade of the plum thickets was a thin shade. Sunshine flickered between the narrow leaves overhead. The little branches sagged with their weight of plums, and plums had fallen and rolled together between drifts of long grass underfoot.

Some were smashed, some were smooth and perfect, and some had cracked open, showing the juicy yellow inside.

Bees and hornets stood thick along the cracks, sucking up the juices with all their might. Their scaly tails wiggled with joy. They were too busy and too happy to sting. When Laura poked them with a blade of grass, they only moved a step and did not stop sucking up the good plum juice.

Laura put all the good plums in her pail. But she flicked the hornets off the cracked plums with her finger nail and quickly popped the plum into her mouth. It was sweet and warm and juicy. The hornets buzzed around her in dismay; they did not know what had become of their plum. But in a minute they pushed into the crowds sucking at another one.

‘I declare, you eat more plums than you pick up,’ Mary said.

‘I don’t either any such a thing,’ Laura contradicted. ‘I pick up every plum I eat.'”

On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

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