Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Up a Country Lane

Up a Country Lane by Evelyn Birkby

Up A Country Lane is part memoir and part cookbook. Through stories and photographs Evelyn shares what life was like living on a farm in rural Iowa during the decade following WWII. Neither Evelyn or her husband Robert were farmers but like many young couples from the era they were eager to rent a farm, put down roots and build a meaningful life on the farm. Evelyn shares everything from the sense of community, gardening,the ritual of grocery shopping and the use of meat lockers to raising chickens, milking, haying, harvesting, schools, social clubs and so much more.
Evelyn does not shy away from the reality of life on a farm and shares stories of drought, ruined crops, sickness and accidents. "A family on a small farm could have more than its share of isolation, loneliness, and constant need for hard, physical labor. So the memories of simple, happy events and celebrations must realistically be tempered by the struggles endured."
Many of Evelyn's stories made me smile but some were also heartbreaking.
If there was one thing that could bring a farming community together it was food. Potlucks, club luncheons, harvest feasts and holiday gatherings were all occasions to pull out platters, bowls and pie plates. At the end of each chapter Evelyn shares many simple recipes that were favorites in her family and many neighboring families as well. These are recipes that people really made and ate, recipes that the people were connected with.
One of the recipes I've tried was Curried Beef and Rice and let me tell you that was one hearty, filling meal. Beef, potatoes lots of vegetables and seasonings all served over rice. It was delicious but like I said very hearty and filling and I can see why a hard working farm family would enjoy that meal.
I love that every time I make a recipe from this book I can flip through the pages and read some of Evelyn's stories again. A treasure of a book. I'm glad I stumbled upon it.