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The day just isn't complete without a bedtime story.

The day just isn’t complete without a bedtime story.

And just what is my darling husband reading to our precious daughter? An Alton Brown cookbook, of course. You have to start with the basics, after all.

My first foodie experience was not in the kitchen. It was with a book, which is appropriate. Long before I ever became interested in food, I was interested in books, and the first time food really interested me was when I read Little House in the Big Woods. It was all so fascinating, how involved everyone was in the making of the food, how it took up such a large part of their lives. I was no more than ten years old, and food only interested me insofar as what appeared on the table at dinner. I was a child of very simple tastes, but Wilder’s descriptions of where their food came from and how it was made enthralled me.

Obviously, food has its place in fiction, but it’s more prominent in some works than in others. The “Little House” books were my first introduction to fictional food. The “Anne of Green Gables” series offered other selections, most notably the raspberry cordial that Anne is so proud to serve to her friend and turns out to be much stronger currant wine instead. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe introduced me to Turkish delight, which I, for many years, thought Lewis had made up. Tolkien gave me lembas bread. The Harry Potter series (which I admit I have not read and have no plans to read) may not have interested me with the story, but who can ignore such culinary entertainment as butterbeer and pumpkin pasties? Most recently, The Hunger Games trilogy practically made food another character, showing just how important it was to the lives of so many in the dystopian world.

And, oh, the cookbooks that abound for each of these various universes! A few weeks ago, Geordie came home with The Little House Cookbook, and a little idea grew in my head. I went searching for recipes from other stories, and they are certainly out there, in abundance. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to give some of these recipes a try.

So, here we go, a mini-feature for the blog to give me something to write about. It probably won’t be a weekly thing, but my goal is to do at least one fictional food a month.

I decided to start with Laura Ingalls herself, with something so basic that it formed a major part of the Ingalls family’s diet: cornbread. And it is a very simple recipe that can serve as a basis for so many different types of meals, savory or sweet. I made cornbread to be served with white chili for a cold winter night.

The cornbread that the Ingalls ate would have been bare bones by necessity, and the recipe reflects that. Plain yellow cornmeal (about three cups of it) and a bit of salt is mixed up with enough boiling water to make a soft dough. And that’s all there is to it. It doesn’t make for a very flavorful bread, but, as the author of the cookbook points out, even plain cornbread is better than nothing to eat at all. The dough is formed into two semi-circles, which are placed side-by-side in a greased cast iron skillet. It goes into the oven until the bread becomes dry and a bit crusty. It’s then cut into wedges and served any number of ways.

cornbread

For the chili, I crumbled some cornbread into my bowl and ladled the chili over it. A good idea, because the chili ended up being thin and uninteresting on its own. The cornbread added a nice texture to it, and the corn flavor contributed to the overall flavor of the chili.

Since then, the cornbread has served nicely as my lunches. Broken up and soaked in warm milk and maple syrup, it’s a fairly decent little meal. Simple and sweet, almost like a throwback to childhood. I imagine it would be even better with buttermilk.

sweetcornbread

I also guess it would be pretty decent with some gravy, or broken up to make a stuffing for poultry. A versatile bread, a useful staple indeed. I’ve had good cornbread that could stand nicely on its own, but this works in a pinch when you need a blank canvas to match with whatever you’re intending to serve.

Personally, I think it was a nice introduction to the world of fictional food (though I suppose this is more historical than fictional, but still). I’ve got a list of foods I want to try, from any number of sources, and I’m eager to see how they go. I’m also open to suggestions!

Alright, so part two of my comments about Baby Dust. The first part, I think, was something that might annoy people generally. I decided to separate this partially because it may just be my own opinion. I’m curious to see what other babylost parents think. Also, the post was going kinda long, and I try to keep these things under 1000 words.

Anyway. One of the main characters (let’s call her MC) goes to a baby shower, which is still very difficult for her ten years after her last miscarriage. But the expecting mother is her husband’s niece, one of her favorite relatives. Although she’s not on the best of terms with her sister-in-law, MC goes to the shower because she’s so very fond of her niece. During the shower, another woman asks the niece about naming the baby. After some joking, the girl states that she will name the baby “Angelica” – which is what the MC named her miscarried daughter some ten years earlier. MC becomes furious. She yells, “How dare you?” at her niece, which causes the girl to burst into tears. Niece blubbers out that she feels the baby “wants to be named that,” which only makes MC angrier. Another woman (NOT the niece) states that MC never really got to use the name, and MC is so hurt that she rushes out the door (and that’s the only part of the scene  when I feel sorry for MC, because, yes, that’s a low blow).

Character psychology is very interesting and important to me. Characters need to act like real people; otherwise, why should we care? People in stories need to do things because it makes sense, not for the purpose of the story, even if the reader doesn’t agree with the action. Not only do I not agree with the way MC handled that situation, I don’t understand it. I even tried putting myself in her place and imagining what I would do.

My best friend has two daughters whom I adore. They are like nieces to me. They’re still young, teen and pre-teen. If, ten years from now, one of these girls was pregnant and came to me and said they wanted to name their daughter Lauren, I admit that I wouldn’t quite know how to react. I know what I would not do, even now when my grief is so raw: I would not yell at them, I would not make them feel bad, I would not be hurtful. They are good girls who mean well, and I love them. And though I would feel confused and strange at first, I think that, in the end, I would be touched that they would want to use Lauren’s name. I imagine it would hurt some, but I also would know that they were not doing it to hurt me.

Maybe what bothers me most is that MC never apologizes to her niece. Not for causing a scene at the shower but for hurting niece’s feelings. MC states several times that she cares for niece – if that was true, why did she shout at her and make her feel terrible and then not apologize for it? At worst, the girl made a mistake in judgment, but she did consider MC’s feelings; she says that she and her husband talked the name and its history over together before agreeing on it. Later, she is the one to apologize and offer to use a different name. MC accepts that and passively reconciles with the niece.

I get it. I understand why MC was upset and why she lashed out against her niece. But I also think she should have apologized. Niece was only about ten when MC had her miscarriages; she couldn’t be expected to know the depth of MC’s pain or everything the loss entailed. All she knew was that she was supposed to have a cousin named Angelica, and she grew up with an attachment to the name.

So, yeah, that scene bothered me. And again, maybe it’s just me. I’m willing to accept that. But this leads me to another topic that’s always been a little fascinating for me: baby names. Or, rather, the naming of things. I’m not going to question the actual names chosen, even if I do disagree with them. That’s not my decision anyway. People can be so protective of the names they choose for their children. And I’m not sure I understand why.

Often, people give two reasons for keeping names secret: 1. to prevent other people from disapproving of it , and 2. to prevent other people from stealing it.

With the first case, if you think people are going to disapprove of the name before you’ve even told anyone, you might want to rethink your choices. If even you think it’s controversial, imagine what other people will think.

With the second case, I admit that I don’t understand this reasoning. I don’t understand this obsession with finding a uniquely individual name that nobody else will ever use. Naming a child shouldn’t be about finding the most unique name; it should be about choosing a name that you like and fits your child. Because, let’s face it: Lauryn really isn’t that much different from Lauren. When I meet people named Sarah, I don’t think, “Wow, her name is so different from mine!” Instead, I think, “Oh, she’s got the same name as me, just with an extra letter.”

Maybe it’s just because I’m a stickler for classic naming standards. And also basic spelling and pronunciation. But I really don’t understand why names have to be kept secret. When we named Lauren, I would have gladly told anyone. I wanted people to know her name, even before she was born. I didn’t worry about anyone “stealing” it. My daughter would still be her own, original person – even if she happened to meet someone who had the same name. That wouldn’t change who she is.

I know I’m not the only one who feels that way, but I’ve met more women who play “hide the name” than I have those who are willing to tell it. And I’m curious as to why. So, I’m going to do what I always do when I don’t understand something: I’m going to ask questions.

So. Here’s a question for you – anyone, whoever feels like answering. What’s your opinion on keeping baby names secret? Did you do it? Would you do it? Why? Does it make a difference? Does it really upset you to learn about another child with the same name?

Also: if you’re a babyloss parent, would it upset you if a friend or relative used your baby’s name, now or in the future?

Sara

I am a daughter and a sister, a wife and a friend. I am a reader and a writer, a dreamer and a realist, a teacher and a learner. I am the mother of a baby born sleeping. I am on a journey of healing, walking a path paved with tears and grief and hope.

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