Yesterday I got into an argument with the kids about “Over the River and Through the Woods.” They insisted it was a Christmas song; I said it was a Thanksgiving song. The Google (how did we ever live without it?) confirmed that Mom was right, and, as usual, told us a lot of new stuff too. Lydia Maria Child, the author of “A Boy’s Thanksgiving” (1844), was one of the first women in America to actually earn good money selling her writing. What’s more, she was an ardent abolitionist, and not one a them back-to-Africa Yankees either. Mrs. Child proposed integration, education, and intermarriage. These radical ideas wrecked her children’s magazine and hurt sales of her popular advice book, The American Frugal Housewife, but she carried on, publishing more anti-slavery works and then more novels. She also published (at her own expense) The Freedmen’s Book, a collection of the writing of African-Americans.
This Thanksgiving, I’d like to propose a toast to the memory of Lydia Maria Child, a woman whose fascinating life story gives us far more to admire and reflect on than “Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done? / Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!”
The American Frugal Housewife’s instructions for pumpkin pie:
PUMPKIN AND SQUASH PIE.
For common family pumpkin pies, three eggs do very well to a quart of milk. Stew your pumpkin, and strain it through a sieve, or colander. Take out the seeds, and pare the pumpkin, or squash, before you stew it; but do not scrape the inside; the part nearest the seed is the sweetest part of the squash. Stir in the stewed pumpkin, till it is as thick as you can stir it round rapidly and easily. If you want to make your pie richer, make it thinner, and add another egg. One egg to a quart of milk makes very decent pies. Sweeten it to your taste, with molasses or sugar; some pumpkins require more sweetening than others. Two tea-spoonfuls of salt; two great spoonfuls of sifted cinnamon; one great spoonful of ginger. Ginger will answer very well alone for spice, if you use enough of it. The outside of a lemon grated in is nice. The more eggs, the better the pie; some put an egg to a gill of milk. They should bake from forty to fifty minutes, and even ten minutes longer, if very deep.