Little House on the Mass Market

Laura woke up bright and early on Thursday morning, pulled her blue cotton dress over her head, and raced down the ladder. Mary was already eating breakfast, and Ma greeted her cheerfully while ladeling oatmeal into a ceramic bowl.

“Brush your hair,” Ma said. “We won’t be making the cookies for another half hour.”

Laura wanted to shovel her food in as fast as possible, but she forced herself to eat neatly like Mary. Then she brushed and braided her hair, fed Jack, and when she was done, Ma said, “Now it’s time.”

Ma stocked up the cooking fire, and the girls got to work.

“Here we go,” said Pa, hauling in the gallon jug of high fructose corn syrup. “The first ingredient of everything good.”

“Thank the good Lord for high fructose corn syrup.” Ma poured in the whole gallon. “Okay, girls, now for the sugar.”

Mary scooped in sugar until Ma told her to stop. Then Laura added a cup of flour and a cup of corn meal.

They simmered the bubbling, sticky concoction for a while, taking turns stirring. Ma gave Mary a block of salt which they chipped in half, adding the bigger piece.

Pa came in from the barn. “Oh, the smell of wholesome life on the prairie! You’ve outdone yourself.”

“Oh, Charles,” said Ma, blushing. “We’re not even finished.”

Laura squared her shoulders with pride as Pa looked into the kettle. “This looks like the best batch ever, no doubt due to your helpers. I can’t wait.”

Ma added the eggs one at a time, then the processed palm oil.

“Okay, girls.” She looked at both of them. “Who wants to add the magic ingredients?”

Both girls exclaimed excitedly, but Ma laughed. “There’s enough for both of you.” She led them to her special cabinet, filled with tiny brown bottles with rubber stoppers. “Mary, you start.”

Mary added the riboflavin, the Red Number 5, and the soy lecithin. Laura waited patiently until it was her turn to add a drop of monoglycerides, calcium disodium EDTA, and the annatto color.

“And now for the most important part of all,” said Ma, and both girls knew they weren’t old enough to do this step themselves, so they clasped their hands and waited. Ma opened the tiny tin box that Pa had brought from town during his last trip, and carefully spooned out a few sprinkles of MSG.

They remove the pot from the fire and continued stirring until they had made a soft dough, which they spent the whole afternoon baking.

When Pa came in from planting the fields that night, Ma proudly showed off all their cookies, cookies which would stay fresh until Christmas.

“Good night, girls,” Ma said as she tucked them into their straw-tick mattresses. “Tomorrow, we’ll make the shelf-stable cheesecake.”


  1. capt_cardor

    Wasn’t this from “The Obese House on the Prairie” by R.T. Fischel/Stuph?

    Very funny!

    1. philangelus


  2. Promise

    I think you might have just cured me from eating store bought cookies ever again!

  3. cricketB

    You mean I shouldn’t bug cousin about not copying Grandma’s recipe book for the rest of us?

  4. Wendy

    Heh heh heh heh…

    As was said before, I bake all my own cookies from now on. 😀

  5. Ken Rolph

    This is unfair. I already have leftover grated Romano cheese and bacon chunks from your last recipe. What is my kitchen going to be like now!

    1. philangelus

      But Gunk Cookies are probably healthier than Easter Bread!

      Oh, crud, I forgot to mention the Guar gum.

  6. Pam

    Little House on the Praire was actually one of my favorite shows. For one who tends to tear up easily, watching Half-Pint trying to please Pa almost always was cause for a good cry for me.
    Ah, TV Land!

  7. Ken Rolph

    There’s an interesting divided embedded in modern food supply. I think of it as the difference between a peasant outlook and an industrial outlook. This weekend we had to think of what to eat for lunch. Jan says, what do I feel like eating? Let’s go out and get some of it. I say, what’s in the garden and cupboards? What can we make out of it?

    The one results in heavily preserved and artificially flavoured/textured foods. The other uses fresh foods or traditionally preserved foods. The divide is not absolute. We have a mass of spring onions and spinach, so I went out to buy some frozen spring roll pasty. Hey, I could probably put the cheese and bacon chunks in with that!

    Jan will buy vanilla ice cream and then go out in the garden to add strawberries, raspberries and passionfruit. Currently we have about 50 mandarins, so we are tossing the segments in with all sorts of other store bought stuff.

    I think people definitely have a dominant preference for the peasant or industrial approach. I also think there is a general trend which swings back and forth in the wider society. With the present financial situation we are seeing many moves back to peasant food production. I read in the weekend papers that sales of citrus trees are going up and the affluent suburbs are having designer chook pens installed in backyards.

    Maybe with this new found attention to do-it-yourself foods I can find someone to tell me what I can do with 3 dozen Tahitian limes.

  8. cricketB

    We have a similar divide here, but opposite. We have to go out to get the fresh stuff. (That sounds so bad.)

    Many nights, I need something fast that the kids willingly eat and that doesn’t leave a lot of mess, so I can get them from picked up, fed, and delivered to the game, and not leave a mess in the kitchen.

    That leaves only a few nights that we can have fresh. We don’t buy much fresh on the weekly trip, because if it isn’t eaten on those nights, it becomes … unfresh.

    The pantry is filled with versatile things that will keep, and that usually means industrial. I don’t enjoy home preserving, ever since I read Alisa Craig, .)

    So, while “What do I feel like eating?” may get us out to the store, it’s also more likely to result in peasant cooking.

  9. Ivy

    This is part of a longevity plan. I’m careful to eat enough preservatives that my body becomes incapable of any kind of a break down. With luck, if I do it right, I’ll be like a twinkie, still fresh and ready to go in 5,000 years.

    1. philangelus

      In other words, it will no longer be a sign of sainthood in the Catholic Church when bodies are exhumed and found noncorrupt. We’ll have basically pickled ourselves prior to death.

      In all seriousness, I did hear once that it’s taking longer for bodies to decompose, and I have to assume it’s because of all the chemicals and not because of a serious uptick in our general holiness.

  10. Ivy

    A doctor friend once told me that he ate so many preservatives, he expected to be walking around for months before anyone realized he was dead.

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