By Trix Wilkins
Librarians Miko and Jenne of the Little Women Cookbook are back to share their favorite food scenes from Little Women, a wedding cake recipe, and what they would do with an unlimited budget…
What’s your favourite food-related scene in Little Women and why?
Jenne: The best cooking scenes in the book are all about failures, aren’t they! Jo’s “standing joke of a dinner” or Amy’s fancy luncheon that no one comes to, or the sad fate of Meg’s currant jelly.
I also have a soft spot for Beth’s “History of a Squash” article in the Pickwick Portfolio. It’s such a perfect illustration of her character, and it’s also a recipe that really works!
Miko: My favorite meal in the novel has always been the Christmas breakfast the Marches give away. I feel like there are fictional scenes I read and re-read growing up that set me firmly on the path to a public service career, and it was definitely one of them. As a kid, it made me rethink what Christmas should be about.
Your dream library to work in, with an unlimited budget. What would it look like?
Jenne: There would be SO MANY cozy reading nooks.
And an enormous illuminated fish tank full of floating jellyfish.
And all the landscaping would be a community garden.
And the book you are looking for would always be on the shelf!
But more seriously, I already work in a beautiful building in a lovely rural community, so if I had an unlimited budget I’d use it to bring in top-notch art and music events and workshops, since it’s hard for people to get into the city for that.
Miko: I actually feel like I work in my dream library right now – I’m at a midsized branch in a diverse suburb of San Diego, and I love my job as a youth librarian there.
If I had an unlimited budget, I’d beautify our building and use the endless money for lots and lots of events as well as scholarships and paid internships for our underserved teens!
Meg and John’s wedding feast – is this in the cookbook? Can we have a sneak peek?!
It absolutely is – in fact it’s in the very first chapter!
It does seem like an odd luncheon, consisting of fruitcake and…fruit? And lemonade, coffee, and water. But we’re guessing that they all had a family dinner later on.
Making the wedding cake was quite an operation.
We made a one-tenth size version of a recipe we found in a period cookbook, and it was still the largest fruitcake we’d ever seen!
We had some difficulty finding enough people who liked fruitcake to eat it, but it was actually delicious.
The wedding cake recipe in our cookbook is long and involved, but here’s the one we adapted it from, The Young Housekeeper’s Friend by Mary Hooker Cornelius:
- Five pounds each of flour, butter, and sugar, six of raisins, twelve of currants, two of citron, fifty eggs, half a pint of good Malaga wine, three ounces of nutmegs, three of cinnamon, one and a half of mace. This quantity will bake in one cake in five hours, in two cakes, three hours. Each of these two kinds will keep years, if frosted.
- Bake in three large pans four hours.
- Stir the sugar and butter to a cream, beat the yolks and whites of the eggs separately, and add them to the butter and sugar, then by degrees put in two thirds of the flour, then the spice and brandy or wine, and last the fruit, mixed with the remaining third of the flour.
- Have the citron ready cut up, and when you have put a little cake into the pan, put in a layer of citron, then more cake, and again citron and cake alternately.