Dan Barber & Laura Ingalls Wilder

I recently gave birth to a tiny human in January which has resulted in being awake at such random intervals that the only sensible thing is to finally read (a few pages at a time) the long list of books on my shelves that I’ve saved for a rainy day.  How many of us enter a book store and really have the strength to buy just one book? I find myself spiralling by the third bookshelf and god help me if there is a sale of my favourites on a center table. I will emerge with several volumes of work but between work and life these books may languish away in my library or be set aside as the newest purchase/release/twitter/blog/article recommendation steals my attention away.  This was sadly the fate of Dan barber’s book The Third Plate when I initially bought it.  It wasn’t until a 4am feeding that while watching NETFLIX’s Chef’s Table episode with Dan Barber that I turned again to the bookshelves and pulled out The Third Plate.

Chef Barber runs both Blue Hill in Manhattan, NY and Blue Hill at Stone Farms in Pocantico Hills, NY. Blue Hill in Manhattan was defined early by food critic Jonathan Goldstein as a farm-to-table experience. A concept that every millennial has grown  up with but was popularized in large part to Chef Barber.  Blue Hill at Stone Farms is a non-profit farm and educational center with Blue Hill restaurant featuring the produce and highlighting local cuisine.  So to say the Dan Barber cares about flavour found in seasonal produce and the future of farming is an overwhelming understatement. His book The Third Plate focuses on “a new paradigm of American eating where good farming and good cooking intersect”.

Barber broke his book into four sections: soil, land, sea and seed. Not only is that perfect for a sleepy new mother (easier to focus on a highly organized topic when one can only reading a few pages between feedings)  but it allows the  reader to look at a very interconnected topic through specific pinholes. Each section uses  personal experiences in Chef Barber’s career to highlight the science and introduce his experts which include farmers, writers, chefs and scientists. Instead of feeling like a lecture between two covers, The Third Plate feels like the conversations you have around a table post dinner  several bottles of wine into the night.

It was his stories speckled throughout the book that kept bringing me back to my favourite parts of the Little House series.  He discusses hay, livestock, weather, soil quality, even the Homestead Act. Which immediately brought me back to Laura tossing a pig’s bladder to Mary during butchery,  Pa breaking sod for oats, the dash to stake out prairie claims in the spring. It was reminiscing  between the two books that my disdain for the popular understanding of farm-to-table began. All restaurants use farms to bring food to the table. It may be a monoculture farm using genetically modified seed that you disagree with… but still a farm.  It’s the modern farms using a symbiotic relationship between their crops or crops and animals that Chef Barber leans into. The chickens helping to spread the cows’ manure which improves the soil, the cows grazing the pasture which tramples down the leaves/dead foliage, the goats eating the brambles and encroaching weeds instead of using chemical sprays to ward back the forest from your crops.  Laura and her sisters grew up on a sustainable farm in Dakota territory before it became popular due to Michael Pollan and chef TED Talks. Little Town on the Prairie shows cows grazing, chickens hiding their chicks, Pa planting corn and oats while Laura is weeding away the rows of radishes, greens, peas and onions.

The Ingalls & Wilder families are farm-to-table inadvertently as their diet was “about seasonality, locality and direct relationship with your farmer”.  The agricultural landscape was changing though around Laura during her lifetime. Family farms began to shift into giant agribusiness and feed lots. This modern farm system produced an abundance and lowered costs which our pioneer ancestors may have envied but it also produced “eroding soils, falling water tables for irrigation, collapsing fisheries, shrinking forests and deteriorating grasslands”.  The very prairies that the Ingalls built their claim shanty on would suffer from the influx of settlers displacing the native grass with seeds from back East. Farm-to-table emerged as a movement to celebrate the farmers and unplug from the conventional farming system that was creating to much periphery havoc. Standing in the center of the now popularized movement Dan found however that “the larger problem […] is that farm-to-table allows, even celebrates, a kind of cherry-picking of ingredients that are often ecologically demanding and expensive to grow”.  Dan Barber creates a strong case looking through his chapters of soil, land, sea and seed to move beyond the biodiverse farms of the Ingalls and push Americans into a soil to tail diversity on their plates not yet experienced. From producing a sterile or dystopian vision we would create a uniquely American  cuisine.  “The very best cuisines -French, Italian, and Chinese, among others -were built around this idea. In most cases, the limited offerings of peasant farming meant that grains or vegetables assumed center stage, with a smattering of meat, often lesser cuts such as neck or shank.  Classic dishes emerged—pot-au-feu in French cuisine, polenta in Italian, paella in Spanish—to take advantage of what the land could supply”.

I’m enjoying The Third Plate immensely and it’s become a remarkable jumping point in conversation between my husband and I in planning out this years garden. How will we be eating this summer and fall and do we stretch ourselves out of our comfort zone. I’ll post pictures on Instagram throughout the season and comment below with your recipes or gardening advice.

Barber, Dan. The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food. Penguin Books, New York  2014.

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Pamela Smith Hill on Laura Ingalls Wilder

I do love to keep on eye out for fun courses.  I’ve used Udacity, Coursera or even specific Universities’ free online platforms in the past and always try to keep an eye out for a great class in can take in the few free minutes I have during the day. I stumbled upon Pamela Smith Hill’s  online Laura Ingalls Wilder course and my heart sang. Ms Hill brings your through Wilder’s works looking at authorship, race, history, autobiographical, memoirs and fiction themes.

It was the discussion of autobiographical, truth and memoir that caught my attention. In an age of David Sedaris and the scandal of James Frey I just haven’t grown up expecting an author to tell the truth. I suppose reading Lolita at too young an age stopped me from ever trusting my narrators. So while I always enjoyed reading Laura Ingalls Wilder I never took her books for historical nonfiction. How could you? Try remembering your childhood and then cross reference that against history. Which is your truth? Your memory and feelings surrounding the experiences  or do you deviate into dry timelines?

Remember YouTube is always another great source for finding lectures by Ms. Hill. Universities have been really diligent about uploading guest speakers to their online channels which means from the comfort of your work computer (sorry boss!) you can listen to Stephen King trash poor writing or Pamela Smith Hill discuss your favorite childhood author. Check out the attached video and comment.

On the Way to the Big Woods: Part 3

Before the Big Woods

This is part 3 of a multi part series tracing the Ingalls family from Lincolnshire, England to the Big Woods of Wisconsin. Remember to read part 1 & 2 before jumping into the amazing that is part 3.

“Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little grey house made of logs.”

When we last left our multiple generations of Samuel Ingalls, they had moved from Massachusetts to New Hampshire. This migration would have been natural at the time as the two territories had a tumultuous relationship surrounding land claims as they grew from individual settlements into communities and finally defined territories.  Two more generations of Ingalls would live in New Hampshire, Timothy and Jonathan, before Jonathan’s son Samuel (omg, what is up with that name) would marry and live for a time in Quebec before  moving into western New York after 1818.  This is how Lansford Ingalls (Charle’s Pa) was born in Quebec and would create the first Ingalls connection to Canada.

While the Ingalls were branching out across the emerging English colonies, New France, present day eastern Canada, was attempting to establish itself simultaneously.  Between 1600-1613 settlements would start, end, move and burn to the ground. Similar to New England though, the possibility of access to new fisheries and fur trades  would push France to continue establishing settlements. St. Croix Island and Nova Scotia would see colonization as early as 1604 while Quebec would be established in 1608. The Atlantic settlements would focus on fisheries similar to New England and fur pelts pushed New France into the northern interior. Beavers (aka cash money in the luxury goods business) were becoming  scarce in Europe; merchants wanted colonization for trade and the French Crown was invested to stem the English strength in the New World. In 1627 France gave a royal charter to The Company of 100 Associates allowing them control over the fur trade in Quebec and land in exchange for growing and maintaining the settlements in New France. The company would push coureur des bois, freelance explorers, to create trade routes and promote communication between the company/government with local tribes as they dove deeper and deeper into new territories. However the Thirty Years War between France and England in Europe would impact even the colonies and eventually Quebec would surrender to English invaders. It wasn’t until 1632 that Quebec would return to French control and by then the battles had taken a toll on company management. They would officially dissolve in 1662 and in 1663 New France would revert from company settlements to a province of France. New France’s government and laws would begin aligning closer to it’s home country.  France began focusing in on strong, permanent communities as well as strong trade.  France would pay passage for single women and send money and goods as part of dowry and cash incentives were even introduced for families to have children.

It was this environment that Samuel Ingalls would have entered when he migrated into Quebec territory. It must have been stark contrast to the British colonies whose origins didn’t solely focus on trade but on religious and familial connections. Edmund’s wealth in England and lack of religious persecution would have made him academically more of a natural Canadian immigrant.  However this isn’t how history is written and Edmund’s ties to Lincolnshire ensured his connections to Endicott’s Massachusetts party. Eventually Canada’s evolution  would meet up with Edmund’s family line. The end of the Seven Years War would cement British control over the Canadian territories. Concessions to French culture would include the Quebec Act of 1774  abolished and later reinstated most of the property, religious, political, and social culture of the French-speaking habitants, guaranteeing the right of the Canadiens to practice the Catholic faith and to the use of French civil law.” But British rule was cemented and the Constitutional Act of 1791 would split the Canadian lands into Upper and Lower Canada provinces in part to assist the influx of British loyalist fleeing the colonial rebellion in the 13 British colonies to their south (aka the American Revolution). Samuel and Lansford would have experienced a prominently French Canadian culture in lower Canada, a culture that would have followed them into New York thanks to it’s early position in the fur trade (who remembers in Farmer Boy Almanzo’s interactions in with French Canadians) a culture Lansford would have seen again later in Wisconsin. It was the War of 1812  that would bring Samuel and Lansford back from Lower Canada (Quebec) to New York and the families continual search for economic prosperity that took them from New York to Illinois and Lansford’s eventual settlement in Wisconsin.

Lansford moved his family originally to Jefferson Country, Wisconsin where the Ingalls would meet the Quiner family and a young Caroline Quiner (Ma). Eventually the Quiners would marry into the Ingalls family. Polly (Ingalls) and Henry (Quiner), Caroline (Quiner) and Charles (Charles) and finally Eliza (Quiner) and Peter (Ingalls). However as the US slipped into a depression Lansford was unable to pay a mortgage he had taken out on his Jefferson County land and decided around 1862 to move further west into Wisconsin. Remember when Laura spoke of Ma’s fine clothes made out east…yea, that was eastern Wisconsin. Lansford’s sons and their new Quiner brides decided to move as well. Charles and his brother Henry would buy adjoining land 7 miles outside of Pepin where on February 7th 1867 a little girl names Laura Ingalls Wilder was born.

http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/miller-wilder.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Canada
Zochert, Donald. Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Chicago: H. Regnery, 1976. Print.

On the Way to the Big Woods: Part 2

This post is part 2 of a multi part story. Please read part 1 as it is jam packed with history and humor.  On the Way to the Big Woods: Part 1

In part 1, Edmund and Francis Ingalls  had left England and sailed on the Abigail for Massachusetts. Living under Endecott (Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony) was interesting or oppressive depending on how you felt about “rules”.  Walter Renton in The Ingalls Family in England and America, surmised that the brothers “felt uncomfortable under the restrictions of Endecott, who considered himself responsible not only for the safety but also for the habits of his colonists, and evidently was self willed and arbitrary, even temperamental” pg. 10.   Imagine traveling for  business purposes and finding the head of your party concerned with your personal  life. I imagine few of us would say “no thank you”. Which is exactly what Edmond and Francis did. Seeking permission to leave, yes that’s a thing, they would leave the original party and venture into a territory, Sargus, in present day Lynn. (It’s actually the records found later in Lynn that would point us to Edmond and Francis’ being on the Abigail. Manuscripts found in Lynn show the brothers being in the town early June and the next ship after the arrival of the Abigail wouldn’t have arrived until late June. Thus our story is strung together by the negative spaces versus an outright path.)

In “the first year there were settlements in eight places, Salem, Lynn, Charlestown, Watertown, Mystic, Boston, Roxbury and Dorchester.” pg. 74 The Bay Colony. Edmund and Francis made arrangements with the local tribes in Sargus (Lynn) for lands. By 1637 though Lynn had so many settlers it needed to formally create property borders and a town layout. A committee was formed and the brothers’ original borders would be recognized as well granted 120 additional acres. This could have come from a combination of connections with the Clinton family from  England. Lady Susan (Clinton) Humphrey was now living in Lynn; sister to Lady Arabella Johnson (married Isaac Johnson-largest shareholder in the Massachusetts Bay Company)  who had also emigrated. This additional acreage could also be proof that they had paid for their own way across on the Abigail which would have entitled them to acres.

From this timeline what can we distinguish about Edmund Ingalls?  That wandering foot of Charles’ would have started in the roots of the family tree. Edmund owned property in England but chose to sail across the sea.  He immediately leaves the established colony to venture still further in to the wilderness and essentially found a town. Edmund isn’t listed as a freeman though. Which in this colonial context means he didn’t join the Church and thus would not havethe right to vote.  He did build a malt house though; which in my book has his priorities correct.  Tragically, Edmund would die on a faulty bridge while traveling and leave his estate to his first son Robert. Edmunds’s younger sons John, Henry and Samuel would eventually leave  Lynn and move on to Ipswich, Massachusetts.

It’s through Edmund’s son Henry that our story with the Laura Ingalls  continues. Henry would move later from Ipswich to Andover. Two of Henry’s sisters had moved to Andover through their marriages which may have been why our bachelor boy decided to chose Andover when venturing out. He would purchase his land from local native tribes just like his father did in Lynn. He must have chosen his acreage well because as the town grew the local Church decided Henry’s lands were the most valuable and offered him 70 acres if they could take over his original homestead. On this new farm his family would create an almost pseudo Ingalls village. Their farms and lives buttressing against one another. Henry is listed as a freeman so unlike his father he chose to join the Church.  Records in Andover have him listed as a Sergeant and for a time as Commander of the Andover company in the Essex regiment. When Henry dies in 1718 he divided his holdings between all his sons. Henry’s son Samuel would live and die in Andover (1654-1733) but his son Samuel (yes, the recycling of names almost made me cross eye’d researching) would move on to New Hampshire. Our Ingalls family tree takes us from England to Massachusetts to New Hampshire for the first half of our story. This tree is going to branch into Canada before heading back into New York and slowly moving to the Midwest.

  1. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1008&context=scottow   Gov. Thomas Dudley:Letter to  the Countess of Lincoln, March 1631
  2. Northend, William Dummer. Bay Colony: A Civil, Religious and Social History of the Massachusetts Colony and Its. Place of Publication Not Identified: Nabu, 2010. Print.
  3. Zochert, Donald. Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Chicago: H. Regnery, 1976. Print.
  4. Ingalls, Walter Renton. The Ingalls Family in England and America. Boxford, MA: W.R. Ingalls, 1930. Print.
  5. Burleigh, Charles. The Genealogy and History of the Ingalls Family in America: Giving the Descendants of Edmund Ingalls Who Settled at Lynn, Mass. in 1629. Malden, MASS: Geo. E. Dunbar, 1903. Print.

On the Way to the Big Woods: Part 1

This will be the first in a series of posts retracing the Ingalls family from their English origins to the Big Woods of Wisconsin where the Little House series begins. During my research, I was intrigued to find the Ingalls family moved back and forth across the American/Canadian border as French & British colonies developed into two distinct countries. Wisconsin was a perfect finished mirror for the Ingalls family of French Canadian culture and New England expansion. This exploration is very personal for me as I am navigating my own reverse Ingalls immigration from the United States up into Canada. I’m rethinking the North American history I understood and expanding my view on colonialism, the history it left behind and the cultures it created.

My research would not have been possible from the safety of the internet without the excellent works created by Charles Burleigh in 1903 and Walter Renton Ingalls in 1930 tracing the  family.  While Walter found the a record of the Ingalls family in 1384 in Lincolnshire, England our story starts closer to the 17th century when we can follow a direct line down to Laura. Henry Ingalls begins our family tree with records of his 1555 will. The family still residing in Skirbeck, Lincolnshire. His son Robert’s will 1617 is also documented. Which allows us to follow Henry to Robert to Edmond. It’s ultimately Henry’s grandchild Edmund who would brave the Atlantic crossing and eventually settle in Sargus (Lynn), Massachusetts.

What I found so extraordinary about Edmond’s voyage to the new colonies was his comfortable position in England. His grandfather, Henry, and father, Robert, owned land, livestock and gave money not only to their children but also servants. Edmond is not the traveler we were presented with in history books fleeing from England. He had five children, servants, disposable income and was not escaping from religious persecution. He was actually able to pay his way across the Atlantic which would lead to owning more land (then say a company sponsored man) in the new world using the headright system along with his brother.  The company that brought the Ingalls to the New World is a name that we are familiar with from elementary school: The Massachusetts Bay Company

Massachusetts was colonized around fisheries and England’s growing economy and food necessities. In 1623 of group of merchants in Dorchester England wanted to cut the costs  around the transatlantic fishing season in North America by leaving a group of men permanently in Cape Ann, Massachusetts . In theory, this band of fishing brothers would farm, hunt and trap year round and be available to assist during the fishing season with the yearly ships sent over by the merchants. The reality of the venture however is a lesson in hiring a proper project manager. No one realized that the high season for farming and fishing coincided. Two seasons did not see the returns the Dorchester Company expected and they offered to sail the original men back to England as the company was abandoning the venture. A few men decided to stay and led by Roger Conant took the remaining cattle and supplies from the Dorchester Company and moved south to Naumkeag (Salem) hoping that the farm land was better then Cape Ann had proved.

During this time back in England a new company was reforming around the idea of the settlements in Massachusetts. They would purchase supplies in England from the defunct Dorchester Co. and received an initial land grant; which must have been a surprise to Roger Conant and his group!  The shock would have doubled when they realized Roger would not continue to lead the settlement but that a man named John Endecott would arrive with new settlers and supplies on the Abigail (ship). Due to the conflicting, overlapping land grants and multitude of similar companies forming in England it was important to the new Massachusetts Bay Company to make this new land grant concrete. Luckily the new company was very well connected in Court (nepotism rules even then) and on March 4, 1629 the King would grant a royal charter: The Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England.

 While Jamestown (Virginia) was the first permanent English settlement in 1607, the link between the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Lincolnshire would have pulled Edmond and Francis Ingalls north to Massachusetts when they decided to immigrate from England. In 1631 Thomas Dudley (then governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony) wrote to the Countess of Lincoln in March 1631 recounting the travelers directly from Lincolnshire “Touching the plantacon which wee here haue begun, it fell out tlit~s:-About the yeare 1627, some fi.iends beeing togeather in Lincolnshire, fell ints some discourse about New England”. The modern spelling errors aside, Dudley is recounting the close relationship between Lincolnshire and the members of the Massachusetts colony. This discourse of immigration and the Massachusetts Bay Company centered around Lincolnshire thanks to King Charles I. If Charles  hadn’t been a complete pompous ass, New England may have had slower start instead of the waves of immigrants they experienced.

Charles’ rule was plagued with confrontations with  Parliament regarding taxes, his perceived divine right as a King and his religious polices. Translation: he wanted to impose taxes whenever he wanted without consent *cough* Boston Tea Party*cough*, he believed God put him as King (try arguing with someone who believes God is on their side) and surprise surprise religion divided people. It’s these religious policies that echoed across Lincolnshire. The 4th Earl of Lincoln, Theophilus (how did that name EVER go out of fashion) Clinton, was a puritan and Lincolnshire would become the epicenter of the movement with several future key figures in the Massachusetts Bay Colony directly connected to the Earl.  It was at Clinton’s house at Sempringham that in 1629 John Winthrop’s meetings regarding the Massachusetts Bay Colony would forever shape history within New England. Winthrop would lead his group in 1630 and ultimately spend 19 terms as governor and/or lieutenant-governor. Thomas Dudley who served as a steward at the Sempringham estate would become deputy governor. Even the curate of Sempringham would travel to the New World and become pastor of the Salem Church. The Ingalls family would not have been immune to understanding that leading members (Earls, lawyers, pastors) of their community were buzzing about this new colony and it’s potential.

Let’s reign in though the popularity contests and Puritan bonanza happening at Sempringham. Not all travelers to the Massachusetts Bay Colony were for religious reasons as we see with Edmund Ingalls and his brother Francis. Using the headright system the brothers would have paid for their passage and in return would have received a larger land grant from the company. I understand why younger brother Francis Ingalls would find the venture appealing. Under Edmond he wouldn’t have inherited his father’s land and would have been more apt to turn to a trade that could have translated/benefited a colonial existence. But Edmund chose to go as well bringing a wife and five children with him. So for a secular traveler, what was it like to join the Massachusetts Bay Colony? A colony with deep religious foundations? Well…the 1600’s aren’t exactly know for their tolerance…

Tune in for part two of our ongoing history of the Ingalls travels from Lincolnshire, England to the Big Woods of Wisconsin.

  1. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1008&context=scottow   Gov. Thomas Dudley:Letter to  the Countess of Lincoln, March 1631
  2. Northend, William Dummer. Bay Colony: A Civil, Religious and Social History of the Massachusetts Colony and Its. Place of Publication Not Identified: Nabu, 2010. Print.
  3. Zochert, Donald. Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Chicago: H. Regnery, 1976. Print.
  4. Ingalls, Walter Renton. The Ingalls Family in England and America. Boxford, MA: W.R. Ingalls, 1930. Print.
  5. Burleigh, Charles. The Genealogy and History of the Ingalls Family in America: Giving the Descendants of Edmund Ingalls Who Settled at Lynn, Mass. in 1629. Malden, MASS: Geo. E. Dunbar, 1903. Print.