That first week the sun shone brightly, there was no wind, and in six days the snow was all gone. The prairie showed bare and brown, and the air seemed warm as milk. Mrs. Boast had cooked the New Year’s dinner.
“You can all crowd into my little place for once,” she said.
She let Laura help her move things. They put the table on the bed and opened the door wide against the wall. Then they set the table in the exact middle of the house. One corner of it almost touched the stove, and the other end was almost against the bed. But there was room for them all to come in, single file, and sit around it. Mrs. Boast sat by the stove and served the food from its hot top.
First, there was oyster soup. In all her life Laura had never tasted anything so good as that savory, fragrant, sea-tasting hot milk, with golden dots of melted cream and black specks of pepper on its top, and the little dark canned oysters at its bottom. She sipped slowly, slowly from her spoon, to keep that taste going over her tongue as long as she could… Afterward they sat talking in the little house, with the soft air coming in and beyond the open door, the brown prairie stretching far away and the soft blue sky curving down to meet it.
– Laura Ingalls Wilder, By the Shores of Silver Lake
The pages turned easily with a moistened finger as my young-girl eyes consumed these words from the fifth book in our tattered Little House series. The story spilled out as I read, pooling deeply in my imagination where it reflected a perfect picture of the New Year’s dinner in that tiny house.
I could see it all, and nearly taste it, too. This tale of the life of a girl my age captured me fully and gave me a seat of my very own at that dinner where the conversation was full and the memory sweet. I read along easily, knowing it then only as a delightful story; I know now that it was so much more.