Gayle Larson Schuck
Title: “Home for Supper: memories and recipes”
Author: Margaret M. Barnhart
Publisher: Buffalo Commons Press; 145 pages
“Home for Supper” is a memoir that includes many stories and recipes from the author’s childhood in the 1960s at Richardton. Barnhart offers an authentic voice of the Great Plains, where growing up in the baby boomer generation was as much about digging in the family garden as it was about “digging” rock 'n' roll. The delightful stories are reminiscent of the folksy tales from the 1970s Foxfire book series about life in the Appalachians.
From the first page, Barnhart captures the era with stories about family life that will resonate with the reader. She breezes through topics that range from visiting with relatives on Sunday afternoons, to a not-so-politically correct way to handle school bullies, to the job of lighting the burn barrel in the backyard.
Each chapter begins with a “Mom-ism” and ends with family recipes. Most of the “Mom-isms” sound familiar, such as, “Well is a hole in the ground,” a rebuke used to discourage excuses. Some “Mom-isms” capture expressions that may be unique to the family or the region (“I chew my cabbage only once.”).
In one chapter titled “Up with Chickens!” Barnhart relates, “By the time we all sat down to sausage and pancakes or scrambled eggs with bits of bacon, or just oatmeal and toast, she (Barnhart’s mother) had already washed a load of whites in the trusty wringer washer, rinsed them, put them through the wringer again, and hung them to dry on the clothesline in the backyard.” The chapter transitions easily from the idea of rising with the chickens to chickens as food.
The recipes are authentic to western North Dakota and Barnhart’s German heritage. Many of them are based on having abundant garden produce and fresh farm meat. As with many families in rural areas, there was very little waste. The author doesn’t shy away from recipes, such as pigs feet, or one of her mother’s most thrifty meals, liver soup. That recipe is found at the end of a chapter entitled, “Oh Lord, de-Liver Us!”
Barnhart teaches writing and literature at Dickinson State University. Her first book, “Under the Twisted Cross,” was published in 2010 and tells the story of her father’s experience as a POW in World War II. She also has published a number of poems, short stories and essays.
In trying to find flaws in the book, there simply weren’t many. Some of the sentences were long, but they still flowed well. “Home for Supper” is funny and refreshing. It would make a good read for anyone who grew up on the Plains or in the Midwest.