On the heels of the 40th anniversary of the Little House on the Prairie television show, book publisher Abrams Books has released the wonderful My Prairie Cookbook by Melissa Gilbert. Since the television series was based on the popular books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, it is only fitting that we’ve come full circle, back to the printed pages where it all began. The stories about growing up in the wilderness of a young expanding country instilled how wholesome family values can overcome almost anything, and that same attitude flourishes from the pagers of Gilbert’s book.
First and foremost, this is a cookbook. With the subtitle “Memories and Frontier Food from My Little House to Yours,” we get the hint that the recipes will be different from what we usually find in today’s cookbooks. Though some of the meals are based on earlier traditional foods, Gilbert puts her own personal touch into every recipe. It isn’t often you read, “Beat the eggs and milk into submission…” in a cookbook, but it’s what I’m thinking while cooking and it makes the whole process more enjoyable.
Some of my favorite recipes are, Puffy Oven Pancakes, Shepherd’s Pie, Porky Chops and Applesauce, Popovers, and Melissa’s Nutless Carrot Cake. Along with the beautiful photos of the tasty dishes, each recipe is introduced with an explanation why it was included in the book. Some are from Gilbert’s memorable experiences on the show, some are reflection of her personal life, and some are included simply because she likes them. There’s nothing wrong with that.
This book is also a heartwarming memoir of an actress who grew up in and around a television show. The behind the scenes photos give new insights to the images we remember from Little House on the Prairie. Sure some of the recipes stem from meals often served on the production set and tie in nicely with Gilbert’s fond memories of people and events during the filming, but there are also a few extended stories and anecdotes that have nothing to do with food. There is even a list of frequently asked questions from her fans as well as a humorous look at “Little House Bloopers and Goofs.”
Just like every mouthwatering ingredient in My Prairie Cookbook, these stories are filled with a wholesomeness many of us fans feel like we were a part of long ago. Is this a cookbook? Is this a memoir? It is both of these and a whole lot more. Thank you Melissa Gilbert for sharing these memories and recipes. Everyone should have a little bit of “little house” in their life, and now they can.