Back when I was a kid in elementary school (or grade school as it’s called now), we had these books called “Readers” that had short stories in them. Stories they pulled from everywhere I guess. And the class would read the story together and answer the questions at the end of the story that discussed the story. As I got older, I used to buy these readers at yard sales and read them for fun (I may have mentioned this before, but I’m kind of a nerdy nerd).
One of these stories I’ve always remembered because it was so… weird to me at the time, even though I understand it now. Kind of. 🙂 It centered around some kids who had been left home alone for the day while their parents went to town. They lived on the farm, and this was before the days of cars. So the kids are sitting at home, doing farm stuff, when the oldest sees company coming down the road. I don’t recall if the company was walking down the road, or in a carriage, or riding horses. But this we before the day of the automobile. Anyway, let’s call the oldest Sally. Sally gets all in a tither and starts cleaning up the place and putting food on. In the process of all of this, she realizes that they have no flour! The horror! Now she cannot make any cake for the company that’s still coming down the road! There’s no way she will be caught without cake! That would bring shame to their family… somehow. She had to think of something, quick! I’m serious, dear reader, this was the conflict of the story. So Sally sends her siblings – Billy and Betsy — out to kill a chicken (could have been a duck or turkey… it’s been a while) and cook it up, and she, herself proceeds to prepare a large meal for the oncoming guests. Sally then prepares a huge fake cake (I think it was cornbread) which she decorates very nicely in red frosting (the red frosting has always stuck out in my mind).
At the time I always wondered how they ever had the time to cook a full meal while they see company coming down the road, but now I know it takes a while to travel when one doesn’t have a car. And, artistic licenses I suppose. 🙂 Anyway, Sally (who was portrayed as a child of about twelve) gets Billy and Betsy to help her make a tremendous meal for their guests just in the nick of time for them to come rolling up to the house. Another image that always stuck with me was a picture of Billy plucking the chicken. Now, I’m not sure if he was doing that *before* they saw the company or after… could have been either way. Sally explains to the company that their parents are in town but invites them in for a meal while they wait. She then proceeds to stuff their company full, insisting that they eat and drink until they cannot swallow (honestly this is what came to mind with the prompt) another bite. Just as everyone is pushing back their chairs and getting up to leave, she dramatically points at the cake, and declares: “Oh my goodness, I forgot to cut the cake!”
Of course her ruse worked and the company declined to eat the cake. Her parents arrived home just as the company filed out the door. Her parents, as dictated by etiquette, invited them in to eat to which they all declared that they have already been well fed, and that the children had been very gracious in the parent’s absence. Everyone left happy, and the girl collapsed in a chair in happy exhaustion… glad to have defended her family’s honer. She had to explain to her parents why they were down one chicken and whatever she used to make the “cake” (cornmeal I think) but I think they were glad that their guests left happy and with a good impression.
Makes one think though, doesn’t it? I mean, back when I was a kid, as soon as someone walked into my house and sat down, I would offer them something to eat and drink. I may not have had cake ready for them, but I totally would have “played hostess”. Now? I might do that the first few times, but after a time or two, it’s “You know where the fridge is.” And I honestly don’t really have company that often anymore. I keep the front area clean-ish, but if someone comes over, they’re just gonna have to put up with my clutter.
I know I’ve posted this before, but it seemed apropos.