Wednesday 28 January 2009

A Humble Existance is a Happy One

One of my favourite books to read when I was a girl, was a book called “The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.” It was written by a woman named Margaret Sidney in 1880. It was about a family of five children who lived in very humble circumstances with their widowed mother, whom they called Mamsie. Oh, how I loved to read about their adventures in their little brown house. They were quite poor, and the oldest two children, Ben and Polly, and their dear mother, worked constantly to help keep the wolf at bay from the door, but they did it with a wonderful air of gaiety and strength of spirit that seemed to be so very marvellous to me. They had lovely names like Polly and Ben, Phronsie, Joel and Davie, and I have only now just realized that the book I had was only the first of a whole series of books. Oh, how I would love to read the rest of them and I think that I will, if I can find them.

I remember reading about them baking a cake for their mother one day. She worked so very hard doing mending and ironing for others and they wanted to do something special for her. They made a simple cake of brown flour with cinnamon for it’s flavouring, with a few sticky raisins tucked inside, the “receet” for it written out on a scrap of brown paper. It sounded so good to me. I wanted to bake a cake for my mother too, but, alas, my mother didn’t allow us in the kitchen to bake with her. I was allowed to sit and watch, but she was not one who wanted anyone messing about with her cooking or getting in her way.

They had a provision room (doesn’t that sound nice) that was not much more than a tiny shed tacked on to the side of their house and was more often empty than full, but oh how lovely it seemed to me to have a whole room dedicated to nothing more than holding all the provisions they would need for cooking their meals in the little brown house. I expect that is why I love my larder so much now and I like to keep it full up, much to Todd’s consternation! It makes me feel good and secure to see all the packets, tins and glass jars all lined up on it’s shelves, and the potato bin below full up with potatoes, both white and sweet, and onions and squash. When you have a full larder, a delicious and decent meal is never very far away from the ends of your fingertips, and it is never much bother to whip something up to eat when unexpected company drops by.

Each chapter in the book began with a scripture taken from the Bible. That only added to the magic of the words written on it’s pages. I had been taught that the scriptures were valuable beyond measure and if the book was good enough to contain snippets of this gold, then it was valuable too. I truly did cherish it.

I suppose in reading it I learned some very valuable lessons. The lessons of thrift and making do, and finding joy in simple things and pleasures.

“Oh, I do wish," said Joel a few mornings after, pushing back his chair and looking discontentedly at his bowl of mush and molasses, "that we could ever have some - thing new besides this everlasting old breakfast! Why can't we, mammy?""Better be glad you've got that, Joe," said Mrs. Pepper, taking another cold potato, and sprinkling on a little salt. "Folks shouldn't complain so long as they've anything to eat."

Nothing ever sounded more delicious to me than mush and molasses or cold potatoes with salt, as I read these delightful stories filled with hope and dreams of ships coming in and better tomorrow’s ahead.

I wanted to be Polly . . . with her younger brothers and sister looking up to her in abject admiration . . . her very capable hands taking such very good care of them and of the house, in their mother‘s absence. She had such a good and cheerful heart, despite anything that life threw at them. She never got discouraged, and if she did, it was never for very long, as her gentle and strong spirit was always able to life her above her meagre circumstances. She was indeed the hub of that family wheel and it’s strength, the glue that helped to hold them all together.
I always wanted to be that glue, that strength. I suppose I was always a nurturer and a carer, and I still am. It really gives me such great joy to be doing for others and so I think I have ended up being a bit like Polly after all. I wait for my ship to come in as well, but in the meantime, I make the best with what I have been given and I am truly able to find joy in most circumstances. Perhaps that is the real treasure to be found in a happy life, being able to pluck joy from the ashes life deals you.

I had managed to keep this book right up until about 15 years ago. My ex husband was having a clear out one day and decided to give it away to a friend of his for her grand-daughters along with some other much loved books of mine. I was so dissappointed as I had been saving them so that I could one day give them to my own grand-daughters. Oh well, I shall just have to buy them new ones now! (That's if and when I ever have any grand-daughters!)

"They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house; and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures."~ Psalms 36:8

I love eggy bread, and I love chocolate. It seems only natural to combine the two. Todd doesn't mind chocolate this way as it is not cake. I'm afraid I'm a total North American when I eat this as I have to have syrup on top, but Todd . . . he eats his plain.

*Chocolate Filled Eggy Bread*
Serves 4

Is this a pudding or is this breakfast? You decide . . . this is very, very good . . .

3 large eggs
¾ cup milk (6 ounces)
1 TBS white caster sugar
A pinch of salt
1 TBS unsalted butter
8 slices of white bread
100g of good milk or dark chocolate, chopped
(I like Green and Black’s organic milk chocolate myself)
Icing sugar

Whisk the egg, milk, caster sugar and salt together very well in a shallow pie dish. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter and allow to melt until it is foaming. (don’t have your pan too hot so that the butter burns)

Sprinkle each of four slices of the bread with the chopped chocolate and then cover them each with another slice of bread, pressing it down slightly. Carefully dip them, one sandwich at a time, into the egg mixture first on one side and then on the other. Once dipped place them into the melted butter and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes on each.

Remove from the skillet, and place on a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm, and repeat with the others. You may need to use more butter. Serve warm and dusted with icing sugar.

I may be very late posting tommorrow as I have to work quite late tonight. But never fear, I'll be around at some point!


  1. Thanks for taking us back to memory lane in this story. I sooo remember reading it as well. The minute I saw the title The Five Little Peppers I already new what followed was and How They Grew. I'm so behind on catching up but I want to go backwards and get caught up on reading your blog. I've missed reading. I hear your coming out to the U.S., I am so excited for you and wish we could meet at some point one of these days. Take care sweet friend.

  2. I too remember those Five Little Peppers. I was the middle child of 5 growing up, and I remember my Mother and my oldest sister Karen reading this book to rest of us. It was a sweet story of contentment and the children enjoying each other as friends as well.

    I have never heard of putting the chocolate in what is a variation of french toast, but love that idea. You always stir the creativity up in the kitchen, you are marvelous my dear!

    Wish I could jump in Lura's suitcase and greet you as well!

  3. My mother used to quote the title, but I've never read the Pepper books. We're cutting the kids' computer time by a lot, so I think Cami & I will discover the books together. Thanks for the book report :)

  4. Sounds like a lovely book hope you can find a copy or copies of the set sure you will with the internet at your fingertips. Love Joan

  5. I loved the Peppers book! (don't know if you remember that about me) I lost my 1st one years ago also but I found it again on Ebay LOL. It's a older one too!! So it's sitting on my "keepers" bookshelf. I remember when I first started reading it and how good it would make me feel, it soothed me, made me smile and hopeful. Thank you for writing this. Check out Ebay if you're looking for the book, I know when I got mine there were several for sale. Huge hugs and much love to you Marie...I miss you. Teresa

  6. Oh wow, loved that book. And you are certainly a nurturer! You are such a loving lady, I am so glad to know you and love you.
    What you call Eggy bread is what my mother called French toast(is neither toast or French). Can't wait to try it with the chocolate chips in the middle - what a lovely thought. I would like it either way with our with out the syrup.
    Can hardly wait for you to come to see your daughter - I just know it is a really major blessing.
    love and hugs and many blessings,

  7. That book reminds me of myself and the 5 still at home when my DDH passed away. Those were such hard times for us, nothing like the Peppers I'm sure, but we also had good times and family did and still does mean so very much to me.
    It does not take a lot of money to make one happy. Now I'll be looking for that book too. My grand babes love to read and that might be a good one for them. I'm staying home from work today and think I shall try out that eggy bread you have here. Sounds just like what I need. 'On Ya'-ma

  8. How sweet, Marie! I had never heard of this book before--what a treasure! I always love hearing your old storied. What a shame you lost that special book of yours...This chocolate eggy bread/french toast is marvelous! I've not made such with chocolate before. I'm think hubby would love this as a Valentine treat! And, yes, must have syrup on it! ;o) So great to chat with you last night, dear friend--always a treat! Happy Day...LOVE YOU HEAPS! ((HUGS))

  9. Thanks for the lovely reminder of that book!! My grandpa's copy became mine...been awhile since I have read it. Just owning something that was his has always felt so special. I am so sorry the bum gave your precious books away...must make you ever more the glad to be with TODD now!! Some people have no clue how much we value our books!!

  10. Your memory of a special book just brought back some lovely memories of my first and most favorite books. Pippi Longstocking and all her adventures and freedoms.
    I hope you can find the books. I'll be on the watch now for them, just in case.
    Have a beautiful day,

  11. For some reason I did not read this lovely book when I was a child. I read some of Little Women but when I was old enough to read I fell in love with the Nancy Drew series and the Sue Barton student nurse series. I read each one and could hardly wait for the next one to come out. They must have been very inexpensive to buy for we were very poor but I was able to get a new book when it hit the Woolworth shelves. I formed a Nancy Drew club. We would get together and talk about the book and then we would act out the story the best we could and put on plays. We would also write and act out our own Nancy Drew stories. We thought we were so talented. Of course my mom watched our presentations with delight. How funny huh.

    I think of that now as I watch the presentations put on by my grandchildren and smile. I try to be as an appreciative audiance as my mom was for me.

    I think that I did see the movie long ago about the Five little peppers but I am not sure. I should get the book and read it to my grandchildren and make up for missing it as a child.

    The eggy toast with chocolate sounds wonderful to me. I have had a version of French toast with a cream cheese filling but never chocolate. That sounds wonderful.

    I am sorry that you have to work late tonight. I will be thinking of you and wishing you well.
    Love, Lura

  12. I am sur eyou will find the book Marie knowing you.I love th ecover of it.I had a set very similar in looks to that but gave them away yrs ago.My father always said the table comes first and I have always had a well stocked pantry (as we call them).My family often say why do you need so much food in Mum.Just as you said Marie theres always something there for the unexpected.We were poor at home when kids but there was always a good meal on the table.Thankyou for such a lovely posting today I loved it.Take Care God Bless Kath xx

  13. Oh I remember "The Five Little Peppers" I don't remember how many bools I had but I had at least one. I love the sounds of the eggy bread. Definitely will be printing it out. Your trip is getting closer~Linda in Washington state

  14. What a sweet book Marie. I have never heard of it - but it sounds so wonderful.

    I think I am picking you up from the airport when you come out for your trip! I hope that is okay with you. I am soooo excited to meet you dear Marie!!!


  15. Thanks for sharing these childhood memories. I too had a mother that never allowed me in the kitchen...and I never truly learned how to cook. It's impressive that you are an accomplished chef with no early childhood training. Have a fantastic trip to Idaho. I'm praying for Lura to feel better so that the two of you can enjoy every moment together!

  16. I remember the Peppers! I read an old book in the library once. How lovely!

    I am so sad you're not coming to Texas. Le sigh!

  17. I never read the book but it sounds like one I would absolutely love.

    I've always been allowed in the kitchen and nowadays I let my children in there too, they love it :)

  18. I remember reading and later seeing the movie, Little women. I just loved it. My son loves to eat raw potatoes with salt on them! I think I drive my husband crazy because i have to have the cabinets full. It's just a secure feeling to know that , we may not have alot but we do eat good. Very nice post, and I LOVE the eggy bread!

  19. Oh I loved this book when I was child. I have a very old copy of it I found at a garage sale. My daddy read this book and a lot of others when he was a child and had me read them when I was about 10.

  20. Hello dear,
    It is 11:40 p.m. here. I am going to bed now. I will catch your Thurs. post tomorrow. I hope that you are getting some sleep. I have been praying that you could find the energy and strength to get through your long night of work.

    Sweet dreams dear Marie.

  21. I love reading old books Marie I just love nostalgia. I am reading the first of Miss Read's books at the minute & it is taking me back to my schooldays so much more enjoyable than the modern books full of infedility & bed hopping!!!!!!! I love your recipe my Mum calls this french toast & you have put me in the notion for some for my lunch to-dy bang goes the diet again lol!!!!! Marie x

  22. If you ever have the chance to visit Hay on Wye you'll probably find that boo and likely some of the othes if not all. It's a long way from you - almost at the Welsh border - but the whole town is loaded with book shops. It's said that you can find any book ever written there. You would love the place
    love, Angie xxx

  23. I just checked on Ebay and they have numerous copies and versions. I've had $10 in my Paypal account for awhile now, so I think I'm going to order one of them to read with my 9 year old daughter. I think both she AND I would love this series. Thanks!

  24. I love these type of history dear Marie,is nice, and...I wante dto be Polly too!!! ji!
    Lovely recipe too!

    I kew your meet Lura!! Im so jelaous!!!I wnat to know you too buaahhhh!!!!! kisses, I love Lura you know, Gloria

    You go with Todd, ???maybe I can mail him to dont feel alone!!! (Is a joke Marie)Im sure yo go with him!! You cant stay without this lovely man!!

  25. Funny you should mention The Five Peppers and How They Grew Up. I have that in my pile to reread. My dad read it to me as a young girl and I found my old copy.

  26. oh sweet marie
    i have really been out of the loop for months now was in a major flare with my RSD and have been with the kids and grand daughters and changing meds and feeling awful most of the time. I am trying to get caught up with all of my favorite blog friends.
    I have missed you very much. I LOVE this book. I read it growing up and found it at a book sale recently to save for my grand daughters.

  27. My grandma used to read that to me when I was a little. It was one of my favorites!!!

    You should put Nutella in that eggy bread!! :)


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