In the kitchen are appliances for mixing and cooking food, and for warming the drinking water in winter. Nelson and I discussed the sketch plan given below, and he found some fault with it. I would not be dissuaded from my views, however, and Nelson had to yield. I was as opinionated in those days as a theoretical amateur is apt to be; and it was hard to give up my theories at the suggestion of a person who had only experience to guide him. The best plan, as I have long since learned, is to mix the two and use the solid substance that results from their combination.
We located the site of the building, and talked plans until the low sun of January 8th disappeared in the west. Then we adjourned to the sitting room of the farm-house to finish the matter so far as was possible. An hour and a half passed, and we were in fair accord, when Mrs. Thompson came into the room to say that supper was ready, and to ask us to join the men at table before starting homeward. I was glad of the opportunity, for I was curious to know if Mrs. Thompson set a good table. We went into the dining room just as the farm family was ready to sit down. There were ten of us,—two women, six men, Nelson, and myself; and as we sat down, I noticed with pleasure that each had evidently taken some thought of the obligations which a table ought to impose. The table was clothed in clean white, and there was a napkin at each plate. Nelson and I had the only perfectly fresh ones, and this I took as evidence that napkins were usual. The food was all on the table, and was very satisfactory to look at. Thompson sat at one end, and before him, on a great platter, lay two dozen or more pieces of fried salt pork, crisp in their shells of browned flour, and fit for a king. On one side of the platter was a heaping dish of steaming potatoes. A knife had been drawn once around each, just to give it a chance to expand and show mealy white between the gaping circles that covered its bulk. At the other side was a boat of milk gravy, which had followed the pork into the frying-pan and had come forth fit company for the boiled potatoes. I went back forty years at one jump, and said,—
“I now renew my youth. Is there anything better under the sun than fried salt pork and milk gravy? If there is, don’t tell me of it, for I have worshipped at this shrine for forty years, and my faith must not be shaken.”
Such a supper twice or thrice a week would warm the cockles of my old heart; but Polly says, “No modern cook can make these things just right; and if not just right, they are horrid.” That is true; it takes an artist or a mother to fry salt pork and make milk gravy.
There were other things on the table,—quantities of bread and butter, apple sauce (in a dish that would hold half a peck), stacks of fresh ginger-bread, tea, and great pitchers of milk; but naught could distract my attention from the piece de resistance. Thrice I sent my plate back, and then could do no more. That meal convinced me that I could trust Mrs. Thompson. A woman who could fry salt pork as my mother did, was a woman to be treasured.