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These are a few of my favorite things:

O is for Oranges.

     It seemed that the Woodworths used that room only for eating in.
     Eight places were set at the table and on each of the plates was a soup plate full of steaming oyster soup. Ben’s place was at the head of the table, Jim’s at the foot. Mrs. Woodworth told each of them others where to sit, and said that she would wait on them all.
     Now Laura’s feet were under the table her hands had something to do, and it was all so bright and gay that she was no longer bashful.
     In the very center of the table was a silver castor holding cut-glass bottles of vinegar, mustard and pepper sauce, and tall salt- and pepper-shakers. The plate at each place was of white china with a wreath of tiny, many-colored flowers around the edge. Beside each plate a white napkin stood up, folded in such a way that it partly opened out like a large flower.
     Most marvelous of all, in front of each plate was an orange. Not only that; for these oranges, too, had been made into flowers. The orange’s peel had been cut down from the top in a little pointed sections, and each section was curled inward and down, like a flower’s red-gold petals. Held within these petals, the flesh of the orange curved up, covered with its thin, white skin.
     The oyster soup alone was treat enough to make a party, and to go with it Mrs. Woodworth passed a bowl of tiny, round oyster crackers. When the last drop of that delicious soup had been spooned up and swallowed, she took away the soup plates, and she set on the table a platter heaped with potato patties. The small, flat cakes of mashed potatoes were fried a golden brown, She brought then a platter full of hot, creamy, brown, codfish balls, and then a plate of tiny, hot biscuits. She passed butter in a round glass butter dish.
     Mrs. Woodworth urged generous helpings, not once, but twice. The she brought cups of coffee, and passed the cream and sugar.
     After all this, she cleared the table again, and brought in a white-frosted birthday cake. She set it before Ben and placed a stack of small plates beside it. Ben stood up to cut the cake. He put a slice on each small plate, and Mrs. Woodworth set one at each place. They waited then until Ben had cut his own slice of cake.
     Laura was wondering about the orange before her. If those oranges were meant to be eaten, she did not know when nor how. Still she had eaten part of an orange, so she knew how good an orange tastes.
     Everyone took a bite of cake, but no one touched an orange. Laura thought that perhaps the oranges were to be taken home. Perhaps she could take home an orange, to divide with Pa and Ma and Carrie and Grace.
     Then everyone saw Ben take his orange. He held it carefully over his plate, stripped off the petaled peeling, and broke the orange into its sections. he took a bite from one section, then he took a bite of cake.
     Laura took up her orange, and so did everyone else. Carefully they peeled them, divided them into sections and ate them with the slices of cake.
     All the peelings were neat on the plates when supper was finished. Laura remembered to wipe her lips daintily with her napkin and to fold it, and so did the other girls.

~Little Town on the Prairie – Chapter 20 – The Birthday Party
by Laura Ingalls Wilder

 What a treat that was for Laura. A whole orange! So much so that when she got home she had to tell Ma:
     “Oh, Ma, each one of us had a whole orange!” Laura couldn’t help saying then, but she saved the rest to tell them all together.


8 thoughts on “O-range

  1. How lovely. A time when children could be trusted to sit around a good table and use good china and behave themselves. I can't imagine my grandchildren being exposed to such a situation. Thanks for sharing this excerpt.

  2. Oranges must have been either very hard to grow or very expensive to buy back then! I probably didn't tell you this before but I loved those books when I was a kid. I remember going to the library every Saturday to get a new one! I have almost the whole collection now but haven't read them in years! After reading your little bit makes me want to read the series again!

  3. I love the Little House books! When I was a kid, I wanted to live in the "Little House in the Big Woods" so badly, I pretended I was there in my back yard all the time. Really made me smile to read this excerpt.

  4. Nothing like a sweet orange – oh to have been born at a time like that, when an orange could be such a fascination. What a lovely "O" posting. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and went right out to my kitchen and peeled an orange.Cheers, JennyDrop by my site, I have a little treat for you!

  5. Most people tend to take oranges for granted. I know I do. This particular passage should remind each of us to be thankful for the special things that we DO have.Thanks, Laura!

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