Apr 112011
 

 

The Farmer's Home Harvest - Currier & Ives

My uncle, John A. Quarles, was a farmer, and his place was in the country four miles from Florida. He had eight children, and fifteen or twenty negroes, and was also fortunate in other ways. Particularly in his character. I have not come across a better man than he was. I was his guest for two or three months every year, from the fourth year after we removed to Hannibal till I was eleven or twelve years old. I have never consciously used him or his wife in a book, but his farm has come very handy to me in literature, once or twice. In “Huck Finn” and in “Tom Sawyer Detective” I moved it down to Arkansas. It was all of six hundred miles, but it was no trouble, it was not a very large farm; five hundred acres, perhaps, but I could have done it if it had been twice as large. And as for the morality of it, I cared nothing for that; I would move a State if the exigencies of literature required it.

… four miles from Florida
Twain’s uncle’s farm was in Florida, Missouri, the small town were Mark Twain was born. When Twain was four years old, his family moved to Hannibal, Missouri. A fictionalized representation of the farm appears in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in Chapter 32 and subsequent chapters.

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It was a heavenly place for a boy, that farm of my uncle John’s. The house was a double log one, with a spacious floor (roofed in) connecting it with the kitchen. In the summer the table was set in the middle of that shady and breezy floor, and the sumptuous meals—well, it makes me cry to think of them. Fried chicken, roast pig, wild and tame turkeys, ducks and geese; venison just killed; squirrels, rabbits, pheasants, partridges, prairie-chickens; biscuits, hot batter cakes, hot buckwheat cakes, hot “wheat bread,” hot rolls, hot corn pone; fresh corn boiled on the ear, succotash, butter-beans, string-beans, tomatoes, pease, Irish potatoes, sweet-potatoes; buttermilk, sweet milk, “clabber”; watermelons, musk-melons, cantaloups—all fresh from the garden—apple pie, peach pie, pumpkin pie, apple dumplings, peach cobbler—I can’t remember the rest.

clabber
Clabber, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica’s online Merriam-Webster dictionary, is cottage cheese.

The way that the things were cooked was perhaps the main splendor—particularly a certain few of the dishes. For instance, the corn bread, the hot biscuits and wheat bread, and the fried chicken. These things have never been properly cooked in the North—in fact, no one there is able to learn the art, so far as my experience goes. The North thinks it knows how to make corn bread, but this is gross superstition. Perhaps no bread in the world is quite as good as Southern corn bread, and perhaps no bread in the world is quite so bad as the Northern imitation of it. The North seldom tries to fry chicken, and this is well; the art cannot be learned north of the line of Mason and Dixon, nor anywhere in Europe. This is not hearsay; it is experience that is speaking. In Europe it is imagined that the custom of serving various kinds of bread blazing hot is “American,” but that is too broad a spread; it is custom in the South, but is much less than that in the North. [/suffusion-column] [suffusion-column width=’050′]

In the North and in Europe hot bread is considered unhealthy. This is probably another fussy superstition, like the European superstition that ice-water is unhealthy. Europe does not need ice-water, and does not drink it; and yet, notwithstanding this, its word for it is better than ours, because it describes it, whereas ours doesn’t. Europe calls it “iced” water. Our word describes water made from melted ice—a drink which we have but little acquaintance with.

It seem a pity that the world should throw away so many good things merely because they are unwholesome. I doubt if God has given us any refreshment which, taken in moderation, is unwholesome, except microbes. Yet there are people who strictly deprive themselves of each and every eatable, drinkable and smokable which has in any way acquired a shady reputation. They pay this price for health. And health is all they get for it. How strange it is; it is like paying out your whole fortune for a cow that has gone dry.

The farmhouse stood in the middle of a very large yard, and the yard was fenced on three sides with rails and on the rear side with high palings; against these stood the smokehouse; beyond the palings was the orchard; beyond the orchard were the negro quarter and the tobacco-fields. The front yard was entered over a stile, made of sawed-off logs of graduated heights; I do not remember any gate. In a corner of the front yard were a dozen lofty hickory-trees and a dozen black-walnuts, and in the nutting season riches were to be gathered there.

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  One Response to “Chapters From Mark Twain’s Autobiography”

  1. […] He dictated over a number of years, but no one adhered to the hundred year restriction. Pieces and versions of Mark Twain’s autobiography have appeared throughout the years. This latest version has the merit of being complete, unabridged and inclusive of all of the material Twain wanted as part of his autobiography. But much of it has been previously published. Even Twain didn’t adhere to the hundred year restriction. In 1906 he published an excerpt, Chapters from My Autobiography. We’ve included a small portion of that here. Read the Text: Chapters From My Autobiography – An Excerpt […]

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