The country where Louisa May Alcott lived, wrote and espoused staunchly feminist principles.
The land where crayons come in unbelievable colours.
George Washington and the cherry tree story.
Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Rich country where everyone has a car and some even have two!
They play a very funny and completely incomprehensible game called baseball and seem to actually prefer it to cricket – how strange!
Where people speak with an accent that begs for subtitles (not that we had even heard of subtitles back then!)
Scary country. It has big grizzlies and even saber-toothed tigers! (We learnt only later they had become extinct several hundred thousand years ago!
Where Elizabeth Taylor married Richard Burton some ten times or so! Why????!
Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning conductor and why it didn’t strike him dead was one of those mysteries of science!
Where schools were full of Archies and Jugheads and all-American middle class Betty was always more popular than that catty Veronica – why did Archie even bother with Ronnie?!
You made it there if you were very, very good at studies!
Perry Mason and Della Street. James Hadley Chase – the thrill of feeling very grown up as you read them!
MacKenna’s Gold and the Wild West and everyone had a horse and a gun and boots with spurs which jangled when they walked (many of us would have cheerfully sold our souls – if we knew we had such things in our possession! – many tomes over to the devil to possess these!)
You could buy trick-y things to be used at school like you read about in the Mallory Towers books like invisible ink and squeaky chalk and other such exciting paraphernalia from the catalogue at the back of comic books!
And finally and above all else, the land which is covered with apple trees Johnny Appleseed randomly through around as he wandered round the country side (image of a barefoot tramp with a sack of apple seeds slung over his back rather like how tea pickers carry their babies in a sack on their backs!) scattering them as he walked (image courtesy Radiant Reader, the series of English textbooks we had up to class 6, i think).
This was what we knew of America when we were growing up in sixites and seventies India! A random set of facts – mostly gleaned from books – ranging from schools texts to Archie comics and little bit of serious literature!
Growing up, unfortunately, de-mystified much of this. Some things stayed – like the Little Women series, Anne, forever glorious at Green Gables – as comforting and as familiar as Thangam maami next door!
Driving through New England these couple of days, seeing such unbelievably pretty towns, I remembered another old favourite – Johnny Appleseed. And then comes random thought, would apple pie even be American if it were not for this one man?!
And so, to celibrate America is the essentially American…
CORNBREAD (recipe adapted from Betty Crocker)
- Salted butter – 1/4 cup
- Milk – 1 cup
- Cornmeal – 1.25 cups
- Maida – plain flour – 1/2 cup
- Whole wheat flour – 1/2 cup
- Brown sugar – 1/4 cup
- Baking pwd – 2 tsp
Melt butter in a saucepan. Switch off.
Whisk in egg and milk, stirring frequently.
Add all the other ingredients and mix till just combined.
Pour into a greased pan and bake till golden brown and the centre is cooked – about 25 minutes – at 200 C.
Serve with any gravy – I like a mushroom gravy with this.
I think even Johhny Appleseed would have liked it – he was a vegetarian in the latter half of his life!