Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Egg and I

I've just finished reading "The Egg and I" by Betty MacDonald, that "enduring classic" about a Seattle woman who marries an older man in the late 1920s and moves to a rural part of the Olympic peninsula to raise chickens. It's a very funny book, although less about chickens than about the rough backwoods characters who inhabit the farmland around her house near Chillicum, Wa. Her portrayal of Ma and Pa Kettle is so wickedly funny that it inspired a TV series on the slovenly, lazy but warmhearted hillbillies (and not surprisingly, a lawsuit by the real-life Kettles, who settled out of court, according to

You can also read the book another way -- as a woman's revenge against her first husband for taking her out to the woods and making her live a life of perpetual hard labor in a remote, gloomy outpost in primitive housing, surrounded by uneducated hicks.

If you can get over her portrayal of Native Americans, which is rather uncomfortable, it's a pretty funny read.

From the book:

Gathering eggs would be like one continual Easter morning if the hens would just be obliging and get off the nests. Cooperation, however, is not a chickenly characteristic and so at egg-gathering time every nest was overflowing with hen, feet planted, and a shoot-if-you-must-this-old-gray-head look in her eye. I made all manner of futile attempts to dislodge her--sharp sticks, flapping apron, loud scary noises, lure of mash and grain--but she would merely set her mouth, clutch her eggs under her and dare me...

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