My favorite game to play when I was a kid was homeless. I realize how terrible that sounds, but in my defense I lived in the suburbs. I didn’t have a lot going on. Also, I was eight. I put peanut butter sandwiches in a bundle with a flashlight and my Tamagotchi (you know, the essentials) and then I tied it to a stick (seriously), slung it over my shoulder and went out into the neighborhood to pretend I was destitute.

Apparently to be truly nomadic you needed to look as hobo as possible: tattered flannel (it was the ’90s so I had it in abundance), toothpick in mouth, walking stick, a sad Charlie Brown gait. I admit…I loved doing this. Perhaps it was my first foray into independence, however imaginary, that made it so appealing. It was no wonder then that The Boxcar Children was my favorite book.

The Boxcar Children stew

Four orphans set loose upon the world stumble upon a rundown boxcar in the woods and make it home. They use a nearby brook to keep their milk cold, scour a junk pile for dishes and slowly increase their quality of living (and eating.) This was the first book I read where I took a profound notice of the presence of food. It was all so very quaint, from modest meals of bread and blueberries and milk to cooking up a stew from discarded vegetables in a pot over a fire pit.

The Boxcar Children stew

“When he arrived at the boxcar, he began to smell a delicious smell. ‘Onions!’ he shouted, running up to the kettle. ‘I do like the smell of onions.’ ‘I like the turnips best,’ said Violet. Jessie took off the cover carefully and stirred in the salt, and Henry sniffed the brown stew. It was boiling and boiling.”

Inevitably I’d grow tired of my new lifestyle (which meant I ran out of sandwiches) and return home. This routine would continue throughout my childhood. It was as though I wanted to gain a salt of the earth perspective, strip myself of all worldly possessions and thrust myself into the cold, harsh realities of life. Why exactly did that seem appealing to me? I have no idea. I’m chalking it up to prepubescent weirdness.

The Boxcar Children stew

The Boxcar Children stew

Ingredients: 1 pound of chuck roast cut into 1 inch cubes, 1 large russet potato chopped, 1 large turnip chopped, 1 medium onion chopped, 1 cup baby carrots, 2 tbsp tomato paste, 1/4 cup of red wine or cooking wine, 1 1/2 cups beef broth, 1 packet onion soup mix, 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water, 2-3 cloves of garlic minced, 1 tbsp pepper

1. Combine broth, wine, tomato paste, garlic, onion soup mix and pepper until well blended. Stir in vegetables and meat.

2. Cook in crockpot on high for 6 hours.

3. Mix flour and water together and pour into crockpot to thicken sauce. Cook additional 1 hour. Top with fresh parsley and serve with bread and butter.


Written by Rebecca Ritchey
Your resident book eater.