26 November 2009

Trees That Furnish Plenty of Food

So many passages in L. Frank Baum’s Oz books involve the magical availability of food—perhaps a reflection that that was a much bigger concern for American children a century ago. For this traditional feast day I’m quoting Dorothy Gale’s discovery of a lunch-box tree in Ozma of Oz, when she’s feeling hungry after being shipwrecked:

At first she was greatly disappointed, because the nearer trees were all punita, or cotton-wood or eucalyptus, and bore no fruit or nuts at all. But, bye and bye, when she was almost in despair, the little girl came upon two trees that promised to furnish her with plenty of food.

One was quite full of square paper boxes, which grew in clusters on all the limbs, and upon the biggest and ripest boxes the word “Lunch” could be read, in neat raised letters. This tree seemed to bear all the year around, for there were lunch-box blossoms on some of the branches, and on others tiny little lunch-boxes that were as yet quite green, and evidently not fit to eat until they had grown bigger.

The leaves of this tree were all paper napkins, and it presented a very pleasing appearance to the hungry little girl.

But the tree next to the lunch-box tree was even more wonderful, for it bore quantities of tin dinner-pails, which were so full and heavy that the stout branches bent underneath their weight. Some were small and dark-brown in color; those larger were of a dull tin color; but the really ripe ones were pails of bright tin that shone and glistened beautifully in the rays of sunshine that touched them.

Dorothy was delighted, and even the yellow hen acknowledged that she was surprised.

The little girl stood on tip-toe and picked one of the nicest and biggest lunch-boxes, and then she sat down upon the ground and eagerly opened it. Inside she found, nicely wrapped in white papers, a ham sandwich, a piece of sponge-cake, a pickle, a slice of new cheese and an apple. Each thing had a separate stem, and so had to be picked off the side of the box; but Dorothy found them all to be delicious, and she ate every bit of luncheon in the box before she had finished.
This passage comes shortly after Dorothy’s discussion with Billina the hen about the ethics or aesthetics of eating insects. Lunch-box trees allow Dorothy to eat a “ham sandwich” without worrying about what or who’s gone into that ham.

1 comment:

Chaucerian said...

Thank you for reminding me of the lunch-box and dinner-pail trees. I loved them so when I was a girl -- and it delights me now that the box lunch I buy from Sally Bell's in Richmond is almost the same menu. The classics last --