Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This book, Little Women, has an incredibly special place in my heart, for many reasons. The first is that my edition, shown here, was bought for me by my father David, for my 12th birthday many years ago, in which he wrote me a deeply loving message, which I still read when I am feeling down, as I have been lately.

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The other reason I love this book is because it reminded me so much of me and my sisters growing up. My oldest sister was so much like Meg in the sense of being motherly/bossy and always directing what we should do. I was Jo, the bookworm who preferred solitude and writing and the company of animals. My younger sister always reminded me of Amy, pretty, outgoing, somewhat spoiled but with a heart of gold.

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The language is somewhat outdated, but I remember suspending my disbelief, so words I didn’t understand were transformed as part of the larger emotional narrative. My heart broke when – spoiler alert! – Beth died. In fact, I just watched that episode of “Friends” when Rachel has Joey reading Little Women, and when he comes to the part where Beth dies, he has to put the book in the freezer. Hilarious! That episode is hilarious, to be clear, not Beth dying.

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Though there are numerous food segments to choose from, the one with Jo putting salt on the strawberries being a personal favorite – and not just because I made that very mistake myself once upon a time when trying to impress a man….hahahaha! – I love the chapter when Jo and Laurie become friends after she comes to cheer him up with a visit, complete with Beth’s kittens in one hand and a delicious sweet treat in the other.

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“Here I am, bag and baggage,” she said briskly. “Mother sent her love and was glad if I could do something for you. Meg wanted me to bring some of her blanc-mange; she makes it very nicely, and Beth thought her cats would be comforting.”

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Blancmange is a white custard dessert flavored with vanilla, similar to Italian panna cotta. I love almond, so I tweaked to give a more almond taste.

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INGREDIENTS
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole-fat milk
2 tablespoons vanilla (clear if possible)
1 tablespoon almond extract

METHOD
Mix together the cornstarch, sugar, and salt with 1/2 cup of the milk. Set aside.

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In a small, heavy-bottomed pan or double boiler, heat the rest of the milk over low heat. Don’t let boil, but when you see tiny bubbles forming at the edges, you’re ready.

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Whisk in the cornstarch, sugar and milk mixture, stirring constantly. The whisking and stirring will get rid of the cornstarch flavor and also keep the sugar from burning, and will assist in thickening.

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Remove from heat and allow to cool for about an hour. Add in the vanilla, stir together, then cover and chill in the refrigerator.

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I served mine in individual ramekins, and decorated with red edible glitter because I live to bling. It is delicious, light and smooth and comforting, but with those flavors of vanilla and almond complementing each other so well.

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14 thoughts on “Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

  1. I’ve read it many times, and what a lovely note from your father. I can see why it would bring you a little peace. Blancmange was something I wondered about as a child, and custard, too, both of which I had only heard of in books. We only knew “pudding” and even after I learned what blancmange and custard are I still have difficulty believing such strange words describe such lovely desserts!

    You pudding looks amazing, btw!! lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL! Thank you! Yes, I loved the book since childhood and remember sobbing when Beth died. It’s funny, because I just discovered all the Friends episodes on Hulu and was bingeing them over the past two weeks, and that particular episode came up literally the day before I started the blog post. So it was fate. Thank you for commenting, and I love your blog! Just started following it. A girl who loves books and booze is definitely my soul sister. 🙂

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  2. Great post! I loved this book too. As a child, the only books we had in the house were the ones my older brother and sister and I won at school or Sunday School – and luckily for me, my sister had won the whole set of Louisa May Alcotts. So I read them all and yes, I was Jo too! Except that she managed, by the end of the series, to be widely published, so obviously I haven’t paid enough attention to my role model … Beth’s death was heartrending, and I guess my first experience of reading about grief. Good for LMA doing it so sensitively. Through recent decades I’ve looked back on my childhood reading and dismissed it as female conditioning – being taught to take on the traditionally submissive roles – but now I think differently, and your post helps me with that. Write on, sisters!

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    1. Helen, even though you are not widely published I certainly look forward to reading your blog. I think if Jo had been a writer here and now, she would probably have been a writer on Reddit, writing Creepypasta Stories. Remember her love of fantastic tales? Haha. At very least, she’d be a blogger like you and I. So perhaps we’re all in the same boat. Thank you so much for the feedback as always.

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  3. Vanessa, I’m sorry you’re feeling down. 😦 Know that you can message me if you ever want to chat and I hope you’ll feel better soon. ❤

    I love what this book means to you and the special note from your dad is so sweet!💕 I have to say, this recipe sounds so perfect right now too with this crazy winter we’re having even though it’s served cold. Yum! Wonderful post. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jen, thank you so much. That means so much. And all things considered, this dessert turned out delicious. Obviously I want to tweak it for flavoring and texture but overall it was a perfect nice custard. I was actually thinking I could experiment with chocolate.

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  4. I love it too, both book and film. I admit the version with Winona Ryder as Jo and Susan Sarandon as Marmee is my favorite. But the book is still true comfort for me, to open the pages and get lost, as I did when I was a little girl. Thank you for your feedback! So great to find another LW fan.

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