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The Vine: March 21, 2014

Submitted by on March 21, 2014 – 10:24 AM29 Comments


My friends and I recall a certain scene opening from a book, but can't remember which book. It's kinda driving us crazy.

I was advised that you might be able to help!

We remember reading a novel that began with a scene describing a girl who had been so good that she had been rewarded with a slice of bread with "both sugar AND butter." Someone new is introduced who she will become friends with, but she is at first leery, protecting her prize.

I always associated this opening with the opening of Secret Garden. However, I just reread the beginning of SG, and that's not at all how it opens after all.

Sugar might be jam instead. But I don't think so. It read like an Elizabethan novel, so from that era of classic British fiction. I don't remember how it goes on from there. We're pretty certain it's not any of the Narnia books, or Little Women.

I've Googled but to no avail — the search terms are too generic.

We'd like to remember which book this opening is associated with. Do you have any idea? Or someone else I could ask?


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  • Molly says:

    This sounds so familiar! An answer on this Straight Dope post suggests it may have been somewhere in the Anastasia Krupnik series by Lois Lowry.

  • Robby says:

    Is it Anastasia by Lois Lowry?

  • Andrea says:

    My copy of Anastasia is at home, but I would be really surprised to find it there. Those seem more contemporary than bread and butter with sugar. It feels more like something you might find in an LM Montgomery book – maybe in either the Anne of Green Gables or Emily series.

  • Katie says:

    This sounds familiar to me, too. I feel like some variation of bread with sugar and butter is common in older books, though. I found a mention of being rewarded with bread with sugar and butter in To Kill a Mockingbird, but of course that's not it.

  • Jay says:

    It sounds like something from a Noël streatfeild book, maybe due to sugar being something that was rationed.

  • Shani says:

    I was thinking Betsy-Tacy, and checked, and don't think that's it.

  • Claire says:

    Michael, can you give us an idea of when you and your friends read this? For some reason it's making me think of the Dear America series (probably because like 80% of those books had SOMETHING about rationing) although that could be too new.

  • Laura says:

    I remember I read a book a book called 'Bread and Butter Journey' in elementary school in the early-mid 80s. I don't remember anything as specific as how the story started, but I do seem to recall something about them eating butter and sugar on bread, which struck me at the time as a very good idea. Do you think it might be the one?

    Here's the entry on Amazon:

  • Wehaf says:

    This is probably not it, but in one of the Molly (American Girl) books, she has a rough day which is made better when her mashed beets (? carrots?) have precious butter and sugar added.

  • MIchael Dinsmore says:

    Hello! I'm the OP. Thanks for all your help!

    In response to a question, I believe I was in late elementary school when I read it–so early 80s. I associate it with early century British fiction, which I read at that age, which is why I was thinking "Secret Garden" at first. I don't think of it as being rationing as much as an Elizabethan/Edwardian treat for a young upper middle class girl, as she was outside in her own property and it was extensive.

    Thanks again! I was just thinking about this question again the other day.

  • MIchael Dinsmore says:

    Of course I meant "Victorian" and not "Elizabethan". :/

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Are you certain it's not Southern? My own Google-Booksing turned it up in wartime-British memoirs…and Southern cookbooks galore. It's even in Sula.

  • Jessica B. says:

    Is it Sarah Plain and Tall? (I know that's not British…) I also have a memory of a book from elementary school where the girl protagonist ate bread with butter and sugar! What came to mind was Sarah Plain and Tall, although the first few pages I could see online don't mention it.

  • Natalie says:

    I can't check the sugar/butter thing with no copy near by, but could it be Mandy, by Julie Andrews Edwards? Title character is an orphan, but finds an abandoned cottage on an adjoining property and there are lots of food references.

  • Angharad says:

    Maybe Polly Anne Graff's 'Bread-and-Butter Indian'? The details aren't exactly right, but it looks like a young pioneer girl named Barbara gives up her treat of butter and sugar on bread.

  • Natalie says:

    Sorry, I forgot to add- could it be an E. Nesbit book? (Five Children and It, etc)

  • MIchael Dinsmore says:

    I'm certain my memory is of a fictional account, but perhaps it's too common an experience to locate in a specific work.

  • Ginny says:

    The description reminded me of something by Elizabeth Goudge – the book I remember however, was Linnets & Valerians – and it began with children being punished (locked in closets by mean Grandma) – rather than rewarded — but the "era" and the feel seemed right — anyway, wanted to recommend this one to anyone and everyone…

  • Clover says:

    @Ginny: I can't believe someone else has heard of Elizabeth Goudge! I loved her books so, so much. I still read Green Dolphin Street at least once a year.

  • Brielle says:

    Until I saw the OP posting that it would have been published in/before the early 80s, I would have sworn blind that it was this:

  • I have definitely read a very similar book and I grew up with mostly British books.

    Any chance it was something Enid Blyton? (Now this is bothering me too)

  • MIchael Dinsmore says:

    Gee, a lot of the details that I can find about "The Bread and Butter Indian" seem to fit my recollection, but I can't find any digital versions to review (and it's out of print). Does anyone have a copy and could scan the first page or so?

  • MIchael Dinsmore says:

    Gah! I'm 80% sure Angharad found it, but the internet is in my way!

    Google apparently has digitized "The Bread and Butter Indian" but due to access restrictions, it will only display 3 lines of copy at a time based on keyword searches. The answer to my mystery lies behind the locked digital door of the Matrix, and I can only peep it through the keyhole!

    Searching here:
    "she was extra good, Mama added a sprinkle of sugar. Today was an 'extra day' "

    which is very near the exact phrasing I was remembering from 30 years ago.

    Does anyone have a copy and can transcribe or scan the first few pages? Page 8 seems to be the key! Meanwhile, off I go to interlibrary loan…

    It appears to be fondly remembered by some, but not well enough to have kept it in print…and although written post WWII, is set in pioneer times which also matches the recollection (but confused the search).

  • Kiernan says:

    It may just be the secret garden connection, but could it be one of the Green Knowe books?

  • Hillary says:

    I just pulled the Green Knowe books I have. It isn't he first one (Tolly has tea of egg sandwiches, and in the morning his grandmother spreads margarine on his hands to give the birds, but no sugar). River at Green Knowe also starts with a tea (strawberry sponge cake). Skimming the front of Enemy at Green Knowe there is a supper (contents unmentioned). I don't own all in the series to check, but now I'm hungry.

  • Maria says:

    If you go to that link and change the search term to only "bread", it will take you further back on page 8.

  • Meri says:

    @Natalie- It's off-topic, but THANK YOU! I was just thinking about that book last week (I saw a painting that reminded me of the cover) and I could not remember what it was called for the life of me.

  • MIchael Dinsmore says:

    I received an Out-of-Print copy of the "Bread and Butter Indian" by Anne Colver today. This is certainly the book that I was thinking of, ty very much Angharad! Here's the relevant passage:

    "On days when Barbara was good, Mama gave her an afternoon treat of bread and butter. When she was extra good, Mama added a sprinkle of sugar.

    "Today was an extra day."

    She goes on to encounter an Indian in the woods when she is out having a tea party, and through sharing the treat she develops a friendship that lasts the rest of the book as per the title.

    Published in 1964, set in 1783 in pioneer Pennsylvania, it posits a weird cross between 1960s and 1780s casual racism, it's no wonder it's out of print. I have no idea how I came across it this book the first place, and frankly don't recall much of the story beyond that passage. What a strangely peculiar thing to nearly 30 years later! Thanks for all of your help.

  • Jessica says:

    I was so sure I had the answer! Well, here's what I going to say, because the book I was thinking of is an awesome one.

    In the first few pages of THE KEEPING DAYS (by Norma Johnston) the heroine, Tish Sterling, makes herself a bread/butter/sugar sandwich because it's her birthday. (She specifically states that her mother doesn't approve of this "delicacy.")

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