Quotes by Betty MacDonald from Her Memoirs & Novels

Betty MacDonald with The Egg and I

Betty MacDonald was a mid-20th century American author whose best-known book for adults was the comic memoir The Egg and I, and who also produced the popular Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series. 

The Egg and I recounts how the author, a city girl, became a chicken farmer. Onions in the Stew is the last of her series of memoirs, detailing a city family’s life on a rural island. Here are quotes by Betty MacDonald from these and some of her other memoirs and children’s novels.

The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald

The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald (1946) – A Review

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The Egg and I (1945)

 “Sunday! In the country Sunday is the day on which you do exactly as much work as you do on other days but feel guilty all of the time you are doing it because Sunday is a day of rest.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“On a chicken ranch there never dawns a beautiful day that isn’t immediately spoiled by some great big backbreaking task.” 

. . . . . . . . . .

“I have no patience with women who complain because their mothers or their husband’s mothers have to live with them. To my prejudice eye, a child’s life without a grandparent en residence would be a barren thing.” 


The Plague and I (1948)

“I am neither Christian enough nor charitable enough to like anybody just because he is alive and breathing. I want people to interest or amuse me. I want them fascinating and witty or so dull as to be different. I want them either intellectually stimulating or wonderfully corny; perfectly charming or hundred percent stinker. I like my chosen companions to be distinguishable from the undulating masses and I don’t care how.”

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Onions in the Stew by Betty MacDonald
Onions in the Stew by Betty MacDonald 
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Onions in the Stew (1954)

“My idea of heaven would be an enormous house, preferably one with twenty-four bedrooms and twenty-four bathrooms, thousands of guests, mostly FBI agents and foreign men, a great many unobtrusive excellent servants, and no work to do.

As my alternative is a house with four bedrooms, a guesthouse, three davenports, a lawn swing, three chaise longues and the floor, thousands of guests, many of them under four years old, and no servants.” 

. . . . . . . . .

“Another female household-hinter gave me a recipe for a big hearty main dish of elbow macaroni, mint jelly, lima beans, mayonnaise and cheese baked until ‘hot and yummy.’ Unless my taste buds are paralyzed, this dish could be baked until hell freezes over and it might get hot but never ‘yummy.’” 

. . . . . . . . .

“Anyone contemplating island dwelling must be physically strong and it is an added advantage if you aren’t too bright.”Any definite appointment, such as childbirth or jury duty, acts as an automatic signal for the ferryboats to stop running.” 

. . . . . . . . .

“Anyone contemplating island dwelling must be physically strong and it is an added advantage if you aren’t too bright.” 


Nancy and Plum (1952)

“It was Christmas Eve. Big snowflakes fluttered slowly through the air like white feathers and made all of the Heavenly Valley smooth and white and quiet and beautiful.”

. . . . . . . . .

“Tall fir trees stood up to their knees in snow and their outstretched hands were heaped with it. Those that were bare of leaves wore soft white fur on their scrawny, reaching arms and all the stumps and low bushes had been turned into fat white cupcakes.” 

. . . . . . . . .

“Miss Appleby, her library books, and her story-telling sessions were very popular with all the children in Heavenly Valley. To Nancy and Plum they were a magic carpet that whisked them out of the dreariness and drudgery of their lives at Mrs. Monday’s and transported them to palaces in India, canals in Holland, pioneer stockades during the Indian wars, cattle ranches in the West, mountains in Switzerland, pagodas in China, igloos in Alaska, jungles in Africa, castles in England, slums in London, gardens in Japan, or most important of all, into happy homes where there were mothers and fathers and no Mrs. Mondays or Marybelles.” 

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Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

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Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (1947)

“Penelope (the parrot) squawked, ‘I’ll do it because I want to but not because you tell me to!’ Mary was certainly surprised at that because she thought that she had made up that brilliant remark. She didn’t dare to look at her mother….” 


. . . . . . . . .

“Well, ” said her daddy, “your careless heedlessness has almost lost me my life. I am now going to give you a spanking.” And he did and so dinner was a snuffling red-eyed meal filled with cold looks and long silences and the cheese souffle, which was delicious.”   

. . . . . . . . .

“When Molly O’Toole was looking at the colored pictures in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s big dictionary and just happened to be eating a candy cane at the same time and drooled candy cane juice on the colored pictures of gems and then forgot and shut the book so the pages all stuck together, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle didn’t say, ‘Such a careless little girl can never ever look at the colored pictures in my dictionary again.’

Nor did she say, ‘You must never look at books when you are eating.’ She said, ‘Let’s see, I think we can steam those pages apart, and then we can wipe the stickiness off with a little soap and water, like this-now see, it’s just as good as new. There’s nothing as cozy as a piece of candy and a book.’” 

. . . . . . . . .

“Her magic formula for dealing with children is ignoring all faults and accenting tiny virtues. She says, ‘Instead of telling Tommy day in and day out that he is the naughtiest boy in the United States of America, which could very well be true, take an aspirin and comment on his neatly tied shoes. Almost anybody would rather be known for expert shoe-tying than for kicking the cat.’ She always tells whiners how charming they are — bullies how brave — bad sports how good — sneaks how honest!” 

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“Of course the reason that all the children in our town like Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is because Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle likes children, she enjoys talking to them and best of all they do not irritate her.” (Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, 1947)

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The egg and I by betty macdonald

Betty MacDonald page on Amazon

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