Jim does not see Ántonia for weeks. One night, the Burdens learn that the Shimerdas are taking turns wearing their one overcoat and are eating prairie-dogs to survive the winter. Jim, Jake, and his grandmother take a basket of food over to the Shimerdas. When they arrive, Mrs. Shimerda cries and accuses them of being poor neighbors. When Jake and Jim carry in the food, Mrs. Shimerda cries harder.
Mrs. Shimerda's initial response to the Burden's shows she's ashamed of her poverty and jealous of the Burden's lifestyle. Yet her intense crying when Jim and Jake bring in the food shows just how desperately she and the Shimerda's need the Burdens in order to survive.
Mr. Shimerda is embarrassed by his family's poverty, and says that in Bohemia they had a lot of money. He also tells them about his plans to build their house up into a log cabin. Before they leave, Mrs. Shimerda gives Jim's grandmother some strange brown shavings that she says are for eating.
The Shimerdas are ashamed of their poverty because they weren't always poor. Still, they plan to improve their standing in their new life. Mrs. Shimerda's gift shows her gratitutde toward the Burdens.
To Jim's grandmother, it's obvious that the Shimerdas are suffering because they haven't properly prepared for the winter by storing food or making clothing. On the way home, she tells Jim she thinks the Shimerdas may not have the common sense necessary to survive on the prairie.
Jim's grandmother's view of the Shimerdas is a bit unfair. She expects them to understand the necessities of prairie life as she does, but they do not have her experience, or any experience, living on the prairie.
Jim's grandmother is suspicious of the shavings Mrs. Shimerda gave them, so she throws them in the fire when she gets home. But before she does, Jim tastes a few. Many years later, Jim realizes that the shavings were dried mushrooms, which the Shimerdas had carried all the way from the forests of Bohemia.