Sunday, January 31, 2010

Makin' Meat

In May of 1847, the vangard company of pioneers sent out hunters to find meat on the plains. After an overnight excursion, they sent a rider back to the camp to fetch a wagon. The hunters hauled 1,800 pounds of buffalo meat back to camp, only to receive Brigham Young's castigation for wasting powder and lead by killing so much.

The other day I had the opportunity to re-enact this scene, in modern terms. A ranching friend of mine had four buffalo available: a five year old cow and three yearling calves. We (a few friends and I) used a horse trailer instead of a wagon, and hauled them to a local butcher. When all was said and done, we had eight hanging halves for a total of 1,900 pounds. I imagine that when all is said and done, we might lose a couple hundred pound in bone. If we were pioneers, those bones would be used as well. Here's a trail reminiscence from Catherine Camp Greer, speaking of buffalo bones:

"After we had cut the meat off the bones, they would build a big log fire and put the bones in and scrape the coals all over them and cover them with ashes until they were roasted… You have no idea how much marrow would be contained in the larger leg bones; sometimes almost a pint, and we used this for butter."

The marrow was high in fat, and therefore made good calories. As part of my book research last week I added up the calories in the daily ration afforded by the PEF regimen. Between the daily flour, bacon, dried beans and fruit, etc., the PEF pioneers received 2,200 calories in their daily ration. When balanced against the daily toll of the trail, it seems pioneers likely expended 3,500 calories for a deficit of 1,300 calories. Only through such wild sources could this deficit be made up.

I don't know if I'll go to the trouble of rendering marrow from the bones of our bison, but I'm pretty sure we'll have some tasty eating for the next year, thanks to electric deep freeze chests in the basement.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

It's Seed-Time Again

The Deseret News for February 5, 1853 posted the following advertisement:

"Garden Seeds For Sale
100 LBS. sugar-beet; also rutabaga or Swedish turnip, carrot, parsnip, onion, radish, lettuce, early June pea, cucumber, melon, cabbage, with a variety of other garden seeds.

The above were raised last year, and are warranted of good quality, and will be sold at moderate prices for cash, or exchange for grain, flour, or any other country produce.

12th ward"

Well, I guess it is time to order garden seeds. Last year I shared my favorite seed source with you: Seed Savers Exchange. Their seed catalogue has arrived in the mail and I'm leafing through the pages and thinking about what I'll plant. Here is a link to last year's post, with subsequent links to the SSE website and online catalogue.

Several thoughts come to mind as I think about last year's gardening experience. Most prominent is the seasonality of life, which has largely been lost from modern existence. Though we did shovel snow the last couple of days, other daily rhythms are largely unaffected by the seasons. We go to work in the office the same regardless. Gardening creates a division to the seasons, with plowing, planting, irrigating and harvesting. Gardening gives a pulse to the seasons.

Gardening also gets us personally involved with our food. Food philosopher Michael Pollan suggests that the further removed we are from the production of our food, the more likely we will be to feel apathy toward unethical and unsustainable farming practices. If you have never seen the field that grows the corn you eat, you'll have no concern about whether or not it is laden with pesticides, or whether it is contributing to erosion and subsequent deterioration in water quality. Likewise with meat producers: do you know if the cows you eat live their lives knee-deep in manure? Do your chickens live confined in a cage barely big enough for their body? Gardening lets you take some personal ownership and involvement in your food. It just feels better to eat something you've grown from a seed.

Best go get your seeds ordered... only a month until its time to plant peas!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Providence of God

So I was up to the archives again today...

Here's two interesting snippets about eating weeds. The first comes from Manti, in a folklore context. The original informant wasn't named, and it looks a little suspect to me. Still, its the thought that counts:

"The place where the weeds were gathered was down on the south side of the stone quarry where the Mormons first camped. After each day a-gathering, there was none left for the next day. But like the food miraculously supplied to the Israelites in the wilderness, each day, just so the Lord provided for this supply of pig weed each day."

If I think back to the Israelites, the Lord provided manna, which was described as being sweet, and could be ground to make flour for bread. Also, they received quail, which could be prepared in any number of tasty ways. I hate to doubt this person's earnest faith, but couldn't God provide something better than pig weed? Amelia Young remembered gathering quail (divinely provident) in the first days after being expelled from Nauvoo.

But then, here comes this next quote right in the face of it all. John Hyrum Barton (1868-1944) quipped, "We considered pigweed greens a dessert." Being on the later end of settlement, perhaps he never experienced the extreme hunger as did the early settlers. Still, pigweed is no dessert. I dare you to try some this summer.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Random Stuff

I have a laundry list of things to fix in the manuscript before I can send it back to the editor for another round. Most of the things to fix require a trip to the archives. For example, I have a note where I said something about the seasonality of food patterns. I stumbled across something where Brigham Young advised not to eat a lot of beef in the summer time, but instead to eat more cheese, eggs and small poultry. But I didn't write down exactly where I saw it, so I have to go back and look it up again.

So today I went to the archives at the Church History Library (the new one) in SLC. And of course I found a jillion things BESIDES what I was looking for. For example:

In Leonard Arrington's (former historian for the Church) book, Great Basin Kingdom (an economic history of the Church in the 19th century) I found a discussion about the "Consecration Movement" incidental to the Reformation of 1856. The Reformation was this thing where the Church leaders decided that the members were too lax in their religious observances, so they made everybody get baptized again as a show of commitment. Plus, they made everyone legally donate their property to the Church as a show of commitment. Then all the property was given back to the original owners as needed. If you ever go down to the county courthouse and look up property deeds, you'll see it all there. And there in Arrington's book he gave the record of Brigham Young's deed to the Church of all of Brigham Young's property. He deeded the stuff to himself as Trustee-in-Trust for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. On his list of stuff donated (which totalled about $199,625, itemized), the last item was an African servant girl, valued at $1,000.

Also, I found a new recipe for "Lumpy Dick" which comes to us from Johanna Lindholm (1836-1909) a Swedish immigrant who landed in Tooele. "Dick" refers to a sort of pudding. Pudding is a very vague term. But here you go:

Lumpy Dick
Heat milk scalding hot--in a large pan. In a bowl beat an egg with a fork a few moments then add some sugar, pinch of salt & grated nutmeg, flour enough to use up the egg--rub between your hands till about like rice, then stir into the hot milk cook a few moments and serve with milk or cream.

On the same document I found this additional recipe for faux coffee, probably of a later date:

"Delicious Mormon Postum"
Parch seed peas--be careful not to burn. Grind to a powder--steep one heaping teaspoon to each cup of water. Serve with sugar and cream.

A trip to the archives is always good for a blog entry.