Monday, January 23, 2012

Pioneer Trek!

I checked my email this morning and found a note from a neighbor in my small town. She was recently appointed to be the "food chair" for the Pioneer Trek which will be reenacted this summer. In this celebration of Mormon history, teenage boys and girls don old-timey looking clothes and pull carts through the mountains to re-enact the handcart disasters of 1856. My neighbor saw the blog and thought it looked like a fantastic resource, and wondered why we hadn't chatted sooner.

And then I realized I haven't really written much about trail food here on the blog.

I think I should establish a "Pioneer Trek" area of the blog that is accessible only by a subscription fee. I could give lots of explicit recipes and diary entries, tailored specifically for LDS Pioneer Trek leaders. Wouldn't that be a gold mine? Priestcraft here I come!

But back to the subject, I forwarded this lovely little quote I found in the diary of John Jacques, who was part of the Martin/Willie disaster. He was talking about the handcart company, accompanied by several beeves intended for slaughter, crossing a long waterless stretch of prairie. When the beeves finally smelled the water hole ahead for that night's campsite, they stampeded to the water and wallowed around in it. Jacques wrote, “But it was all the water available and so it was used to cooking purposes— making coffee, tea, bread and porridge or hasty pudding, which when made was quite black, but was eaten and drunk nevertheless.”

So then we would need to put this together with another primary source telling us about "hasty pudding." You can find such references in Eliza Leslie's Directions for Cookery, 1853. Its basically gruel made from either flour or cornmeal. Sounds tasty eh? I'll have to check back to make sure they put some mud or dirt in, just for accuracy. Shall I submit an invoice to the Stake President? Or just write it off as in-kind tithing?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bill of Fare: what some Mormons ate...

As I worked at finishing up the last of the images for the publisher I had occasion to visit the Special Collections at University of Utah's Marriott Library. I must say Walter is among the most helpful and kind of any library personnel I've met in the course of this adventure.

Walter brought out an original 1863 copy of a book by Richard Burton called City of the Saints, which is a travel memoir written by a British fellow passing through Utah in 1860. In this book is a reproduction of the Bill of Fare for the 1860 Territorial Ball. It exhaustively lists the menu for this upper crust dinner. The book is also available through Google books online here if you want to read the whole thing. That's where I got the image below.

So... which of a hundred interesting things on the menu surprised you the most?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Oliver Evans

I just received two images from the Library of Congress, scanned by my brother from the original text. The text is Oliver Evans' The Young Mill-wright and Miller's Guide. It is of course the most common guide to "how to build your own flour mill" for American millers in the 19th century, and likely used in Utah as Mormon pioneers set up their first flour mills. It was originally published in 1795 but with reprints and revised editions in 1823, 1834, 1850 etc. It is still in print today, published by the Sociey for Preservation Of Old Mills (SPOOM).

The images below were stolen from another online source as the images I received are reproduction quality and too large for Blogger to download and host. Even so, the images are more than a hundred years old and free of any claims for copyright or royalty. The same images should appear in my book as supporting historical documents which describe the state of flour milling in Utah in the 1850s. I think they are just nifty. Check this out!

Yesterday I received permission for using 50 photos from Utah State Historical Society. The final manuscript and images have all been delivered. I've signed the contract with the publisher (University of Utah Press). They tell me it will be in their Fall catalog, coming out in October. Getting closer. Now just typsetting, proof reading, indexing, etc., etc.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Historical Fruit Trees

Hello Friends. I hope your holiday season was filled with opulent indulgences of seasonal and historical foods. I certainly came out of it with a pound or two or more to lose. You?

I'm working on the images for the book. I turned in the final draft of the manuscript and signed the contract during the holidays. Now I'm just nailing down the images. We decided to not do any "food porn" glamour shots of dishes made from the historical recipes. Instead we're going with mostly historical images like those from my last post, augmented with a few modern photos of historical properties. So I went out and took pictures around northern Utah. Here's a couple of interesting shots that tell a little food story...

The photo above is of a pear tree, about 160 years old, planted at the site of Brown's Fort, the first Mormon settlement in Ogden, Utah. These days the site is managed by Weber County Parks and is called "Fort Buenaventura," a name that never existed in historical documents but makes a good marketing hook. Brown's Fort (a.k.a. Brownsville) was settled by James Brown, a veteran of the Mormon Battalion campaign. About a dozen families lived at Brown's Fort. The pear tree is still alive, but quite beyond bearing.

The photo above is of a pear tree grafted from a scion of the historical pear tree. This pear tree, also quite unpruned and neglected, is planted in the garden area near the recreation of Brown's Fort. I believe it bears fruit. It is about ten years old. If you wanted to steal a historical pear, the fort is located off west 24th Street in Ogden, just over the viaduct and down past the baseball diamond.

I have read that there are several historical apple trees in the urban Salt Lake City area. I also believe that This Is The Place grafted scions from historical trees about five years ago, but that these trees have died from neglect. Such seems to be the case with our historical properties more often than not.

Do you know of any historical food elements on the landscape near your home?