Tuesday, June 2, 2009


For the last few days I've been trying to establish a few positive ID's on submissions from the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers organization. A lot of DUP stuff tends to be documented very thinly, making it of marginal usefulness. For example, there's this tidy little submission from Hattie Snow:

Peach Preserves
“1 qt molasses or more if not sweet enough—3 lbs. peaches either with or without pits. Simmer for 6 hours. Good filling for Roly Poly”

But who is Hattie Snow? A search on FamilySearch yielded a half-dozen possibilities, some within my time frame and some not. It would really be nice if the DUP offered some sort of provenance for their collected material. Its kind of like someone carrying a boxful of flint-knapped arrowheads in to the state archaeologist's office and saying, "look what I found!" The archaeologist replies, "Sorry, can't use it without context." The arrowhead is only meaningful if we know where it was found, and what other objects were found nearby. Was it found on top of the ground, or under two inches of topsoil? Was there a hearth? Or other animal bones?

Fortunately, Hattie Snow's preserves do have some context. We have other pioneers who mention making preserves by simmering fruit in molasses, though they don't tell the proportions or how it was used. It might be likely that Hattie herself wasn't a "pioneer" but that she was reporting a process that is part of the pioneer experience.

I bet ya a dollar that this stuff is just boring as hell to all of you non-existent readers. It fascinates me, but perhaps a best-seller mormon pioneer cookbook needs more recipes and less philosophy.


Sherm said...

Actually, it is all fairly interesting if only because some of the old recipes are still part of our family traditions. While not a regular part of our diet we occasionally serve "Lumpy Dick" or "Hard Pudding" to help ourselves remember. (Besides I like them.) The context of and the way many of these old recipes are written are how my older relations write recipes to this day. It assumes a certain level of knowledge and drives my wife nuts.

Brock said...

Yup--that's one way you can tell a "real" pioneer recipe from the more modern things. But on the other hand, sometimes you find things that have been written in a modern hand, because someone wrote a recipe down in 1950 because their grandmother was dying and she had always just cooked from memory. That's the case with one Danish source I'm looking at right now.

Scarehaircare said...

I'm actually enjoying your research process. It reminds me of my Granmother's photo ablums from the early 1910-20. So many people no one can identify. Not even sure if they are family, or if it's a scrapbook she saved from a rubbish pile. It will be valuable to someone, sometime.