Friday, August 21, 2009
Yesterday before going up to the pioneer village for my weekly food adventure, I stopped at the LDS Church Historical Archives. The new building is really nice, but the service is still really slow, and it appears they still keep a very careful watch on everything they let you read. Most of the helpers are senior citizen missionaries who don't know much about history or archiving, but if you know what you want, you can usually get something helpful.
I was looking for information about ceramic pots and crocks. I have a chapter that talks about the physical artifacts of pioneer cookery separate from the perishable food itself. I had most of the chapter, but I was missing the section about ceramics. Here's what I learned.
There was a wave of potters who immigrated to Utah from Staffordshire, England. Yeah. So there were people here in Utah making pots who were as skilled as any in the world. There was also a group of potters who came from Denmark. Most of what these potters made were food containers, though they also made some flower pots and chimney tiles. I always had the impression that if you had a crock, you cherished it and protected it and passed it through generations. But yesterday I learned that crocks were considered much more disposable, a lot like we use Mason jars. As a result, Utah's annual production of crockery peaked in September. Potters boosted their production as house wives bought more to replace what had broken during the year as they got ready for the fruit harvest.
A lot of the Utah pots and crocks are marked so you can identify them, and they are highly collectible. So much that you probably wouldn't really want to collect them unless you were already crazy that way and the recession wasn't a factor in your life. So... I don't collect Utah ceramics. I just play with food. Yesterday I made sauerkraut up at the pioneer village, and I put it in a 3 gallon crock to ferment. Its not a particularly special crock. It was made by Western Pottery Manufacturing Co. in Denver, probably in the early 20th century. Any normal person would just use a plastic Homer bucket from the Home Despot.