Saturday, August 14, 2010

Thank You

As you may know, the DesNews did a short piece about the blog a couple of weeks ago. As a result, alert readers from Salt Lake City to Mesa, AZ sent me pieces of their own food related archives. Today I received in the mail a spiral bound book called Treasures of the Past. Thank you, Mrs. Campos. It was produced by the LDS Relief Society as a commemorative recipe collection for the 50th anniversary of the Jefferson Ward, Salt Lake City, Utah. As such, all of the recipes in the book were required to be at least 50 years old or more. The publication date is listed as 1972.

Many of the recipes hail to the Depression era, with names like "Hoover Pancakes" or "Depression Pie." The bulk of the older recipes appear to be from 1880-1900. Several of the recipes are attributed to commercially published volumes circa 1883. A quick Google search revealed this to be Eliza Leslie's Directions for Cookery, then in its umpteenth reprinting, after its first printing in 1840. Incidentally, a copy of this earlier Leslie was found in the Utah Territorial Library Catalogue of 1852.

Many Danish and English recipes were also included. "Bubble and Squeak," a British recipe for boiled beef and cabbage, reflects the broad Mormon immigration from England. "Gronkaal," a Danish soup made with ham hocks, root vegetables and green kale represents Scandinavian immigration patterns. Today I leave you with this undated Danish recipe for "buttermilk soup" or kaernemaelksuppe:

Beat until very thick and piled softly 3 eggs.
Add gradually and beat thoroughly 1/2 cup sugar.
Add 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel.
Pour over the egg mixture gradually, stirring until blended 2 quarts of buttermilk.
Chill for about 2 hours. Serve soup the day it is prepared.
Makes about 2 1/2 quarts.

This is delicious on hot summer days. It may also be served as a beverage.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Glorious 24th

Last week after the Deseret News piece ran, I got a call from a charming older woman in Mesa, Arizona. She had seen the piece in the DesNews and thought I might find some relevance in the history of her great-grandfather, William Morley Black. Yup, we're that close to the pioneers.

She sent a copy of his brief memoir, which recounted some of his early days as a Forty-niner. Black came west as part of a joint stock venture company headed to California, and stumbled into Utah on July 24, 1849. You may recount from other earlier posts here that the first "Pioneer Day" celebration was on that date. A party of 49ers from Boston said the Pioneer Day feast was a finer spread than they had seen in Boston. So I was interested in what Mr. Black would have to say.

He stayed with a fellow called Buck Smithson, and asked if he might eat with the Smithson family. Buck replied, "I am fearful our simple supper would not please you gentlemen. We can give you a supper of milk, meat and pigweed greens, but bread we have none. You see the flour we brought with us a year ago has given out, we have not had bread for three weeks, and have no hopes of any until our harvest comes off."

William Black of course was packing flour and cornmeal for his journey to California, so he opened his pack and gave Smithson a pan of flour. In return, he "partook of as relishable a meal as I have ever eaten." Of course Mr. Black converted to Mormonism, became a polygamist, and eventually fathered dozens of children by five wives. He passed away in 1915 at 89 years of age.

I think it interesting that two different accounts of that first Pioneer Day give different perspectives about what sort of food was available after two years in the Valley. I wonder which was more typical, or more representative of the general state of things. I have a feeling it is the impoverished station of Buck Smithson.