I picked up this book a couple of years ago on one of my Salt Lake City trips:
The title is somewhat misleading, because the recipes were not from just Utah pioneers — or even pioneers in general. Nevertheless, a fun book to flip through: on the way to last night’s fish chowder was this priceless gem, reprinted from Recipes and Stories of Early-Day Settlers (Kansas City: Discovery Publications, 1988):
How to Cook a Skunk
Skin clean, remove scent glands under front and hind legs. Put in strong salt water and boil about 20 minutes or so. Drain off this here water, add seasons: pepper, bay leaves, sage. Steam till tender. Larpen’ good eaten! Baked sweet tater & wild greens go good with yer skunk.
I am willing to take somebody’s word for it 🙂
But, I went for tamer stuff, a fish chowder made with cod, potatoes, bacon, onion, milk, and a couple of butter crackers. It would never have occurred to me to use the crackers as thickener, but it worked remarkably well, and the Teenager claimed that the chowder is now one of her new favorites.
What was more interesting was the recipe itself; I loved its simplicity and its economy with regards to not just the ingredients, but the cooking process itself. The instruction, in part:
Put the sliced potatoes into the kettle; hold the strainer over the potatoes, and pour through it enough boiling water to cover them. This is easier than to fry in the kettle, and skim out the pork and onions — which to a novice would be running the risk of burning the fat, cleaning the kettle, and beginning again.
I forget that the ordinary kitchen of 100 years ago did not have an endless array of pots and pans and gadgets — that perhaps the frugal housewife may have had only one pot and one frying pan, and not the graduated set of pans my local cooking store will sell me for $499.99. I like to think I have a fairly simple kitchen; when we remodeled the kitchen last year, I took the opportunity to freecycle mugs, glasses, dishes, utensils, pots and pans. But, I still have probably more than my fair share of “stuff”: the Cuisinart that was a wedding present (yes, it’s 27 years old) and that I use only a couple of times a year, the Kitchen Aid mixer that I use only a couple of times a year, the big pot with multiple strainers that I use only a couple of times a year . . . . and of course, a beautiful set of Danish Modern serving fork and spoon that I have had for 15 years and never used. See a trend here?
I am doing my best not to buy, but I still covet.