June to July Blog Food for Thought

If you are not reading then you are writing….right?

The next two books in my Promise series are well underway. “Imperfect Promise” is the Spur Historical Romance winner for the Western Writers of America and Finalist in the Will Rogers Medallion Award. Imperfect Promise has not failed to deliver a powerful story, pulling readers into the atmosphere of the characters. Enduring Promise is a continuation of the Enders tale. In this sequel, the notoriety of Cortland Enders has captured the attention of his lost siblings by way of the newspapers of the time. Surprises and heartache are ahead as the ranch prospers and the women stand their ground, fiercely protective of family.

Now, as I begin my travels to Montana for the WWA Spur Award in Great Falls, I also plan to visit some of the old “Wild West” towns. Reading books about settings can’t substitute having “eyes” on the places. With that mission in mind, I thought I’d share some of the interesting historical “everyday” life “things and such” that settlers made use of on the Great Plains. (Where my stories are set.)

Of course, through the 1870’s, bison were consumed by both Native Americans and settlers. While the Native Americans made use of every part of the bison, settlers generally stayed to the meat, fat, and hides. Milk was a problem, unless one owned a milk cow. And then, there was no refrigeration. However, canned condensed milk came into use in about 1865.

Water supplies weren’t pure. This meant that alcohol such as beer, ale, and whiskey were the next best choice. Even children drank low alcohol beer if available. And it was served warm. (Germans served warm beer.) There is an interesting program on the History Channel about the origins of commercial beer and whiskey. Coffee was important when available. In which case, various grains supplemented as coffee.

For those with a sweet tooth, brown sugar was cheap; again, not always available. Alternatives included sorghum and molasses.

Travelers used plenty of salt to preserve meat. Other staples kept on hand included flour, bacon, hardtack, beans, rice, and lard.

Recently, I came across Dr. Chase’s Recipes (written in 1866). You can find reference to this in Everyday Life in the Wild West by Candy Moulton. Great resource.

Dr. Chase’s Recipe for Cake, Nice, Without Eggs or Milk

Flour 3 1/2 lbs.  Sugar  1  1/4 pounds; Butter  1 lb.; Water 1/2 pint; 1 tea-spoon of saleratus (sodium bicarbonate); Roll thin and bake. (No other information).

Please let me know if you try this and relate how it turns out!