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La Charrette Village

Interested in what Lewis & Clark, Daniel Boone, Zebulon Pike, John Colter, President Jefferson and other notables thought about America's newly acquired westernmost village? Enjoy the west...before it became distorted by TV, movies and novels.

Location: Port Aransas, Texas, United States

A retired professor of Food and Animal Science at Texas A&M University, The University of Connecticut and Texas Tech. A cowboy in my previous life...never thought about being a professor or an author.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Frontier Food

Consider for a moment how our world food culture has changed over the past 200 years. Today, we have ready access to an international array of wholesome foods in the local Wal*Mart Super Center while those living on the frontier only consumed whatever was locally available to them. At La Charrette the selection was limited. The role of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals were either vaugely understood, not understood at all, or in most cases not yet discovered. As a result, those most vunerable - the children, the sick and elderly - suffered. These realities, combined with equally poor medical support, resulted in short spans of life on the frontier. Even the water supply was most often suspect. Today's concept of consuming 'natural' foods should not be considered as the equivalent of consuming diets like those offered at La Charrette. As unbelievable as it may seem, I clearly remember malnourished children and adults with primary vitaman and other nutrient defiencies as late as the 1940s in the nearby community of Marthasville, Missouri where I grew up.

All this aside, those on the frontier who obtained a wide enough variety of foods flourished just as well as we do today. To see what was served and how it was prepared on the Missouri frontier proceed to the title link. Contrast these alternatives with the so called 'fast foods', microwaveable dinners and other instant foods available today. And remember, you did not need to grow, harvest, prepare or hunt for these foods to be cooked over an open fire. Any wonder that today less than 6% of society represent the food chain while essentially 100% were devoted to that need on the frontier of 1880? But then self-inflicted obesity was not a major societal problem either.

The above family sketch comes from the History of the Pioneer Families of Missouri by Wm. S. Bryan, published 1876. Lucky for me, I acqiured this 569 page book for $5.00 in 1993 in a Lubbock, Texas City Library sale. Notice that the father is slaughtering a hog as pelts hang about the house. Here they explained 'how' they ate... hunting knives used as fork and knife "aided by the fingers" and water was drunk from a gourd. Anyone for the Golden Arches?


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