Cooking In Texas 1830s-1860s

Archivist John Farkis.

Moderator: NefariousNed

Cooking In Texas 1830s-1860s

Postby NefariousNed on Tue Jun 13, 2017 11:29 am

San Antonio Express News, Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Way to go, Amanda Maloney!
Cooking In Texas 1830-1860.jpg
Cooking In Texas 1830-1860.jpg (86.78 KiB) Viewed 321 times

The makeup of South Texas in the mid-19th century makes it impossible to pin down any one way to tell the story about how people looked at food regionally.

As immigrants flooded into the newly founded state, mixing with locals in a fast-forming melting pot, the culinary landscape had a way of changing based on whichever door you knocked on looking for a hot meal.

“In San Antonio, you had Germans, Mexicans and Anglos all settling in within blocks of one another,” said Emiliano “Nano” Calderon, site educator at Casa Navarro, a historic site in San Antonio. “So the food stylings would be different depending on which street you walked down.”

A better approach is to focus on the available ingredients.

In a passage from his 1833 book titled “Journey to Texas,” German immigrant Detlef Dunt noted that common European fruits like strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries were nowhere to be found, but wild plums, persimmons, walnuts, pecans, peaches and figs were bountiful. Melons also did particularly well in Texas, and provided the same refreshment during the hot months that they do in modern times.

Dunt warned future German immigrants that he found Texans to be a bit unrefined on the topic of crop cultivation awareness.

Wheat was in short supply and nearly impossible to grow. It was considered an imported luxury, available only to the wealthy. Corn, which was actively harvested and stored in cribs year-round, did better with the local climate and was used in most meals.

In Mexican cooking, which dominated the scene, families would use it to make the same familiar homemade corn tortillas seen today. European settlers preferred to make batches of cornbread, which was a daily staple.

“Corn has changed over time. It didn’t have the sweetness that it’s known for today,” said Amanda Maloney, a Texas historical re-enactor based in Pipe Creek who specializes in the 1830s-1860s. “A common misconception about that era was that everybody was eating acorns and scratching the dirt, and that’s wrong. It doesn’t take long for a civilization to come along. Corn played an integral part in that.”

As in every part of human history, there were people who lived simultaneous lives of abundance and scarcity based on factors such as socioeconomic status or the mercy of nature. Food preservation via salts, sugars and fats was of the utmost importance.

Food was traditionally prepared outdoors or in kitchens housed in buildings that were separated from the main living quarters to avoid losing everything in a fire. Adobe ovens, constructed of domed earthen mud, were prevalent.

“Those ovens were being used by just about everyone that lived in Texas at some point, including the Native Americans,” Calderon said.

There was little use for lettuces and other roughage, although seasonal communal gardens were sometimes kept.

“If you look at Texas food, there’s no way around it geographically that food trends started in the South and made their way North,” said Bob Benavides of the San Antonio Living History Association.

And although it may shake the foundation of everything Texans know about their barbecue, where beef reigns supreme, pork was the protein of choice.

Outsiders used to call Texas the “Republic of Corn and Pork” or “The Republic of Porkdom.” Every piece of any pig that was traditionally slaughtered locally during a cold day (hot temperatures spoiled the meat too quickly), was put to good use.

“Settlers didn’t eat it the way we do now,” said Michael Wise, a history professor at the University of North Texas who specializes in food. “Pig bodies are very easy to preserve. They can be smoked, salted, dried and made into all kinds of different products that could last you a long time.”

Pigs had inherent benefits over other animals at the time as a food source. A healthy sow could produce two litters with up to 10 piglets each year, and pigs could be fed a wide-ranging diet of food scraps and locally foraged material and still grow to form. Chickens were raised too, but they often fell victim to predators and were more of a hassle to feed.

But forget the idea of a succulent, meaty pork chop. The way of the swine back then was to stretch the meat in creative ways, and the lard produced from the fat was every bit as valuable as the meat. Pork was rarely eaten fresh.

“A lot of the dishes prepared with pork had very little meat in them,” Wise said. “Classic Southern dishes like collard greens would be flavored with a ham hock (a pork knuckle that attaches the foot to the leg).”

According to a 1947 report in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, pork sold for 11 cents per pound and bacon was purchased for a penny more in 1853 San Antonio markets. Coffee prices were almost double at 18 cents per pound. A novelty item such as a pumpkin, though, could command a quarter.

“You had to remember that people then had to consume a lot of calories because they were always on the move,” Maloney said. “That is why lard and suet was added to so many things.”

According to research from John H. Lienhard of the University of Houston, the standard Texas diet included more than 4,500 calories a day, a massive increase over the standard 2,500 or fewer now generally recommended.

So where was the beef? It was simply too valuable to be considered table fare by most, and cattle were even used as a means of currency in an uncertain economic climate. They supplied daily milk and provided an invaluable service as workers in the fields.

“They were raised here, but they weren’t being eaten,” Wise said. “A lot of people make that assumption, because Texas has the reputation for eating beef brisket. But it wasn’t the case.”

After the Civil War ended in 1865, the nostalgic era of the great Texas cattle drives started to take form. The beef supply (mostly of the longhorn variety) was an abundant local resource, with reports of as many as eight head for every person. Cattle sold for $4 per head in Texas markets, but commanded prices of $40 per head in the beef-starved North. If droving crews could get their herds all the way up to Abilene, Kansas, there was big money to be made once they were shipped off to major cities like Chicago, New York and St. Louis.

One of the first herds of cattle to run what was later named the Chisholm Trail originated in San Antonio. O.W. Wheeler and his partners sent 2,400 head northward in 1867, although reports of the Alamo City acting as big-time cattle town are a bit of an urban myth, according to local historians.

The trails birthed perhaps Texas’ most iconic tie-in to food of that era: the venerable chuck wagon, armed with all the provisions needed to maintain healthy cowboys.

A good trail cook ranked just below the trail boss in pay on most droving crews, and he wasn’t to be trifled with. Cowhands were given strict orders to avoid dust-ups within a 50- to 100-foot barrier around the wagon as food was being prepared.

In a video from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum website, modern-day chuck wagon cook John Conway said, “When you stepped into that chuck wagon area, the cook let you know that was his domain. He was lord and master and you didn’t do anything to upset the cook, because then you may not get anything to eat.”

The standard meal consisted of sourdough biscuits and beans, but it is at this stage in history that the readily available beef was selectively harvested for consumption on the trails. And it slowly started to take over Texas dinner plates.

“There’s no way around the tie-in between the cattle drive and the chuck wagon to the makeup of Texas food culture,” Wise said. “Just because the majority of people weren’t eating beef until the 1920s doesn’t make it all the less real. Everything about those times was so symbolic. It lives forever.”
Cooking In Texas 1830-1860-1.jpg
Cooking In Texas 1830-1860-1.jpg (70.22 KiB) Viewed 321 times


cblount@express-news.net

Twitter: @chuck_blount
The "OUTSIDE THE ALAMO, Songs of Ned Huthmacher Performed by John Beland" CD Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/OutsideTheAlamo/
User avatar
NefariousNed
Moderator
 
Posts: 53118
Joined: Wed Sep 24, 2008 9:48 pm

Re: Cooking In Texas 1830s-1860s

Postby warren on Thu Jun 15, 2017 6:53 pm

I didn't see venison mentioned and thought it would prevail. Perhaps there weren't as many deer as there are nowadays?
warren
 
Posts: 197
Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2016 6:23 pm

Re: Cooking In Texas 1830s-1860s

Postby NefariousNed on Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:22 pm

COOKING AS TEXAN AS IRISH STEW
Irish cuisine goes hand-in-hand with Texas tastes, and it’s perfect for fall

By Paul Stephen STAFF WRITER
San Antonio Express News, Sunday, November 12, 2017

Texas and Ireland may not have much in common, but that doesn’t stop Melinda Britten
from seeing green when she looks at some of the dishes we’ve come to love in the region.

Hearty stews, tender braised root vegetables, oodles of beef-centric dishes — not only do
these trigger a sense of ancestral connection for Texans who, like Britten, can trace their
lineage to the Emerald Isle, but also they’re a perfect fit for the season as temperatures
begin to dip.

“Southern cooking, I think it’s based very strongly on Irish traditions,” Britten, a board
member with the Harp & Shamrock Society of Texas, said. “When you think of the Irish
you think of Ellis Island an New York, but there’s a huge flock of people who came in (to
Texas) through the Carolinas. They never went north. They never set foot in Connecticut
or Chicago.

“You can say Texas was peopled by those immigrants coming west, and the traditions
they carried with them evolved into some of the food we know today.”

Indeed, the Irish were every bit as present in the region as immigrants from other
European countries. The Texas State Historical Association places 12 Irish-born heroes
among those who died defending the Alamo in 1836. The battle of San Jacinto found
about 100 Irish natives among the troops fighting for Texan independence.

And they could be found south of the border as well. Rico Torres, chef and co-owner of
the progressive San Antonio Mexican restaurant Mixtli, paid tribute to these immigrants
in a recent menu that included a boxty, a type of potato pancake. The dish
commemorated the largely Irish St. Patrick’s Battalion that fought alongside the Mexican
army in the Mexican-American War.

To be clear, Britten isn’t suggesting carne guisada began when a displaced Dubliner
dropped an ancho chile into his Irish stew. But a handful of customs — long-simmered
vegetables, building a meal around a few scraps of salt pork — align with well-established
Irish culinary techniques.

Joan Moody, also with the Harp & Shamrock Society, even sees Irish roots in that most
iconic of Texan eats: beef brisket.

“The way the brisket, as we understand it, in the early days would have been boiled or
would have been put on a wood fire if they had wood,” she said. “That’s very Irish.”

Echoes of Moody’s claim can occasionally be found on the lunch buffet at the historic
Menger Hotel, which long has served a dish called Irish brisket. The meat is simmered
into fork-tender submission with a blend of pickling spices and chunky potatoes, onions
and carrots.

Of course, the flow of people and ideas goes both ways these days. Food in
contemporary Ireland is anything but static, with global influences — including more
than a few from the United States — appearing on plates.

The cooking of Imen McDonnell, the author behind the blog Farmette and the 2016
cookbook “The Farmette Cookbook: Recipes and Adventures from My Life on an
Irish Farm” might seem familiar to Texans. She’s American born, but moved over-
seas to a dairy farm with her Irish husband.

Recipes in her book include Farmhouse Tres Leches Cake and several dishes spiced
with chipotle chiles. Crostini with Spiced Lamb and Avocado, a recipe on her blog
, is packed with cumin, lime, cilantro and other tastes Texans love.

Leslie Conron Carola, an author on Irish history and culture, recently compiled “The
New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland’s Top Chefs.” The 2017 book features more
than 80 recipes and reads remarkably akin to many contemporary Southern titles with
a fierce loyalty to local and seasonal produce prepared with a light touch. Aside from
the presence of gorgeous Irish seafood, most of the recipes would be at home on
nearly any American menu.

“I’ve noticed over the years that, my goodness, the food was getting more and more
wonderful,” she said of her many research trips to Ireland. “I thought ‘let’s pull all of
this together and prove there’s a revolution in Irish food.’ ”

St. Patrick’s Day may be months away, but that’s no reason not to wear a little green
in the kitchen this fall.

Imagine a warm and cozy bowl of potato soup, then give it a kick of chipotle. Or
perhaps a Celtic take on venison loin is more your speed right now — it is hunting
season, after all. This week we’ve lassoed a quartet of recipes with tastes both classic
and contemporary that should appeal to every Texan’s inner Irishman.

pstephen@express-news.net | Twitter: @pjbites | Instagram: @pjstephen
The "OUTSIDE THE ALAMO, Songs of Ned Huthmacher Performed by John Beland" CD Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/OutsideTheAlamo/
User avatar
NefariousNed
Moderator
 
Posts: 53118
Joined: Wed Sep 24, 2008 9:48 pm

Re: Cooking In Texas 1830s-1860s

Postby Buckshot on Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:29 pm

warren wrote:I didn't see venison mentioned and thought it would prevail. Perhaps there weren't as many deer as there are nowadays?

The physician and naturalist, DR Gideon Lincecum, traveled to the area near present day Bastrop, Tx in 1835 and wrote in detail about how the settlers there commonly ate strips of fresh broiled venison, dipped into a tin cup of wild honey. He was from Columbus, MS, and had studied the culture of the Choctaw people and their use of honey as both food and a topical medicine. Keeping beehives and harvesting honey is still a part of the Choctaw culture.
Buckshot
 
Posts: 592
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2014 5:53 pm
Location: Louisiana

Re: Cooking In Texas 1830s-1860s

Postby SantaClaus on Sun Nov 12, 2017 7:04 pm

Buckshot wrote:Keeping beehives and harvesting honey is still a part of the Choctaw culture.

That reminds me of two characters from John Wayne's The Alamo. Chill Wills was the Bee Keeper, and Linda Cristal was the Honey. :lol:
User avatar
SantaClaus
 
Posts: 1702
Joined: Fri Jul 03, 2015 4:43 pm
Location: Austin, TX

Re: Cooking In Texas 1830s-1860s

Postby Buckshot on Sun Nov 12, 2017 7:54 pm

SantaClaus wrote:
Buckshot wrote:Keeping beehives and harvesting honey is still a part of the Choctaw culture.

That reminds me of two characters from John Wayne's The Alamo. Chill Wills was the Bee Keeper, and Linda Cristal was the Honey. :lol:


I have always thought Linda Cristal was a "honey". :D :D And she also did a great job of acting in an epic at a relatively young age.
Buckshot
 
Posts: 592
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2014 5:53 pm
Location: Louisiana

Re: Cooking In Texas 1830s-1860s

Postby James H. Hood on Tue Nov 14, 2017 5:29 pm

warren wrote:I didn't see venison mentioned and thought it would prevail. Perhaps there weren't as many deer as there are nowadays?

Quite possibly the truth, as I recall reading from some wildlife expert. Deer prefer an environment of woodland for cover mixed with open areas for grazing, which is exactly what suburbanization and farming have created.
James H. Hood
 
Posts: 61
Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2010 1:10 am


Return to Alamo Research.

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests