Hard Times Recipes and Friendship

Hard Times

I was looking through a skinny old cookbook called, “Log Cabin Cooking: Pioneer recipes and food lore.” My, oh my, pioneers sure had it rough! Most of us cannot even comprehend food shortages and having only one or two sets of clothes. We can’t fathom not having any shoes, being cold in our homes, or not having meat to eat. But this was the norm for lots of folks back in the day. Contemplation of such things gives us room to be grateful for all that we have and to share with those in need.

Most of us are familiar with pasties; in fact, we love them! Especially when they have lots of well-seasoned meat in them. Well, mountain folks ate “root vegetable pasties,” with no meat. The pasties were filled with onions, potatoes, carrots, turnips, some peas, herbs, salt and pepper. I’m including a picture titled, “plowing in the mountains” so you can appreciate what we have today. Note the very skinny cow and the humble home in which this family lived.

dandelion salad

Have you ever had dandelion salad? I’ve heard of it, so I thought I would include it; dandelions are supposed to be filled with medicinal goodness, so it’s a great salad to try!




· Pick young dandelion greens, before the plant flowers, rinse and chill – herbicide/pesticide free

· Lettuce -washed and torn

· Bacon – cooked and crumbled (now we’re talkin’!)

· Egg – boiled and sliced

· Grated cheese – swiss is best

· Edible flowers in season for top – violets, pansies, nasturtiums, calendula

· Toss the salad with salt, pepper, and a vinaigrette dressing and maybe some raspberries!

And here’s a tidbit on pioneer desserts: “Sweetnin” was often scarce. Folks bought molasses from the general store when they could get there, but most folks kept a bee skep for honey. They would buy “loaf” white sugar if times were really good. Cakes were hard to bake, especially with no baking powder for rising, so puddings became a popular dessert. They were actually steamed cakes, and just about anything could be thrown in while cooking in a pot—apples, nuts, molasses, berries etc.

Did you know beer was called a good family beverage in the early 1800s? It was because well water was often contaminated by outhouses and farm animals, so water needed to be boiled before drinking. Thus, hot beverages, fruit drinks and fermented drinks became the norm. Coffee was highly prized. Beans were bought green and roasted at home, then ground with a hand-turned coffee mill. Coffee substitutes were potatoes, beans, parched peas and chicory.

So, what do you think? Would you like to have been a pioneer woman, feeding your family back in the 1800s? I know one thing for sure, just like women today, pioneer women enjoyed getting together with their friends. So, I will close with a saying I found in this interesting little cookbook:

May our friendship spread like butter on hot gingerbread.



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