Frontier Fare: Recipes and Lore from the Old West by Sherry Monahan combines history, written accounts, and recipes into a fun book that will satisfy Old West aficionados.
Monahan takes her role as a Western woman writer seriously and posts a regular column entitled “Frontier Fare” in the magazine True West. Her enthusiasm for Western history and culture is evident in this compilation of historical vignettes, recipes from diaries, and excerpts from newspapers of the day.
Between the covers
Frontier Fare contains five chapters:
o Tenderfoots to Pioneers: Traditional Recipes Brought from the East
o Immigrant Influence: Recipes from around the World
o Born in the American West: Recipes Created by Pioneers
o Historic Restaurant and Hotel Recipes
o Holidays and Celebrations in the West
This eight-inch square paperback book includes more than 100 recipes, but the emphasis of the book really rests on the tales of the frontier. Many stories focus on food
I made the Concannon Irish Soda Bread on page 78 for St. Patrick’s Day dinner at our house. However, no one at my table was very enthusiastic about it. Consensus was that this particular recipe wasn’t as good as the ones I already have in my file. It’s understandable. The recipes in this book originated from cook stoves in the western frontier more than 150 years ago when supplies were scarce, variety wasn’t expected, and unique seasonings weren’t staples in the kitchens.
In introducing a standard biscuit recipe, Monahan writes, “Try making this recipe, and as you do, imagine being out in the middle of a prairie. Picture yourself baking biscuits with blowing wind stinging your face, hot fire embers popping around you, and lifting a heavy cast-iron Dutch oven…”
Intriguing Excerpts from Frontier Fare
“While crossing the treeless plains, the pioneers learned to burn cow or buffalo chips for fuel. Now really, chip is just a nice word for dried poop. Can you imagine waking up and knowing that your after-breakfast chore was to collect poop? That’s exactly what the men and children did so the women could cook the meals. When they came to a place where there were lots of chips, they gathered them up, sacked them, and put them in the wagons in case they encountered a location where there were no trees or poop.”
“While oysters from the sea were a popular food item in many western towns, another type of oyster was eaten out West. It went by a few names: Rocky Mountain oysters, prairie oysters, and calf fries. They became popular in cow camps, with Albert K. Erwin of Llano County, Texas, remembering, “During the spring, when we castrated the male yearlings, the chuck monotony would be broken with messes of mountain oysters.” (For those unfamiliar with this type of “oyster”, they are bull’s testicles.) Some cowboys considered them an aphrodisiac.”
Who Should Buy this Book?
Frontier Fare is not a cookbook. eading it and following the recipes will not teach you new cooking techniques or make you a better chef. However, this book is ideal for someone who loves Western history or is involved in historical reenactments and wants to be genuine in meal preparation while out on the trail of the early Western pioneers.
I can also see this book as a fun homeschooling tool for history study. We’ve had guests come to our dude ranch from different countries, and I believe many of them would enjoy reading Frontier Fare and imagining life in the untamed west. Some might actually think that’s what we’re offering them as we meet them at the front gate with our team of horses pulling a covered wagon! — Lisa George, RFT Book Editor, Chef, co-owner Latigo Ranch, Kremmling, Colorado