Lewis & Clark Cookbook – food with history & art stirred in

A diverse trio of authors folded food, history and art into one, with the “Lewis and Clark Cookbook” and its companion, “The Sacagawea Cookbook.”  The spiral bound volume is not new, copyright 2001.  But then how much updating does one really need for buffalo stew? In this case older is probably better.

Teri Evenson, Jeff Evenson and Lauren Lesmeister present more than a hundred contemporary recipes interspersed with glimpses into the Corps of Discovery’s epic journey and the works of frontier artists, Karl Bodmer, John Clymer and Paul Kane.

Just shy of 200 pages it’s a nod to traditional ingredients featuring buffalo, venison, elk, wild berries, produce that’s home grown and dishes homemade.  Serious foodies and history buffs may find it superficial but the link between the changing natural food sources available to the explorers is valuable. 

Excerpts from the Lewis and Clark journals add extra flavor. “[M]y fare is really sumptuous this evening, buffaloe’s humps, tongues and marrowbones, fine trout parched meal pepper and salt, and a good appetite; the last is not considered the least of the luxuries,” writes Meriwether Lewis.  

It’s June 13, 1805.  The Corps is surrounded by the lush grazing land and abundant water in present-day west-central Montana.  The explorers didn’t always find such “sumptuous” meals.  With heavy doses of protein paramount to their diet, at one point part of the Corps nearly starved for lack of game.  Just two months later, on August 14, 1805, Capt. Lewis wrote that his hunters, “had been [as] equally unsuccessfull” as the Shoshone. “I now directed McNeal to make me a little paist with the flour and added some berries to it which I found very pallateable.”

A fair amount of serious scholarship has been done surrounding the food consumed by the expedition and it’s important from a purely historical perspective but not terribly useful as a modern culinary guide.  Juneberries, for example, were used extensively in Native American pemmican.   A genus of some 20 species, none but the Saskatoon berry is commercially cultivated and tough to come by outside the Northeast.

The Evenson, Lesmeister books are still available along with several others similar, including “The Lewis and Clark Cookbook: Historic Recipes from the Corps of Discovery and Jefferson’s America,” by Leslie Mansfield and “The Food Journal of Lewis & Clark: Recipes for an Expedition by Mary Gunderson.”  All rate at least four stars on Amazon and seem to be well-received by serious followers of Lewis and Clark.

The Lewis and Clark journals in their entirety, including informative footnotes, are available online from the University of Nebraska Lincoln at lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu.  

© Text Only – 2018 – Headin’ West LLC  – All photos – public domain or fair use.