Probing diaries, letters, business journals, and newspapers for morsels of information, food historian Jackie Williams here follows pioneers from the earliest years of settlement in the Northwest—when smoldering logs in a fireplace stood in for a stove, and water had to be hauled from a stream or well—to the times when railroads brought Pacific Northwest cooks the latest ingredients and implements. The fifty-year journey described in The Way We Ate documents a change from a land with few stores and inadequate housing to one with business establishments bursting with goods and homes decorated with the latest finery.
Like she did in her earlier acclaimed volume, Wagon Wheel Kitchens: Food on the Oregon Trail, Williams has in her latest book shed important new light on a little-understood aspect of our past. These tales of a pioneer wife bemoaning her husband’s gift of a cookbook when she really needed more food, or preparing sweets and savories for holiday celebrations when the kitchen was just a tiny space in a one-room log cabin, show another side of the grim-faced pioneers portrayed in movies. Here we encounter real American history and culture, one that vividly portrays the daily lives of the people who won the West—not in Hollywood gun battles, but in the kitchens and fields of a world that has disappeared. Interlacing a lively narrative with the pioneers’ own words, The Way We Ate is truly a feast for those who believe that “much depends on dinner.”
Illustrations / notes / index / 240 pages (1996)