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Wagon Wheel Kitchens: Food on the Oregon Trail Hardcover – August 27, 1993

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Pioneers along the Oregon Trail in the mid-to-late 19th century not only traveled stoically, risked their lives, spent their savings and suffered, but cooked and ate as well. "Simply surviving the trip was not the only goal," Williams ( Lowfat American Favorites ) notes. "Food was a primary way of providing some pleasure and variety during the endless days of riding and walking." Her culinary history of an essential episode of the American story calls for its facts on diaries and letters written by the voyagers, newspapers and magazines of the era and period cookbooks. The result of research is a dutiful chronicle distinguished more by the information imparted than by much verve in the telling. How, let us say, did boudin blanc come to be cooked by travelers on the Trail? It was "an ancient recipe for sausages" made new, based on buffalo cow meat killed fresh while the settlers were en route. (Williams supplies the complete recipe, seductively archaic: cooks are instructed to make "love to" the "lower extremity of the large gut of the Buffaloe" with "forefinger and thumb" maneuvering the gut to keep what is needed and eject what is not.) Faithful readers will find lore like this interspersed with rather dull prose.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Back Cover

"This book holds an encyclopedia of information culled from diaries and contemporary newspapers. I can't think of a more intimate account of the lives of the overlanders, how they turned their rude wagons into homes, how they made meals both a comfort and a celebration. Some readers will want to try out recipes; others will read in awe as in the midst of difficult travel, women made certain their families marked the Fourth of July with cakes--fruit jelly and sponge-puddings, and ice cream--and clean underwear!"--Lillian Schlissel, author of Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey and Western Women: Their Lands, Their Lives

"This lively book puts the reader squarely on the Oregon Trail--baking bread in a Dutch oven over a campfire, searing buffalo meat, and trading for fresh vegetables and fish. Through emigrant guides, diaries, and 'receipts' of the day, Williams reconstructs the meals that succored emigrants as they crossed the Plains. To understand trail women's contributions to the migration, simply try one of Williams's 'pinch-and-a-handful' recipes--and do it over an open fire in a rainstorm."--Glenda Riley, author of The Female Frontier: A Comparative View of Women on the Prairie and the Plains

"It is tempting to think of Wagon Wheel Kitchens as a feminist supplement to De Voto's Across the Wide Missouri. Its cast of characters, its often rousing glimpses of trail life--and the recipes--illuminate the hard facts of the western migration. As one of the author's overlanders exclaims with ardor, 'What cooks we are!'"--Evan Jones, author of American Food: The Gastronomic Story

"A fascinating trip-within-the-trip on the great Oregon Trail. Williams is like the gold prospector who spent years digging constantly into mountains of material just to find a nugget of gold from time to time. This book is a large collection of her nicely polished gold nuggets of historical archaeology. It's a gift to us all."--Sam'l P. Arnold, author of Eating Up the Santa Fe Trail

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas; First edition/Full number line edition (August 27, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700606092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700606092
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,312,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Finally, the book I've been looking for in researching the Oregon Trail, WAGON WHEEL KITCHENS is a detailed description of food acquistion and preparation on the Oregon Trail. It was also an interesting book to read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book dwells on the stocking up of wagon trains. Dried foods, Cured meats, and staples that can be easily rationed until the next supply center.
While there ARE certainly some recipes, they are interspersed with the narrative, and not separately cataloged. So if you are looking for a specific recipe, you will be unlikely to find it. But, if you stumble across one, they are often very tasty, and fun to try on your friends.
It is a nice historic prairie kitchen account.
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Format: Paperback
Wagon Wheel Kitchens can be considered a classic now, one of the best books on eating and cooking on the Oregon Trail. It's not just recounting of the trials and tribulations of gathering and carrying foodstuffs for the months-long travel, but the new science and technology that made going on the Oregon Trail possible. The very basics that we take for granted today such a flour, are all explored. I found the nascent food science such as Preston's yeast flour and the fight over ingredients that made a simple loaf of bread rise all interesting and thought-provoking. What on earth would people do today when many can't even make a simple roux?

Highly recommended not only for someone interested in the Oregon Trail, but also for putting family history into context. Any teacher studying this period in the classroom or college level would benefit from reading it for himself or assigning it.
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Format: Paperback
Good read for those interested in how their ancestors ate -- especially if it is known one of them was among those who went west using this paticular route. Highly recommended.
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