As a project to accompany my childrenÂ’s story,"Sarah JaneÂ’s Daring
a pioneer family in early New Hampshire, I began to research the foods
and ways of
cooking in those days.
By Mary Emma Allen
Sarah JaneÂ’s family lived in a cabin, one room with a loft. Her mother
over the fireplace. As Sarah JaneÂ’s adventure begins, sheÂ’s picking
the family dries for winter food.
"What other foods do they eat?" students ask me. "How did Sarah JaneÂ’s
acquire and prepare them?"
Since supermarkets and convenience stores werenÂ’t on every corner and
were few, the family had to raise and hunt for their food. In the story,
Sarah Jane, her
mother and little sister Lucy are alone because Father and brother
Stephen have taken the
oxen and wagon to the nearest town, two daysÂ’ journey, to get supplies.
On the way, theyÂ’ll take grain to the mill to grind into flour. They
might get a
barrel of molasses at the store. Farming tools that they canÂ’t make will
be high on
the list and household supplies for Mother..
They raise most of their foods on land they clear. Other food consists
hunt and fish they get from the stream. Mother prepares simple meals
with the food
from their farm or supplies Father brought from the nearest town.
Cooking Over the Fireplace
Nowadays we think it a pioneer task if we cook over a woodstove, as we
when I was growing up. However, the early pioneers had only a fireplace.
summer they might even cook outdoors. The nearest we get to this is
If we visit early American reenactments and museums, we may see the
cooking over the fireplace, as my family and I did when we stopped at
Farms in Des Moines, Iowa and the Schiele Museum of Natural History in
GRANDMAÂ’S CREAMED POTATOES - This is a recipe of my grandmotherÂ’s,
also one that Sarah JaneÂ’s mother may have made for their meals.
Dice leftover, cooked boiled potatoes. Place potatoes in iron skillet,
"spider" by my grandmother. (Any heavy frying pan or electric skillet
will do.) Add a
dab of butter (home churned on GrandmaÂ’s farm);
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon flour over the potatoes. Pour in whole milk or
just cover potatoes. Add salt and pepper as desired.
Cook slowly over medium heat until potatoes are warmed through and milk
Sometimes my mother varied GrandmaÂ’s recipe and diced an onion into the
potatoes before cooking. In season, she chopped fresh parsley over the
top or sprinkled
with paprika. Some modern cooks like to stir in 1/4 cup finely shredded
(C) 2002 Mary Emma Allen
About the Author
Mary Emma Allen has been writing her "Cooking Column" for newspapers
and online publications for 30 years and
has compiled a family cookbook. SheÂ’s currently compiling a
"Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking
articles. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Country Kitchen Series
Window to the World
Mud Season Means Spring!
Memories at the Kitchen Table
The Pioneer Kitchen