Wednesday, 20 April 2011

On Meat Alone.

On Meat Alone.

The list of period foods is quite long, but whose foods are they? Would a woodsrunner bother to carry dried peas, parched corn, oats & currents? Somehow I don’t think so. It all adds to the weight, & sooner or later it has to run out, & what then? Well, he or she hunts for meat.

So I started looking for the least weighty foods, & foods that would compliment meat. Jerky is mentioned many times, & this food I think was pretty popular with woodsrunners, & so was bread, or flour. Yes bread & flour can run out too, but is it possible to survive on meat alone & stay healthy? Or would one get the dreaded scurvy? It appears that one can survive on meat alone, & I have no doubt that this is what woodsrunners did. Following is the information I have found so far.

"and on the first day of May 1770, my brother returned home to the settlement by himself, for a new recruit of horses and ammunition, leaving me by myself, without bread, salt or sugar, without company of my fellow creatures, or even a horse or dog."
Daniel Boone 1770.
Faragher, John M. Daniel Boone: the life and legend of an American pioneer (1992).

"On March the 28th, as we were hunting for provisions, we found Samuel Tate's son, who gave us an account that the Indians fired on their camp on the 27th day.

On the 7th day of February, as I was hunting to procure meat for the company.

"A day was soon appointed for the march of the little cavalcade to the camp. Two or three horses furnished with pack−saddles were loaded with flour, Indian meal, blankets, and every thing else requisite for the use of the hunter.
Daniel Boone. Life & Times of Col. Daniel Boone 1775.

Tuesday 6 Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8--Had Snow and such Bad weather that we could not travel for three days; but I killed a young Bear so that we had provisions enough.

Thursday 7.--Set out with my Horse Load of Bear Meat and travelled about 30 M this afternoon I met a Young Man (a Trader) and we encamped together that night; He happened to have some Bread with him, and I had plenty of Meat so we Fared very Well.

Wednesday 16.--Set out SW 25 M to Licking Creek--the Land from Muskingum to this place rich but
Broken--Upon the N Side of Licking Creek about 6 M from the Mouth, are sevaral Salt Licks, or Ponds,
formed by little Streams or Dreins of Water, clear but of a blueish Colour, & salt taste the Traders and
Indians boil their Meat in this water which (If proper Care not be taken) will make it too salt to eat.

Monday 4.--This day I hard sevral Guns, but was afraid to examine who fired Them, lest they might be some of the French Indians, so I travelled thro the Woods about 30 M; just at night I killed a fine barren
Cow-Buffaloe and took out her tongue and a little of her best meat:

Wednesday 6.--I travelled about 30 M and killed a fat Bear.

Sunday 12.--Stayed to rest and Dry some Meat we had Killed.
The Journal of Christopher Gist, 1750-1751.

Pamela Patrick-White. Well Dressed Victuals.

. We had carried but little provisions with us, and the next morning was entirely out of meat.

I worked on with my hands till the bears got fat, and then I turned out to hunting, to lay in a supply of meat. I soon killed and salted down as many as were necessary for my family;
Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee_ (1834) by David Crockett.

We are now without bread and are compelled to hunt the buffalo to preserve life....

"Sunday 26th...procured some buffalo meat; though poor it was palatable.
Pioneers of the Old Southwest by Constance Skinner.

These months on fish were the beginning of several years during which I lived on an exclusive meat diet.
Adventures in Diet Part 1 By Vilhjalmur Stefansson
Harper's Monthly Magazine, November 1935.
Prolonged meat diet study.

In 1785 I visited the rough and hilly country of Otsego, where there existed not an inhabitant, nor any trace of a road; I was alone three hundred miles from home, without bread, meat, or food of any kind; fire and fishing tackle were my only means of subsistence. I caught trout in the brook, and roasted them on the ashes. My horse fed on the grass that grew by the edge of the waters. I laid me down to sleep in my watch coat, nothing but the melancholy wilderness around me. In this way I explored the country, formed my plans of future settlement, and meditated upon the spot where a place of trade or a village should afterwards be established.
William Cooper.

Meat made up a large portion of the diets of residents of eighteenth-century England.

Some settlers were driven by curiosity or necessity to hunt and eat the native mammals. Stuffed wombat and fried echidna were on the menu in early settlements in Van Diemen's Land, as Tasmania was known in those times.

Flour was a staple item of the early settler's diet. It was usually made into bread or damper.

Other foods that seem less palatable to modern urban Australians - such as witchetty grubs, lizards, snakes and moths - were greatly valued.

Men Were Hunters and Brought Home Larger Animals

Men were hunters while women were gatherers. Hunting larger animals, the Aboriginal men often worked in groups while smaller animals were often hunted individually. There was plenty of animal food like kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, possums, bats, pademelons, bandicoots, goannas, lizards, frogs, snakes and birds like cockatoos, parrots, ducks, emus, swans and bush turkeys. Coastal people also ate a wide range of seafood, fish and marine animals like dugongs and turtles. Aboriginal men used a wide range of tools like spears and boomerangs while hunting. Nocturnal animals were not hunted during the night, but caught in their burrows where they were sleeping during the day.

That night we had a mess of wheat for our supper.

There came an Indian to them at that time with a basket of horse liver.

As we went along they killed a deer, with a young one in her, they gave me a piece of the fawn.

I went, and he gave me a pancake, about as big as two fingers. It was made of parched wheat, beaten, and fried in bear's grease, but I thought I never tasted pleasanter meat in my life.

There was a squaw who spake to me to make a shirt for her sannup, for which she gave me a piece of bear. Another asked me to knit a pair of stockings, for which she gave me a quart of peas. I boiled my peas and bear together, and invited my master and mistress to dinner;

They would eat horse's guts, and ears, and all sorts of wild birds which they could catch; also bear, venison, beaver, tortoise, frogs, squirrels, dogs, skunks, rattlesnakes; yea, the very bark of trees;
A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson 1676.

Our Kettle was put over the fire with some pounded Indian Corn, and after it had boiled about two hours, my oldest Indian Brother returned with a She Beaver, big with young, which he soon cut to pieces, and threw into the kettle, together with the guts, and took the four young beavers, whole as they came out of the dam, and put them likewise into the kettle, and when all was well boiled, gave each one of us a large dishful of broth, of which we ate freely, and then part of the Old Beaver, the Tail, of which was divided equally amongst us, there being Eight at our fire; The four young Beavers were cut in the middle, and each of us got half of a Beaver; I watched an opportunity to hide my share, having satisfied myself before that tender dish came to hand, which if they had seen, would have much displeased them.
 The other Indians catched young Musk-Rats, run a stick through their bodies, and roasted, without being skinned or gutted, and so eat them."

We had one — and but one— dog along with us ; he was large and very fat, and this  evening he fell a sacrifice to our necessities. Our custom on this march was to encamp ten men at a fire. The dog was carefully butchered and divided into seven parts, except the entrails which the butcher had for his fees. These he brought to our fire, and ten of us made a very good supper of their fat, without bread or salt.
Journal of Rufas Putnam 1754.

and found an Indian by the river side, resting himself. All his provision was a dried eel;
John Bartram 1743.

We dined on parched meal, which is some of the Indian's best traveling provision. They take the corn and parch it in hot ashes, till it becomes brown, then clean it, pound it in a mortar and sift it; this powder is mixed
with maple sugar. About one gill, diluted in a pint of water, is a hearty traveling dinner.
John Bartram (1751) Travels In Pensilvania and Canada.

May 8th Friday Cloudy and warm, we continued at our incampment and made shift to Purchace half Bushel of Corn, which we Parched and Pounded to meal, which we thickened with water and sweeten'd with sugar and Drank for Diet….
Joel Watkins Journal* (1789)

They make also a certain sort of meal of parched maize. This meal they call nocake. It is so sweet, toothsome, and hearty, that an Indian will travel many days with no other food but this meal, which he eateth as he needs, and after it drinketh water. And for this end, when they travel a journey, or go a hunting, they carry this nocake in a basket or bag for their use.
Gookin 1674 http://plymoutharch.tripod.com/id226.html


Gorges Smythe said...

Rough living, some of it!

Karl said...

Interesting post...

Yes it is possible to live on a mostly meat diet, in fact many northern native peoples do, such as the Inuit, who traditionally subsist on an almost totally animal based diet.

In order to do so they eat every part of the animal they kill, fat, organs, skin, and flesh. They also crack all the long bones to take the marrow, which helps to replace all the vitamins and minerals they would have gotten from plants.

Also the Sami people would consume the stomach contents of the reindeer they harvested, to replace the plant matter that they couldn't get for themselves.

From a modern perspective, a largely meat diet is possible in the bush, so long as you consume the fat and marrow as well as the flesh and internal organs...

As for the listing of peas, oats, etc. most of the lists we see are taken from military rations scales and not from the average woodsmans diary... the Crown had particular ideas about feeding soldiers, and a woodsman didnt have this same supply train to support him, many today look at the diet of the soldiers at the time and a) assume non-military types did the same and b)look at modern nutrition concepts to fill in the blanks so to speak, so utilise the military lists to re-enforce their own assumptions...



Le Loup said...

True Gorges, & I am not suggesting that we only take bread or flour or corn when historical trekking, but it does show that if we had to we could survive this way.
Personally I love just bread & meat, but not all of us can hunt for our meat. But one could just take along some salt beef & bread for a weekend. That should be relatively light.

Le Loup said...

Thanks Karl, always good to get your feedback. I think using foods like oats & peas etc are acceptable when historical trekking, they are relatively light & give one the opportunity of some simple open fire cooking. But part of our mission is also to learn what certain people carried on the trail. I just like to get as close to the original as possible, & if we ever do need to live long term in the wilderness then I think the original foods are the way to go.
For me it is not just about the food,weight of powder & lead etc, it is the mindset. You will know full well that a chap can go out there with twice as much modern ammo as I would carry, & it will only last half as long.

Karl said...

No worries Keith.

Just as an historical reference:

Dodderidge tells us:
- Hunger compels him to hunt constantly
- Meat often eaten without bread or salt
- (Hunting shirt)Bosom served as a wallet/pocket to hold : chunk of bread, cakes, jerk, tow or other necessary

Also in the 18thC "Meat" was used to mean food of any kind, not just the flesh of an animal.