Monday, 16 September 2013

Woodsrunner Trail Foods.

Woodsrunner Trail Foods.
The trail foods of the woodsrunner consisted of what they could grow on their farms, or purchase from farmers and Indians, plus what they could hunt or trap. Dried meat and bread appears to be a common trail food as well as dried corn. The three sisters, corn, beans & pumpkin can all be dried and carried to be used in stews.

Flour could be carried for making rough bread cakes either in the ashes of the camp fire, or on a hot rock in the fire place. Deer, bear, beaver, eel, fowl and fish all receive mention as being eaten by woodsmen and travelers.

I think they started their journey eating the fresh foods first that they had brought with them, which may have been bread and meat. After that they would shoot game and again have fresh meat with bread or stew it with dried corn & dried pumpkin and perhaps beans as well. If game was not to be found, then they would fall back on their provision of dried meat, either making camp bread from their flour supply, or again adding the dried meat to corn and dried pumpkin to make a stew.
Dried Pumpkin.

“Now the Indians gather their forces to go against Northampton. Over night one went about yelling and hooting to give notice of the design.  Whereupon they fell to boiling of ground nuts, and parching of corn (as many as had it) for their provision; and in the morning away they went.  
During my abode in this place, Philip spake to me to make a shirt for his boy, which I did, for which he gave me a shilling.  I offered the money to my master,
but he bade me keep it; and with it I bought a piece of horse flesh.  Afterwards he asked me to make a cap for his boy, for which he invited me to dinner.  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 pleasantr 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; but the proud gossip, because I served them both in one dish, would eat nothing, except one bit that he gave her upon the point of
his knife.  
Hearing that my son was come to this place, I went to see him, and found him 
lying flat upon the ground.  I asked him how he could sleep so?  He answered me that he was not asleep, but at prayer; and lay so, that they might not observe
what he was doing.  I pray God he may remember these things now
he is returned in safety. 
 At this place (the sun now getting higher) what with the beams and heat of the sun, and the smoke of the wigwams, I thought I should have been blind.  I could
scarce discern one wigwam from another.  There was here one Mary Thurston of 
Medfield, who seeing how it was with me, lent me a hat to wear; but as soon as I was gone, the squaw (who owned that Mary Thurston) came running after me, and got it away again.  
Here was the squaw that gave me one spoonful of meal. I put it in my pocket to 
keep it safe.  Yet notwithstanding, somebody stole it, but put five Indian corns in the room of it; which corns were the greatest provisions I had in my travel 
for one day. Then I went into another wigwam, where they were boiling corn and 

They brought me two biscuits

The chief and commonest food was ground nuts.  They eat also
nuts and acorns, artichokes, lilly roots, ground beans, and
several other weeds and roots, that I know not.
They would pick up old bones, and cut them to pieces at the
joints, and if they were full of worms and maggots, they would
scald them over the fire to make the vermine come out, and then
boil them, and drink up the liquor, and then beat the great ends
of them in a mortar, and so eat them.  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; besides
all sorts of creatures, and provision which they plundered from
the English.”


"It is Indian corn parched in the hot ashes, the ashes being sifted from it; it is afterwards beaten to powder and put into a long leatherne bag trussed at the Indian's backe like a knapsacke, out of which they take three spoonsful a day."
William Wood 1634.
Author's corn patch.

“leaving me by myself, without bread, salt or sugar,”
Daniel Boone 1770.
This last quote from Boone suggests that he may have been carrying tea, coffee or chocolate for which he needed sugar. The bread and salt were no doubt to eat with fresh meat.

"Set off on our journey for Oswegotchy, against a
rapid stream, and being long in it, and our provisions
running short, the Indians put to shore a little before
night. My lot was to get wood, others were ordered to get
fires and some to hunt. 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."
Robert Eastman 1759.

“On the 17th day, we crossed the neck to the east branch of Susquehanah...At 11 we dressed our dinner and found an Indian by the river side, resting himself.  All his provision was a dried eel; this he made us a present of, and we gave him a share of our dinner." John Bartram 1743.


Gorges Smythe said...

And we think WE have things tough!

Keith H. Burgess said...

That's right Gorges. I often get asked about woodsrunner trail foods, I think they are hoping that I have found some tastier food documentation than they have !!!

Bronwyn Williams said...

Hi Keith ,very interesting read, one question though ,why would they not eat from the one plate ?
Kind regards

Keith H. Burgess said...

It seems to imply that they did not like the meat cooked with the peas, & would only take the meat from the kettle. I have no idea why this was.Perhaps a family thing or maybe a tribal thing. Normally mixing a variety of foods in one kettle was I thought the norm.