By Charlene Shields
Notes from the White County Historical Society as they appear in "The Carmi Times."
Copyright ©2000 by "The Carmi Times" Permission to reprint granted to Cindy Birk Conley and the ILGenWeb by Barry Cleveland, editor, "The Carmi Times."
With the approach of Christmas, most of us become bit more
food-oriented, so I stopped to read an old cookbook put out by Northern
Illinois Gas which told of the food in pioneer days in Illinois.
The early settlers in Illinois lived in crude one-room log cabins with
greased paper for windows, and the women used fireplaces for cooking.
Their menus consisted of everything from flitch (the salted fat
portion of the hog) to herb tea. They were as dependent on corn as
their Indian neighbors, and long winter evenings were spent in grating
or pounding it into meal for use in breads and porridge.
I've read that many settlers had teeth worn down from eating items made
of corn meal which would contain minute grains of rock which were in the
meal after it had been ground. Charcoal mixed with water made "tooth
paste" to keep the teeth shining. But I digress.
Should any cooks wish to reproduce a dish often eaten by the settlers,
here's one for "Fricasseed Pigs' Ears."
"Take 3 or 4 pigs' ears and boil them very tender. Cut them in small
pieces the length of your finger and fry them in butter until they are
brown. Put them in a stew pan with a little brown gravy which is
thickened with flour, a lump of butter, a spoonful of vinegar and a
little salt. Slices of heart may he substituted for pigs' ears. Do not
try this with buffalo ears. They are difficult to make tender and
should be pickled." Anyone plan to put pickled buffalo ears on the menu
for Christmas dinner?
Perhaps you'd like to try "Roast Lark." "Truss your larks with the legs
across and put a sage leaf over the breast. Put them on a long skewer
and between every lark a little piece of thin bacon. Tie the skewer to
the fire place and roast them at a quick clear fire. Baste them with
"Fry some bread crumbs of a nice brown in a bit of butter, lay your
larks around in your dish, the bread crumbs in the middle with sliced
apple for the garnish. Young prairie chickens may be stuffed and larded
and cooked in the same manner with plenty of bacon." (This would have
been a recipe from a later date, as the early pioneers would not have
Food was frequently in the form of stew and was eaten with a spoon.
Forks (called split spoons) was uncommon until about 1850. Fancy spoons
were sometimes fashioned from the horns of animals. A tin cup was a
luxury. Gourds were used as cups and bowls.
Fruit and vegetables were a rarity. The early settlers' fare consisted
almost entirely of meat (the game they could bring in) and cornbread.
When dandelions came in the spring, the settlers welcomed them as a
change of fare, and wives cooked "greens." Pioneers seldom had time for
a garden. Livestock ran loose and would have devastated a garden.
Excuse me while I make a run to the supermarket for cranberries,
artichokes and ice cream.
Dec. 20 is the final day for the Genealogy Library to be open until
February 2001. At that time we will open with changes in time and staff.
Address letters to Genealogy, White County Historical Society, PO Box
121, Carmi, IL 62821.
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