Wagon Wheel Kitchens
Food on the Oregon Trail
Award of Excellence from the Washington Museum Association
Pioneer temperaments, Jacqueline Williams shows, were greatly influenced by that which was stewable, bakable, broilable, and boilable. Using travelers' diaries, letters, newspaper advertisements, and nineteenth-century cookbooks, Williams re-creates the highs and lows of cooking and eating on the Oregon Trail. She investigates the mundane—biscuits and bacon, mush and coffee—as well as the unexpected—carbonated soda made from bubbling spring water; ice cream created from milk, snow, and peppermint; fresh fruits and vegetables.
“An enjoyable gold mind of information for both general readers and historians.”
—Journal of American History
“Wagon Wheel Kitchens is one of those marvelous combinations: a book that is both a valuable piece of scholarship and a delight for the casual reader.”
—Great Plains QuarterlySee all reviews...
“From her extensive research, Williams makes available to scholars, students, history buffs, and cooks (who may be intrigued to try the old recipes) a wealth of information and insight concerning the Overland Trail experience.”
—Pacific Historical Review
“An essential ingredient in the study of the Oregon Trail.”
—Great Plains Research
“Williams has written a definitive account of the provisioning, organization, and management of the ‘wagon wheel kitchen.’”
—Oregon Historical Quarterly
“Offers fascinating information about the provisions travelers packed, their cooking apparatuses, usual fare, and the problems encountered preparing food trailside.”
—Journal of the West
“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’ recipesand 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 TrailSee fewer reviews...
Understanding what and how the pioneers ate, Williams demonstrates, is essential to understanding how they lived and survived—and sometimes died—on the trail.