The Diet of a Mountain Man

We read and watch daily opinions about our overweight society, “Americans are too fat,” we are continually told. Maybe so, today anyway, but not always. I smile each time I remember the story of Jim Bridger making his own supper. He skinned and gutted a jack rabbit and a nice sized trout, skewered them and propped both over the fire for roasting. Once they were cooked to his taste, likely not long, he ate both quietly and drank an entire pot of boiled coffee to wash down the meat. No seasoning of any kind, maybe smoke flavor from the fire, but that’s it. This was not uncommon for early hunters/trappers in the American West. Meat and coffee. Surprising to some, that many of these men also drank a lot of tea, it was as popular as coffee for many of the early explorers.
Cooking in a Mountain Man Camp
It took several years before the diet in the west changed much. Changed, but it still remained monotonous, with western Americas often eating the same few things for days or weeks at a time.  Wild game, fruits, and wild onions, in season, and washed down with copious amounts of coffee and tea with little else. Meat could be preserved by smoking and drying and often was.
Wild fruits and berries were always a treat

Not until the Oregon Trail got busy and the railroad ran through the state did the variety of foods available start to change. With places like Fort Laramie, and a quarter of a century later railroad stops, getting regular shipments of foodstuffs it helped. Flour and cornmeal were generally available along with dried fruits (usually apples), sugar, rice, dried beans and peas. Not much but much better than it was.

Early food, including meats, were often boiled, unlike today’s diet, heavy with fried foods. There was not a lot of fried meats until bacon became a staple along the trail west, soup, and roasted meats were much more an everyday part of the diet than today.  

So there you have it roasted meats and a few boiled dried vegetables, day after day after day, guaranteed to keep one’s weight under control. But, be careful with the gravy, cornbread, and biscuits, all favorites when flour and cornmeal were readily available in the west.
Buffalo - Staple of the diet in the west for many years

Post a Comment