Category: Pioneer Celebrations

A Pinch of This and a Dash of That

Have you ever noticed that some of those old family recipes never taste as good as you remember from your childhood?  Those early cooks didn’t waste a thing, as anyone who inherited a recipe for giblet pie will attest. I also have a recipe that calls for one quart of nice buttermilk. As soon as I find buttermilk that meets that criteria, I’ll try it.

I especially like the old-time recipes for sourdough biscuits. Here’s a recipe from The Oregon Trail Cookbook:

“Mix one-half cup sourdough starter with one cup milk. Cover and set it in the wagon near the baby to keep warm … pinch off pieces of dough the size of the baby’s hand.”

Early cooks didn’t have the accurate measuring devices we have today and had to make do with what was handy—even if it was the baby.

If you’re in the mood to drag out an old family recipe this Thanksgiving, here are some weights and measures used by pioneer cooks that might help: 

Tumblerful=Two Cups

Wineglass=1/4 Cup

Pound of eggs=8 to 9 large eggs, 10-12 smaller ones

Butter the size of an egg=1/4 cup

Butter the size of a walnut=2 Tablespoons

Dash=1/8 teaspoon

Pinch=1/8 teaspoon

Dram=3/4 teaspoon

Scruple= (an apothecary weight=1/4 teaspoon

Gill=1/2 Cup

Old-time tablespoon=4 modern teaspoons

Old-time teaspoons=1/4 modern teaspoon

2 Coffee Cups=1 pint

As for the size of the baby, you’re on your own.

                                                                Weights from Christmas in the Old West by Sam Travers

 

Chuck wagon or trail recipes call for a different type of measurement

Li’l bitty-1/4 tsp

Passle-1/2 tsp

Pittance-1/3 tsp

Dib-1/3 tsp

Crumble-1/8 tsp

A Wave at It-1/16 tsp

Heap-Rounded cupful     

Whole Heap-2 Rounded cupfuls

Bunch-6 items

However you measure it,

here’s hoping that your Thanksgiving is a “whole heap” of fun!

 

For Your Christmas Reading Pleasure

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Updated: November 12, 2017 — 9:29 am

Costumes – Not Just for Halloween

Photo Credit: Michal Jeska via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Michal Jeska via Compfight cc

Did you ever place dress-up as a kid? I remember trying on my mother’s shoes and throwing her purse over my arm and pretending to be a grown up. There is something powerful in the act of putting on a costume and pretending to be someone else. Perhaps someone you wish you could be for just a short time.

Photo Credit: HornintheWest via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: HornintheWest via Compfight cc

I think that is one of the reasons readers (and authors) love historical novels. We get to step into the shoes of someone who lived in a different era and imagine what it would be like if we had lived then. And it’s not just novelists and readers. Think of all the living history museums there are around the country. How many reenactors dedicate months of their time and significant dollars from their bank accounts to recreating battle scenes from the civil war. How many historians make presentations in costume to help bring their topics alive to their audiences.

Photo Credit: HornintheWest via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: HornintheWest via Compfight cc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At one of the writing conferences I go to every year, there is a genre dinner on the first night where authors have the chance to dress up like one of their characters or in a way that represents their genre. I typically wear a denim skirt, boots, and cowboy hat, but I secretly long to become more authentic in my dress-up.

BHP Spotlight

I recently found a website that offers professionally made historical costumes, and I felt like a kid in a candy store. A rather expensive candy store . . . but there were so many delights, I stopped caring about the price tags.

I’ve decided to start saving my pennies. Maybe by next year, I’ll be decked out in the outfit below.

Dream OutfitShoes – $50

Cameo Brooch – $20

Crinoline for underneath – $50

Professionally made Polonaise set – $275

Getting to step back in time and live for a few hours as one of my characters – Priceless

I think I’ll have to watch for a sale. If you like to geek out on historical clothing, the site where I found all this great stuff is Recollections: Historic Clothing Reminiscent of Centuries Past.

  • If you could dress up this Halloween as a character from your favorite novel or time period, what would you choose?
  • Have you ever been to a living history museum? Did the costumes add to the atmosphere? Did you wish they handed them out at the entrance so you could truly immerse yourself in the experience?

 

Who Needs Fireworks?

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Pioneers are famous for their ingenuity, and when it comes to celebrations, that pioneering spirit led to some crazy traditions. The 4th of July has been a treasured American holiday since we won our independence back in 1776 and our western forebears were determined to celebrate it with all the excitement it deserved.

Shooting the anvilWestern communities would often hold picnics for the 4th. People would gather from miles around to share in baking contests, horse races, children’s games, and lots of good eatin’. Yet they had no fireworks to shoot off in honor of the big day. A handful of rowdy cowboys might ride through town shooting off their guns, but that was nothing special. They needed something big. Something spectacular. Something so phenomenal, the womenfolk would all run for cover.

And that is how the art of anvil shooting was born.

No one knows which blacksmith was crazy enough to start the tradition, but it quickly caught on and became a staple of 19th century July 4th celebrations in the south.

First, you need two well-matched anvils then about a pound of black powder and a fuse. Turn the first anvil upside down on a flat, solid surface. Fill the hollow in the base with the black powder and add the fuse. Often a playing card would be placed over the powder to serve as a washer. Finally, the second anvil, or flier, would be placed right side up atop the first anvil, fitting base to base.

Once everyone was ready, the blacksmith (or other brave individual) would light the fuse and everyone would scurry to a safe distance. When the powder lit, the explosion would shake the ground and send the anvil up to 200 feet in the air. Once the anvil landed it could be shot again, and again, until the supply of powder ran out.

To carry on the tradition, when blacksmiths gather today at large conventions, anvils are usually shot. In fact, the video below is by a world champion anvil shooter.

As you celebrate the 4th of July today, enjoy your family and friends, and when those fireworks explode, you might look out for falling anvils!

  • What are your favorite 4th of July traditions?
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