Popcorn, Anyone?

 

I don’t know why in all the stories I’ve published that I’ve never written about popcorn until this Christmas book I’m writing. A great oversight on my part!

Anyway, I’ve done some research and what I found is interesting.

Even though popcorn is grown on ears, it’s very different altogether from sweet or field corn. The hull of popcorn is just the right thickness to allow it to burst open. Inside each kernel of popcorn is a small droplet. It needs between 13.5-14% moisture to pop. Don’t ask me how it gets the water inside there.

All I know is that the water turns to steam when heated and pressure builds.

 

 

The oldest ears of popcorn were found in a cave in New Mexico in 1948. The oldest found there were 4,000 years old, so it’s been around an awfully long time.

The Aztecs used popcorn in their ceremonies, decorations, and dances. It was an important food for them as well. When Spanish explorers invaded Mexico, they were astounded by these little exploding kernels of corn.

In South America, popcorn was found in 1,000 year old burial grounds and was so well-preserved it still popped.

Long before corn flakes made an appearance, Ella Kellogg ate ground popped popcorn with milk every morning for breakfast. Her husband, John Kellogg, praised popcorn as being easily digested and highly wholesome. I don’t know if I’d want it in a bowl with milk.

 

 

In Victorian times, popcorn decorated fireplace mantels, doorways, and Christmas trees. Kids used to string popcorn and cranberries and was often the only thing on trees unless paper ornaments.

 

 

Here are some Corny facts:

Today, Americans consume 15 billion quarts of popped popcorn yearly.

Most of the popcorn consumed throughout the world comes from the U.S.

Major states producing it are Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio.

National Popcorn Day is January 19th or whatever day the Superbowl falls on.

* * *

Darn, I’m itching to go to the movies! I can smell the popcorn now.

So, I’ve just added a scene in my Christmas book where my heroine pops popcorn for two little kids and they also string some to decorate with. In case you’re curious, the title of the book is A Cowboy Christmas Legend. Look for it September 2021.

Okay, your turn. How much popcorn do you eat? And what is the most surprising fact you learned?

Pioneer Cooking by Linda Hubalek

Man, your mouth is going to water today! Historical author Linda Hubalek is talking about how the pioneers got by and may have some lessons for us so make her welcome.

In this unprecedented time, when we are all home due to the virus affecting the world, we have to prepare meals for ourselves and our families. Luckily, we still have electricity and the appliances that keep and prepare our foods.

Can you imagine what life would be like if we didn’t have electricity right now? Talk about shutting down the world!

Being a writer who has spent a lot of time researching history, I think we still have it easy in 2020 compared to pioneer ancestors.

Consider the work it took to prepare a meal back in 1870 on the frontier Plains compared to today. Here are photos from the KansasMemory.org to share with you the work which had to be done before you prepared your meal. And I’ve also added recipes from my book: EGG GRAVY: Authentic Recipies From the Butter in the Well series.

Want to make a cake and need two eggs?

First, you had to raise the chickens who will produce the eggs for you!

And you wouldn’t have a box cake mix on hand either. Here are recipes to make an Angel Food Cake, and Sunshine Cake to use up all those egg yolks.

ANGEL FOOD CAKE

Whites of 11 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup cake flour

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift sugar and flour together seven times. Put cream of tartar and salt in eggs and beat very light, fold in sugar and flour, add vanilla. Put in a cold oven and bake slowly for 1 hour. (Make your cake flour by sifting 4 cups flour and 1 cup cornstarch together four times.) 

SUNSHINE CAKE

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

1 cup sweet milk

11 egg yolks, beaten light

3 cups flour, sifted three times with 2 tps. baking powder

Bake in tube pan 45 minutes. Use any flavoring desired.

 

Need milk to drink or butter to use in a recipe?

Go milk a cow!

Butter

Pour ripened cream into butter chum and chum for about 30 to 35 minutes until the butter is about the size of wheat grains. Draw off the buttermilk and add cold water. Slowly chum for a few minutes, then draw off the water.

Put the butter in a wooden bowl and mix in 2 tablespoons of salt per pound of butter. Let stand a few minutes, then work the butter with a wooden paddle to get the last of the liquid out and the salt in. Press in crocks or butter molds and store in a cool place.

 

Bacon for breakfast?

Today, we pull a pound of bacon from the refrigerator and cook it in a skillet or the oven. In the past, you had to raise the pig before you butchered the animal for the meal.

Sugar Cured Meat

After butchering, cool the meat thoroughly and cut into family-sized chunks. Rub each chunk with coarse salt and set aside for 24 hours. Tightly pack the meat in an earthen vessel-a syrup barrel is good-putting hams and shoulders in the bottom and bacon slabs on top.

Heat 4 gallons of water. Let the water boil and then cool a little before adding the following ingredients. For each 100 lbs. meat, weigh out 10 lbs. salt, 4 lbs. brown sugar and 2 ounces saltpeter. Let mixture cool thoroughly and pour over meat. This amount should be sufficient to cover the meat in the vessel.

Put on a wooden or china cover over the top and weigh it down with a stone to keep meat under the brine. If it isn’t enough brine to cover the meat, add more. Put vessel in a cool place and let stand for six weeks (ham) and only one week for the bacon slabs. If hams are large, leave in for eight weeks. Take the meat out of the brine, then hang and smoke it.

Feel better about cooking a meal now?

After this brief memory back to the 1800s, I hope you enjoy having the convenience of cooking meals for a while, even if we have to wear a mask and gloves to shop at a grocery store.

Please stay safe and stay well!

Linda Hubalek

Drawing for FIVE winners

Five readers will win an ebook copy of (The Mismatched Mail-Order Brides Book 2) by commenting on what you’d serve as a meal if you had no electricity today. 

 

BOOK 1 is FREE! It sets the story theme for the Mismatched Mail-Order Brides series. Either click HERE or on the cover and grab your copy!

 

ABOUT LINDA

Linda Hubalek has written over forty books about strong women and honorable men, with a touch of humor, despair, and drama woven into the stories. The setting for all the series is the Kansas prairie, which Linda enjoys daily, whether by being outside or looking at it through her office window.

Her historical romance series include Brides with Grit, Grooms with Honor, and the Mismatched Mail-Order Brides. Linda’s historical fiction series, based on her ancestors’ pioneer lives, include Butter in the Well, Trail of Thread, and Planting Dreams.

When not writing, Linda is reading (usually with dark chocolate within reach), gardening (channeling her degree in Horticulture), or traveling with her husband to explore the world.

Linda loves to hear from her readers, so visit her website to contact her or browse the site to read about her books.

WEBSITE  |  AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

 

Dr Pepper and Fritoes … the All-American Team!

What is your favorite snack? In Texas when I was growing up everybody would order a coke for their drink, only to be asked “Do you want a Dr Pepper, root beer, or a Coca-Cola? This shows my age because we went on “coke dates”! Even today we ask if someone wants to stop at a drive-thru for a coke, regardless of what they want to drink.

I found some interesting facts when I begin to think about this Southern way of thinking.

Of interest, Charles Elmer Doolin was a candy maker from San Antonio, Texas, during the Depression. He got hooked on the first local version of a fried corn chip…the Frito.

Mr. Doolin promptly bought the recipe and the business, making it his life’s work to perfect the flavor of Fritos. After varying the recipe, he created his own hybrid corn, and developed a conveyor-belt manufacturing unit to make the chips more efficiently. Along the way, he also invented the Cheeto.

In 1955, he opened the Casa de Fritos restaurants. One was in Disneyland and the other in Dallas.
Pix of Frito Pie: Recipes developed for the Frito, including one of my favorite “go to” dish, Frito Chili Pie, which was invented by his mother. Ironically, Mr. Doolin was a healthy eater…a vegetarian who avoided fat and salt.

Now for Dr Pepper which is the oldest carbonated soft drink among popular soft drinks in the United States. The unique Dr Pepper mix originated in Waco, Texas at a small town drugstore called Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store. Most people agree Charles Alderton, the pharmacist at Morrison’s, created the Dr Pepper mixture while working. He spent a lot of time mixing fruit syrups and coming up with new flavors for their carbonated soda machine. He later named his creation, containing 23 different flavors, Dr Pepper.

Px on right of Morrisons Drug: The drink became so popular that the drug store owner, couldn’t keep up with the demand. Every establishment that served soda fountain drinks wanted his Dr Pepper syrup. The period in ‘Dr Pepper’ would later be removed.’ While Alderton was a brilliant pharmacist, he had no desire to take the Dr Pepper drink any further and handed it over to Morrison, the drug store owner, and a man by the name of Robert Lazenby. He was a professional beverage chemist and he and Morrison subsequently worked to improve the drink and take it even further in the market. Due to the drink’s colossal success the two started what we now know as the Dr Pepper Company.

The real defining moment was at the 1904 World’s Fair when Lazenby and his son-in-law J.B. O’Hara graced the crowds with the Dr Pepper drink. Nearly 20 million people showed up to the fair and tried the addictive drink. Over the years the drink went global, emerging on the market around the world. It also held many different marketing slogans like ‘the friendly Pepper-Upper’ and ‘King of Beverages’.

At one point Dr Pepper sued Coca-Cola for trademark infringement when they came out with a Dr.Pibb, which was not only similar in name but tasted similar to Dr Pepper. Coca-Cola was forced to change the name to Mr Pibb, a drink you can still buy today. Now you can enjoy the Dr Pepper flavor with a hint of vanilla or with reduced sugar, called Dr Pepper Zero, which was invented in the United Kingdom. The actual flavors in the Dr Pepper drink are said to be kept in two different vaults. The top secret information is a mystery that still pulls at the curiosity of Dr Pepper lovers today.

You can still visit the Dr Pepper Factory in the small town of Waco, Texas, for a guide through the many stages of Dr Pepper’s history. The now nationally known soda started in this unlikely city which still cherishes the drink to this day.

What is your favorite snack? Do you ever drink Dr. Pepper and Fritos or Cheetos together?

To one lucky reader who leaves a message, I will give you an eBook copy of my newest Kasota Spring Romance on Amazon or a $10.00 Bath & Body Works gift certificate.

 

The Great Irish Famine

We had such a great special week about Spuds and Spurs, and it intrigued me to learn more about the food staple we all grew up on. It’s my go-to starchy vegetable.

One part of history particular intrigued me. The Great Irish Famine of the mid-1800’s.
Here are some of the facts and how the “famine” changed not only Britain but the United States.

  • Biases in favor of the landlords caused Ireland to teeter on the brink of disaster. The “middleman system” was introduced to manage land. The effectiveness of a middleman was judged by the amount of money he could extract from the landlords. The law was heavily unfair to the landowners as they dominated Irish representation in Britain. With the population of the island rapidly increasing, widespread unemployment among laborers, caused the majority of the people to live in poverty. Ireland was on the verge of a disaster.
  •  The middlemen split up the land into smaller parts to increase the amount of rent they could extract from the tenants. By the time the famine struck, about 1/4th of the Irish farms were between one and five acres, with as little as 40% being between five and fifteen acres. As the holdings grew smaller and smaller, only potatoes were sufficient enough to feed the tenant families. Poverty was so widespread that 1/3rd of the tenants were not able to pay rent or support their families.
  • Since Britain held a huge market on the beef industry, more and more of the land was used for grazing, the Irish turned to potatoes since no other crop could be grown abundantly in such unfavorable soil. By the 18th century, potatoes became the staple food of the farmers, such as it is today in our country. Of interest, an Irish worker ate ten pounds of potatoes every day. No typo here … ten pounds per day.
  • A potato disease commonly known as the Potato Blight destroyed potato crops across Europe which led to the Irish Potatoes Famine. In 1845 from 1/3 to 1/2 of the cultivated potato crops were lost. The destruction continued the following year when 3/4 of the crops were destroyed the first report of starvation death came into existence. The effect of the failure of potato crops was felt throughout Europe but it was devastating in Ireland in particular since over three million Irish people were totally dependent on potatoes for food. Fortunately, what caused the fungus that created the blight is now totally eradicated. I’d show you some pictures of what the blight did to the potatoes, but they would have to be blurred out because they are so ghastly. It wasn’t until 2013 that the true strain of the virus that caused the crop failure was identified. It was HERB-1.
  • By the time the famine ended in 1851, approximately 1 million people had died in Ireland due to starvation or disease. This was about 1/8th of the island’s population. By 1855 about 2 million people had fled from Ireland. Overcrowded and poorly managed vessels which were called “coffin ships” caused numerous deaths of emigrating Irish people. Even today, more than 150 years later, Ireland’s population has still not recovered from its pre-famine level.
  • I am not going into the political issues, but the Great Famine created a permanent change to the island’s demographics, political and cultural landscape.
  • The Great Famine is memorialized in numerous locations not only in Ireland but also in other parts of the world where large populations have descended from Irish immigrants. In the 1990’s Ireland commemorated the 150th Anniversary of the Great Famine.

Can you imagine having to live on potatoes as your main food source … and eating ten pounds a day?

To one lucky reader who leaves a comment, I will send you a copy of my newest Kasota Springs contemporary romance, Out of a Texas Night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We All Scream For Ice Cream (and Oysters!)

“Illinois wants more girls.  Open some free ice cream booths and you’ll fetch ’em”  -Burlington Free Press 1884

Ice cream might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the Old West, but as early as 1880, ice cream parlors were all the rage and began springing up in the most out of the way places.

Marshal Wyatt Earp was an ice cream devotee and every afternoon he headed for the Tombstone ice cream parlor on Fourth Street.  It’s not hard to imagine that he was on his way to enjoy his favorite sundae when he got sidetracked by the shootout at O.K. Corral.  He didn’t drink, but he sure did love his ice cream.  He wasn’t alone.

     “That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted.” (Last words). -Lou Costello           

Ice Cream parlors were popular throughout the west and some frontier towns had more than one.   Many restaurants, hotels and inns advertised Ice Cream and Oysters. Fortunately, the two weren’t served together; ice cream was the summer treat and oysters was a winter delicacy.  

Some parlors were quite fancy.  One in San Antonio advertised plush carpets, oak furnishings and stained-glass windows, but ice cream was also sold out of wagons (the first good humor men?) and tents.  Churches also got into the act and Ice cream socials rapidly grew in popularity.

Nothing says love like ice cream

Many a young man courted his lady love at an ice cream parlor. A Texas newspaper in the 1880s had this advice: “Love takes away the appetite.  If the woman of your dreams is on her third dish of ice cream, she’s not in love with you.”

The same newspaper also announced the wedding of couple who knew each other only fifteen minutes before tying the knot. But a successful marriage was assured as both had a passion for ice cream.

Then as now, the most popular flavor was vanilla.  Ice cream was flavored by fruit and even chocolate, but there were some strange flavors too (Avocado ice cream, anyone?)

Toward the end of 1880s, newspapers began issuing warnings against overindulging in that “insidious foe of health” ice cream, but as far as I could tell no one paid heed and no such warning seemed to exist for oysters.

So where did all that ice come from?

Before the train, ice was wrapped in sawdust and transported by wagons.  By the late 1880s, Tombstone had two ice companies; the Arctic Ice (two cents a pound) and the Tombstone Ice company (one and half cents per pound).

“Ice-cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal.”-Voltaire

According to 23&me, people with my DNA prefer chocolate ice cream. Well, they got that right. So tell me your favorite ice cream flavor and I’ll tell you your personality type,  and you don’t even have to send me your DNA! 

 

Amazon

B&N

 

Matrimony Vine

I was flipping through an old book about the Oregon desert the other day when a photo caught my eye of a vine climbing up the side of an old cabin.

The caption beneath the photo said, “Homesteaders’ wives needed something green in the middle of the gray desert.” 

Of course the photo was black and white, but the description went on to state that most women planted a matrimony vine. 

Matrimony vine? 

Although I loved the name, I’d never heard of it. 

A quick search revealed matrimony vine is also known as Chinese Wolfberry, Chinese Boxthorn, Himalayan Goji, Tibetan Goji. The deciduous shrub has roots that go back to Japan, Korea, and China. 

As the book I was reading stated, homesteaders who were trying to make a living in the sagebrush-dotted desert lands longed for a spot of color, something that would grow with minimal attention and water.  Many of them found what they were searching for with the matrimony vine. 

I could so easily picture a hardworking farm wife dumping her dishwater on the plant, eager to keep it green and growing in the sometimes harsh desert climate, especially those found in the dry interior of California, eastern Washington and eastern Oregon. 

Legends state a newlywed couple would plant the vine at their homestead to bless their marriage.

Matrimony vine was also a “pass along” plant that could be easily dug up and shared with others. Can’t you just see a mother digging up a bit of her beloved plant to share with her daughter when she wed?  The “lifted and gifted” plants seemed to thrive amid the desert climate.

Another way the plants came to America where with Chinese workers. The berries, popularly known as Goji, have been used for centuries by the Chinese in teas, as dried condiments, additions to stews and soups, as well as for medicinal purposes.

Waves of Chinese immigrants began arriving in San Francisco in the 1850s, and with these immigrants came components of their native culture, including the Goji berry. Tens of thousands of immigrants arrived, escaping poverty and civil war in China, initially bound for the gold fields of California. As they journeyed throughout the west for work, the Goji berry traveled along with them.

Today, stands of matrimony vine mark where homesteads long ago lost to time, fire, or other causes, once stood. The shrubs can also be found growing near old Chinese cemeteries.

Sadly, the plants have become host to the potato psyllid which is related to aphids and secretes a toxic saliva during feeding that causes great harm to potato plants. 

During my growing up years on our farm, we had one of these plants growing out behind our milk barn near the shed where we bottle fed calves. I had no idea what it was, but each spring, it burst forth with beautiful purple blossoms and each autumn, bright red berries begged to be picked. My mother told me it was poisonous and to leave it alone. Now I’m kind of wishing I’d plucked a few of those berries anyway. 

And there you have it, how matrimony vine came to be an invasive plant in the Pacific Northwest!

If you close your eyes and envision a homesteader dutifully keeping alive a plant in the midst of dirt and sagebrush, what do you picture?  

Guest Author Tina Radcliffe!

Lets give a big Wildflower Junction Welcome to author Tina Radcliffe! Many of you already know her and her stories! They’ve won all sorts of hi-falutin’ awards. Most recently Claiming Her Cowboy was a finalist in the 2018 ACFW Carol Awards. She has always been one to “give a hand up” to others and was honored recently as the 2018 ACFW Mentor of the Year. Tina is giving away two copies of her book, Christmas With the Cowboy to two lucky folk who comment!

 

Victorioan Christmas Card
Christmas Card Circa 1880 ~ Public Domain

 

Christmas in the 1800s wasn’t that much different from our celebrations today. But out West, it was most certainly simpler. Many prairie families couldn’t even fit a tree inside their small dwellings. Decorations were homemade and the presents beneath less fanciful and more practical. While cowboys on the trail didn’t have the luxury of a fireplace with stockings or a tree in the corner, caroling, and libations were still in order.

Researching this topic piqued my curiosity about the food prepared to celebrate the holiday season.

I’m all about the food!

According to Food Timeline’s review of the time period,Christmas menus reflect traditional foods of the celebrant’s original culture.” 

From “American System of Cookery,”by  Mrs. T. J. Crowen [T.J. Crowen:New York] 1847 

“To Arrange a Christmas Dinner. Place a high pyramid of evergreens (made as before directed) in the centre of the table. Let a roasted turkey of uncommon size occupy the middle or centre of one side of the table, on one end let there be a cold boiled ham, and at the other, fricasseed chicken or a roast pig; with the turkey serve mashed potatoes and turnips, boiled onions and dressed celery, or other salad with apple sauce–near the ham place fried or mashed potatoes and pickles or mangoes: and with the pig or fricassee, the same as with the turkey; large pitchers of sweet cider (or where that is not desired, ice water) should be placed diagonally opposite each other, on two corners of the table; boiled turkey with oyster sauce may occupy the place of the fricassee, or instead, a fine oyster pie. For dessert, there should be only two very large and ornamental mince pies, one sufficiently large that each of the company may be helped from it, in token of common interest, is desirable. Ice creams and jellies and jams and ripe fruits and nuts, with sweet cider and syrup water of different sorts, or wines, complete the dessert. Biscuit and jelly sandwich may be served at dessert, or paste puffs and charlotte de russe or blancmange with strands of jelly.”

Charlotte de Russe?

Betty Crocker tells us that the Charlottes are molded desserts. “The mold is lined with cake and filled with fruit and custard or cream mixed with gelatin. Charlotte Russe, made with ladyfingers and rich Bavarian cream, is served with fruit sauce.”

And Blancmange?

“Blancmange is a sweet dessert commonly made with milk or cream and sugar thickened with gelatin, cornstarch or Irish moss, and often flavored with almonds. It is usually set in a mold and served cold. Although traditionally white, blancmanges are frequently given alternative colors.” Wikipedia

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Sounds a bit fancy for prairie homes and cowboys on the trail who made due with what they could obtain.
A perfect example would be Black Pudding and Butterless, Eggless, Milkless Cake.

Black Pudding

From Wink Crigler, owner of the X Diamond Ranch and curator of The Little House Museum in the White Mountains.

6 Eggs
1 Cup Sweet Milk
2 Cups Flour
1 Tsp Soda
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1 Cup Molasses

Mix well.  Pour into 1-pound can and steam for 2 to 3 hours by placing in a kettle of boiling water. Keep covered.
This is to be served with a vinegar sauce:

1 Cup Sugar
1 Tbsp.  Butter
1 Tbsp. Flour
2 Tbsp. Vinegar
½ Tsp Nutmeg

Put in enough boiling water for the amount of sauce wanted.
Add two slightly beaten eggs and cook stirring constantly to the desired consistency.

 

Butterless, Eggless, Milkless Cake

 Adapted from the Homesteading Handbook

Boil a cup of brown sugar in a cup of cold water with 1 and 1/2 cup raisins.
Add a teaspoon each of salt and cloves, and cinnamon.
Also, add 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg and 1/3 cup of shortening.
Boil for 3 minutes and let cool.

Dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in 5 teaspoons of hot water, add 2 cups of flour, and half a teaspoon baking powder. Add the baking soda mix with the first mixture.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 350 F.

 * * * * * * * * * *

This talk of food circles back to my holiday release, Christmas with the Cowboy
and the favorite food in the story, made by the heroine, Emma Maxwell Norman.

Emma’s Chocolate Muffins

Enjoy!

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1?2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1?4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1?2 cup butter, melted
1?2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 cup cupcake tin or use liners.
Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda in a large bowl, mix together.
Add eggs, milk, chips and melted butter. Stir until well blended. Spoon into muffin tins.
Bake 18-20 minutes.

Dust with powdered sugar or sprinkle with extra mini chips (optional).

Adapted from Genius Kitchen.

 * * * * * * * * * * *

Now that I’ve made you hungry, leave a comment or even a recipe sharing about your own historic family recipes. Two commenters will be drawn for a print (or ecopy for international winners) of Christmas with the Cowboy.

 

Merry Early Christmas to you the Fillies and you readers!

 

Home for the holidays

A second chance at love on Big Heart Ranch

 

Former navy SEAL Zach Norman has been avoiding his ranching roots—and the woman he couldn’t have. Back to visit his brother’s widow, Emma Maxwell Norman, and her adorable toddler twins, the bah-humbug cowboy is roped into helping prepare the ranch for the holidays. Working side by side, can Emma and Zach overcome their troubled past…and receive the greatest Christmas gift of all—love?

AMAZON BUY LINK 

 

Connect with Tina

Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Instagram  |  Webpage 

 
A freelance writer for over twenty years, Tina Radcliffe is an RWA Honor Roll member, a two-time RWA Golden Heart finalist, and three-time ACFW Carol Award nominee.  She is a 2018 ACFW Mentor of the Year recipient and a 2018 Carol Award finalist. Her 10th book for Harlequin released in October 2018.  In addition to novel-length fiction, Tina has sold over two dozen short stories to Woman’s World Magazine. A former library cataloger, Tina is a frequent presenter on writing topics and an online instructor. She currently resides in Arizona, where she writes fun, heartwarming romance.

 

Cowboy Coffee

I’m a coffee drinker, as were many of the folks who settled the west. Pioneers, cowboys, ranchers, farmers, miners and townsfolk all loved coffee, but the process of making it wasn’t as simple as it is today. Green beans were roasted in a skillet over a fire, then put into a cloth bag and crushed with a heavy object. The grounds were dropped into a pot of water and boiled. The roasting beans had to be tended to carefully, because if one bean burnt, the flavor of it ruined the entire batch. Home roasted coffee could be quite foul if the roasting process went amiss.

Before the Civil War, real coffee was expensive, so many people drank mock coffee made of rye, okra seeds, parched corn or bran. (Parched corn is dried corn roasted over a fire.) In the mid-1860s, Jabez Burns developed a commercial coffee roaster about the same time that affordable paper bags became available. A man named John Arbuckle developed a special glazing process using egg and sugar to preserve the flavor of the beans, and then bought the rights to a patented packaging system and began selling roasted coffee beans in one-pound paper bags. By 1881, his company was operating 85 coffee roasters. His coffee was billed as the “coffee that won the west”.

Now back to cowboy coffee. While on the trail, cowboys had to stay alert during bad weather and hard times and coffee helped them do that. It also kept their insides warm and helped wash down meals. A camp cook usually kept several pots of coffee going at once, and it wasn’t uncommon to leave the old grounds in the pot and simply add new. One camp cook wrote that he used about 175 pounds of beans a month.

There are several ways to make cowboy coffee, but they all involve putting the grounds directly into the water.  Some people advocate bringing the water to a boil, then throwing the grounds in (a 1 to 8 ratio — 1/8 cup coffee per cup of water). Others (including me) put the grounds in the water and bring the coffee to a full boil. Regardless of when you add the coffee, the next step in to settle the grounds. To do that, you either pour cold water through the spout, or add crushed eggshells. (I’m a water gal.) If this is done correctly, there should be very few grounds in your cup when you finish drinking.

And then there’s always this recipe from Western Words: A Dictionary of Range, Cow Camp and Trail that you might consider trying:  “Take two pounds of Arbuckle’s coffee, put in enough water to wet it down, boil it for two hours, then throw in a hoss shoe. If the hoss shoe sinks, she ain’t ready.”

Have a great Wednesday!

Jeannie

Going, going, GONE!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think you should know that the classic candy that has been a constant since 1847, is about to go the way of phone booths.   Yes, that’s right.  The company that makes Necco Wafers has announced that, unless it finds a buyer, it will close its doors forever in May.

Do you know what that means?  Future generations will never know what drywall tastes like. 

Originally called hub wafers, the coin-shaped candies were carried by soldiers during the Civil War and World War II.  Since the candy traveled well and never melted or spoiled, soldiers and yes, even cowboys, could carry them with confidence.

These candies traveled as far as the North Pole, and that’s not all. Admiral Byrd took two tons of the things with him to the Antarctica.  Even more impressive; Necco Wafers was the first candy to multi-task.  They served as wafers during communion and were tossed in baskets for payment at toll booths.

Sad to say, Necco isn’t the only old company at risk. In recent years, we’ve seen the demise of the Sears Wish book and five and dime stores. Who knows what will be next? 

I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but I shudder to think that Baker’s chocolate—a friend to cooks since 1780—might someday be declared unfit for human consumption.  Don’t laugh. It happened to wheat, eggs and red meat. Who’s to say the same thing won’t happen to chocolate?

Never mind that cowboys and civil war soldiers enjoyed morning cups of Baker’s hot chocolate with no known problems.  Cast-iron stomachs of the past have no place in today’s world. 

It’s not just food and drink that’s in danger. The next company that could bite the dust could very well be Remington, established in 1818. It’s hard to believe that the company that produced the “rifle that won the west” might one day close its doors. But firearms aren’t all that popular these days.  Nor for that matter are typewriters. So who knows? 

And what about Brooks Brothers, another formidable company founded in 1818? The company made the first ready-to-wear suits in 1849.  Those flocking to California that year for the gold rush couldn’t wait for tailors to outfit them. For that reason, forty-niners depended on Brooks Brothers for their clothing needs. So did Abe Lincoln, Eisenhower and J.F. Kennedy.

Anything made of paper is about to become obsolete, including maps, shopping bags and checks.  Here in California, the war on drinking straws is heating up.  If that’s not enough, many of the nation’s newspapers have vanished in recent years. That means that old standbys like The New York Times (founded in 1851 as the New York Daily Times) could one day shut down their presses forever. 

I also worry about Merriam-Webster, founded in 1831. If it goes the way of encyclopedia salesmen, I will have to share the blame. I can’t remember the last time I actually looked something up in an honest-to-goodness, print dictionary, can you? 

Nothing is safe in today’s fast-paced world as proven by Kodak. Who would have thought that a company that we all knew and loved would close its dark-room doors forever and stop making cameras?

Founded in 1889, Kodak was the absolute leader in photography. It’s still in business making mobile devices, but its past glory is gone. Phone cameras have taken its place, but it’s not the same. An iPhone second just doesn’t have the same ring as a Kodak moment.

So, what old-time product do you or would you miss? What were you glad to see go?

 

Amazon

Where’s the Beef?

It’s a scary world and about to become a lot scarier.

Not only are we faced with the prospect of driverless cars and mirrors designed to voice unabashed opinions of our wardrobes, I recently realized that my “smart” doorbell has a higher IQ than I do.

Cowboys and cowgirls of the future?

Now scientists are closing in on giving us animal-free meat.  What that means is that our steaks will soon be grown in labs, not on cattle ranches.  Cowboys of the future will wear white coats instead of denims and Stetsons—and they sure won’t be riding horses.

It’s not hard to understand what’s driving this new technology.  Some believe that cattle and the methane gas they produce is the number one cause of global warming.  There are also financial considerations; It’s estimated that the cells from a single live cow will produce 175 million quarter pounders!  That’s about what McDonald’s sells in nine months.

I’m currently working on a book set on a Texas cattle ranch in 1800s and I can’t help but wonder what my hero would think about all of this.  No doubt he would be appalled and regard the so-called “clean meat” as a threat to his very existence. But he also knows what it’s like to fight a losing battle. In the book, his ever-ready Colt stops rustlers, horse thieves and “belled snakes,” but is useless in the face of progress.

Only time will tell if the National Cattleman’s Association will be successful in convincing consumers to demand the “real thing” in their hamburgers.  Or if it, too, will go the way of cattle drives.

Of course, not everyone agrees on what the “real thing” is. Some aficionados insist that none other than grass-fed cattle fit the bill, but that can be a hard sell.

Grass-fed cattle taste different than cattle fed on corn and soy. It has less fat, which means it’s healthier, but the taste doesn’t always suit modern palates and can take some getting used to.

Then there’s the difference in texture. Grass-fed cattle move around more than cattle in feedlots and therefore have more muscle.  This makes the meat “chewier.”  Those rugged cowboys of yesteryear might have relished a chewy steak while sitting around a campfire, but today most people prefer the tender, melt-in-your mouth taste of prime grain-fed beef.

Feed, muscle and fat aren’t the only things that affect taste. The way meat is handled during shipping, aging and preparation makes a difference, too. Barbecued steak doesn’t have the same flavor as meat cooked on an open campfire.  So even if you purchase grass-fed beef today, it still won’t taste the same as it did during those old chuck-wagon days.

Who knows?  Maybe future generations will prefer the taste of lab-grown meat, which some describe as “crunchy.”  There’s no stopping progress, but neither can we stop changing tastes.

So what changes or new tech do you like or dislike?

 

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