Culinary History, Xmas Chapter, 1st Draft

As many of my readers may already know, this blog is spinoff of “The 1718 Project”. Today I am trying something new. To date, (since 2010), the main energies of the project have been channelled into the production of a Culinary History of French Colonial Louisiana. The preceding entries have included some recipes and/or other mentions or inclusions from The Petticoat Rebellion (the book’s title), But now I have decided to present a finished chapter, albeit the first draft, (the full recipes will appear in the final published text) to see if it garners any reaction.If you care to, please leave your comments, or e-mail me, and/or visit the project website at http://1718neworleans.com. I would appreciate any and all feedback.

And don’t fret, my 300 Years Ago columns will continue.

PRC Chapter 11:  Suzanne Cooks for Christmas

The wheel of the year has turned once more, and Noël is fast approaching. This is easily my most favorite time of the year. Here in Louisiana, the weather is almost perfect throughout this season. It isn’t as warm as when I was a little girl in the islands, nor as cold, Icy, and snowy as the people from France often describe Noël in their homeland. The pleasant weather, cold enough to brace the blood, but not so cold as to slow down the business and commerce of the city, only serves to create a prosperous and vibrant holiday season.

By now, I have been here long enough to establish the Marigny’s household kitchen and garden as a well run operation. So its only with a glad heart that I sit down at the beginning of December to plan the Christmas season. The first step, of course, is to set the menu. Not just the menu for the main meal, but also all the accompaniments for before and after, as well as foods and treats to keep around the house throughout the festive season. This plan will serve to structure the shopping and food gathering for the next several weeks.

Once the menu is decided and along with the necessary shopping, it is also time now to begin decorating the house for the Yuletide gatherings and festivities. As long as there has been a France, Gallic homes, villages, and towns were hung all about with evergreens gathered from the local forests. People liked to mark these long dark nights with reminders of the greener times to come as the year turns and the days begin once again to lengthen with their local firs, pines, and other green and growing things. Here in Louisiana, the vegetation never really dies off and the pines, oaks, and evergreen shrubs happily give up their branches to decorate our homes. The ancient custom of the Yule Log burning throughout the long Christmas nights is also, for many, a fond memory of the Old Country. Our Rhenish (German) neighbors from upriver even have a custom from their old homes of bringing a whole tree, a smaller one of course, into the house and decorating it with colored ribbons, little keepsakes, and even some candles. These folks from the Rhine valley also had a wonderful custom of lighting bonfires along their rivers and waterways to light up the long solstice nights and some even say it marks the way for St. Nicholas or Pere Noel to pass over and bless their homes and settlements. These also help to light their families’ way to Midnight Mass, after all, this is the “main event” of the Christmas celebrations,

After the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, all the shopping and decorating would come to purpose as the festivities and feasting commenced and proceeded through the morning meal and throughout the day. Now to begin, I think for the meal after Mass this year we will have:

Baked Glace’ Bananas,
Eggs, scrambled and deviled
Grits & Grillades
Daube Glace’  >>>> Rump Roast, Veal Rump, Pig’s Feet, Salt meat, onions, turnips, garlic, Bay Leaf, Lard, Sherry, Thyme, parsley, Salt, pepper, cayenne

(Note) Suzanne’s post-Midnight Mass Creole breakfast, which was mirrored throughout the colonial creole homes in New Orleans and beyond, later evolved (in Ante-Bellum days) into the Creole Reveillon.
As the great feast day wears on, the celebrations consist of general revelry/and playing pranks, songs, dancing, parades, parties, carol singing, etc. (Today, 2017, we call this goofing- off). Here in New Orleans, a curious custom has also evolved. To beautify and somewhat humanize the new city as it was (and is) being built up, the city fathers decided to plant the streets with orange trees (easily obtained from my home islands). As a consequence, during the Yuletide season, we have oranges all over the place. As such oranges have become an essential part of the New Orleans Christmas scene. Needless to say, orange cakes, orange jam, and stewed oranges are part of the Yule menu. Good children, even in the poorest homes, can usually find an orange or two among their gifts from Pere Noel.

But for me and my kitchen, the climax of every Christmas season is the Christmas dinner. Usually, the Marigny family ( extended to include aunts and uncles, cousins from the country, and other close friends and relatives from around town). The meal is traditionally the sit-down meal with all the trimmings. However, every family had its own traditions, and it may become a day-long buffet, or a picnic in the courtyard (weather permitting). This year, I am cooking my:

Creole Christmas Feast

Brandy Candied Pecans, Brown Sugar Nut Clusters,
Pecans, Walnuts, Brandy, Brown sugar

Oyster Dressing: The Trinity, Garlic, Oil, Bread Crumbs, a pit. or qt. of Oysters

Trout Meuniere: Butter, Flour, Lemon, Parsley, salt-pepper

Chicken Espagnole: Chicken, the Trinity, Garlic, Seasoned flour, bacon grease, ½ cup flour, qt. of chicken stock, salt-pepper-bay leaves- sugar

Orange Cake >>>>>Flour, sugar, eggs, baking soda, OJ

Wine, Coffee, Lemonade, and apres diner, brandy, coffee, tobacco pipes, and fine conversation.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
HISTORICAL ADDENDA
A Note on French Catholicism

Recently a quote I encountered reading about the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef sets the perfect tone for a consideration of French Catholicism; “He was a good Catholic without thinking much about it.” Never has there been a better or more succinct description of French and/or Louisiana Catholicism.

As France, and the rest of Europe, emerged from the Catholic Middle Ages, society was rocked by the tidal wave of Luther’s Reformation. This is not the place to mark all the horrors, injustice, and tragedy of this ridiculous situation when Christians slaughtered each other because they went to the wrong church. It was little different in the European colonies. In North America, vast distances between the Protestant English, Catholic French and Spanish, and pagan Native Americans minimized this silliness, but it was never far from the surface. Besides, simple survival often trumped philosophical differences. Here in Louisiana, this cultural aspect of life was defined by French reaction to the ground shaking social changes rocking Europe during these centuries. The virtual theocracy of Richelieu’s reign during the 1600’s and the legacy of Marazin’s influence and the “divine’ kingship of Louis XIV’s long rule produced a curious riff on tradition Catholicism known as Gallicanism.

In Early Modern times (1500 – 1800), an ongoing conflict between church and state centered around the appointment of local or regional leaders (e.g. Bishops). The Catholic Church (for better or worse) since the fall of Rome had been the only recognizable form of authority throughout much of Europe. as a result the local bishop in a given region was usually a political as well as a spiritual leader. The Reformation in the 1500’s threw a wrench into this ancient system. Additionally, as Kings and nobility grew in political power, conflict about these episcopal appointments grew more VIOLENT. In France, the 1600’s saw the apex of this episcopal power under the reigns of Richelieu and then Marazin. When Marazin passed on, young Louis XIV shifted his authority to the throne. As part of this general move away from this Roman (papal) influence, a theological movement known as Gallicanism began to take form. But let us let the online Britannica explain in clearer terms than your poor author.

“The most notable champion of parliamentary Gallicanism was the jurist Pierre Pithou, who published his Les Libertés de l’église gallicane in 1594. This book, together with several commentaries on it, was condemned by Rome but continued to be influential well into the 19th century.
The best expression of theological Gallicanism was found in the Four Gallican Articles, approved by the assembly of the clergy of France in 1682. This declaration stated: (1) the pope has supreme spiritual but no secular power; (2) the pope is subject to ecumenical councils; (3) the pope must accept as inviolable immemorial customs of the French Church—e.g., the right of secular rulers to appoint bishops or use revenues of vacant bishoprics; (4) papal infallibility in doctrinal matters presupposes confirmation by the total church. Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet drafted the declaration in Latin and defended it in a conciliatory preamble. Though the articles were condemned at Rome by Alexander VIII in 1690 and were revoked in France by Louis XIV in 1693, they remained the typical expression of Gallicanism.”

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/224387/Gallicanism
More details can be found in the Wikipedia article at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallicanism
In far away, isolated Louisiana, these factors produced an easy-going, common sense approach to religious matters. Most folks did not ponder the philosophical niceties of the Gallican interpretation of their faith. They were too busy trying to stay alive. Besides the Pope, and the King for that matter, were literally thousands of miles away, and even priests were few and far between. It was, to the Catholics of Louisiana, enough to be “a good Catholic without thinking much about it.” Thence, it not a quirk, that customs like Midnight Mass, Mardi Gras, All Saint’s Day, and Catholic schools have anchored themselves along the French Gulf Coast and have become hallmarks of our “Catholic” culture.

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300 Years Ago – 1717:

Crozat, Cadillac, et.al. FINALLY go away! After five years of attempting to turn the sow’s ear of Louisiana into a silk purse and relieving the Crown of France from the expenses of running a colony, Antoine Croat gave up his monopoly over trade, supply, garrisoning, and managing Louisiana* so he could line his pockets with all that gold and silver, and all those jewels and mineral resources lying around in and on the bayous, rivers, lakes, and Native villages of the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri watersheds. These guys never really got it, did they?

So, instead of building the infrastructure for a potential trading empire or developing the agricultural production of this vast territory, they wasted their time trying to find the mountains of precious metals that the Spanish had stumbled on in New Spain and Peru.Meanwhile the settlers and soldiers in Louisiana twisted in the wind. Here is the origin of colonial Louisiana’s reputation as a place of “starvation and woe”.

In August of 1717, the Regent accepted Crozat’s resignation.** Although Louisiana had to survive another monopoly (John Law and then after his disgrace (aka the Mississippi Bubble), his Company of the Indies), things did indeed began to change (New Orleans, the settlers of the German Coast, Africans (enslaved & free), the Capuchin mission and the Church of St. Louis, etc. And although many in France didn’t quite know what was going on, Louisiana’s population, production, culture and trade continued to grow throughout the ensuing four decades. By 1750, the cities, towns, plantations, and trading posts of French Louisiana were well established and thriving.

By the way, Cadillac (c. 1714, 1715) did find some rich lead mines in what is today Missouri. So Louisiana had plenty of ammunition, not too many soldiers, but lots of ammo.

* January, 1717; Memoire de Crozat (? Requesting the Regent to relieve him of running Louisiana?)
** Multiple documentation in the colonial and naval archives of France.

This “resignation” info was summarized from Giraud, V. 2; pp. 66 & 67.

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A Kansas City Interlude

Last week I had the opportunity to be in Kansas City, and devoted some time to researching Louisiana’s colonial presence in “the heartland” during the 18th century. Even before there was a Louisiana, the French presence at the mouth of the Arkansas was well established by LaSalle and Tonty (more on this in the future). And by 1716 (300 years ago), Upper Louisiana aka the Illinois Country aka the western end of New France had several active settlements. But it is the Missouri Valley, believed in 1716 to be the passage west to the Pacific, that is being considered today. A century before Lewis & Clark, the explorers of Louisiana were making their way up the great river to the Rockies. Even earlier, throughout the 17th century, the coureurs des bois (runners of the woods) from New France were trapping and trading the furs that formed the basis of much of the wealth which provided the Bourbon North American empire with its raison d’etre. There is a myth in Louisiana history that these coureurs des bois were the romantic nomads of Upper Louisiana who finally settled the mid Mississippi valley and became the economic basis of river trade through the mid 18th century. But the truth is, by the heyday of French Louisiana, the coureurs des bois were already fading into history. New France and Louisiana began to exert more control over the lucrative fur trade by licensing the formerly free trappers. Almost simultaneously with the establishment of New Orleans the coureurs were steadily being replaced by voyageurs (often the same individuals carrying official licenses). Regardless of what we moderns call these folks, the fur trade continued well into the twentieth century as an essential part of the Louisiana and New Orleans economies.One such individual who lived through these changes and went on to be rightly called the Discoverer of the Missouri Valley was Etienne V. De Bourgmont.
Like many European explorers in this timeframe, De Bourgmont travelled up the Missouri looking for the northwest passage to the Pacific. He lived among the Missouri Indians near the mouth of the Grand River from 1712-1719. (Dictionary of Missouri Biography, p. 108) Working under the aegis of the governor of New France and out of New Orleans under Bienville himself, he travelled up the Missouri to the Yellowstone and provided the data to DeLisle in New Orleans to create the first reasonably accurate map of the region. Later traveling back to France he wrote his journal and “opened the eyes of the Europeans to a new world within the New World: the 433,000 fertile square miles of the Missouri River basin, twice as large as France, and readily accessible via navigable rivers. ” (p. 109 DOMB)

Later, during Louisiana’s Spanish period, Bourgmont was followed into the Missouri valley by James Mackay and John Thomas Evans. Their travels provided much of the more contemporary information that Lewis and Clark used on the opening stages of their expedition. They made it to Three Forks, Montana but were forced to turn around due to resistance from the Sioux.One fun fact we can draw from their expedition was that Evans, a Welshman, was searching for descendants of a medieval legend which told of Welshmen arriving in North America in the 12th century. There were tales of an Indian group up the Missouri who exhibited Welsh racial coloring, and whose language contained words and sounds akin to Welsh. Sadly though, Evans found no evidence of this on the wide Missouri.

More info on all of this may be found in:

Frank Norall. Etienne V. De Bourgmont. (1988, U. Of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.) ISBN: 0803233167

Wood, W. Raymond. Prologue to Lewis & Clark. (Norman, OK: U. Of Oklahoma Press,2003.) ISBN 0806134917

And a very good website at:
http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/lewis_clark_il/htmls/il_country_exp/preps/legend_madoc.html

Finally, I must note a sad fact about all of this European activity in the Missouri Valley. The Mandan Indians, the first significant nation up the river and the trading partners to all of the above mentioned explorers, had disappeared from the West by 1840 due to the European diseases that followed the explorers upstream. Of course, more description and info can be found in George Caitlin’s book, the great painter and chronicler of the Western Indians before “manifest destiny” brought about its terrible effects.

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300 Years Ago: 1716: Les Soldats:

My source for much of the information presented in these entries is the “standard” academic history of French Louisiana by Marcel Giraud. I have also mentioned frequently in this series that while OFFICIALLY Louisiana was often in dire straights economically, it nevertheless continued to struggle on and survive basically through a thriving illegal trade network which provided food and supplies from many sources. Let it be said though that while the smuggling economy was effective, it really did not become a major game changer until the 1720’s and 30’s. In 1716, things were pretty bad. And nowhere was this more apparent than in Louisiana’s colonial military. Monsieur Giraud’s chapter on the military during the years of “transition” 1715-17, titled “The Defense Of the Colony” is a bit of a misnomer. There was no defense to speak of. Louisiana’s military establishment is the perfect example of what the official historical sources for French Colonial Louisiana have chronicled regarding the “starvation and woe” of French Louisiana.

In Louisiana the regime of Antoine Crozat was fizzling out like a shoo-shoo on New Year’s Eve. Having lost a fortune and all interest in his Louisiana proprietorship, he basically walked away from a bad deal. This along with the death of Louis XIV and the establishment of the Regency under Phillipe, Duc d’Orleans left Louisiana in transition between control by the Council of the Navy and the upcoming Company of the West. The Council wanted to increase the Louisiana garrison by four companies, but only succeeded in raising 114 of the 200 men needed. Furthermore, they could not recruit the necessary tradesmen to complement the soldiers. As with most Early Modern armies, pay was sporadic, uniforms were rarely replaced, the food supply was intermittent, and desertion was rampant. The only bright spot in the military setup was a decent officer corps. But even they could only do so much. Louisiana forts slowly fell into ruin and the soldiers were often kept alive by letting the Natives feed them.

300 years ago, there was not much good news about the Louisiana garrison. Giraud’s entire chapter on the military makes no mention of any actual “military” operations during 1716. The French were certainly lucky that the local Indians were probably looking upon the situation without too much worry about what the silly white men were up to. At least at this juncture, they were pretty harmless.

And now for something completely different . . .

Since there are no French cookbooks written in the colony of Louisiana in the 18th century (or at least none yet discovered), compiling a study of the birth of Creole Cuisine has been an exercise in extracting bits and pieces of information from many, many documents, both primary and secondary, and making some logical connections as well as (frankly) launching some educated guesses. Therefore, it was most welcome to come across the following:

“Shannon Dawdy refers to these Louisiana “memoires, letters, and travel accounts’ as ‘a useful kit of knowledge called histoire.’ A combination of ‘both story’ and ‘history,’ histoires ‘were often a mixed bag of natural and administrative history, astronomy, fashion and culinary critique, and good old-fashioned storytelling in which the tall tales spun by the writer were at times self-serving aggrandizements, or worse, gross distortions of reality.’
From the “Devil’s Empire”
Quoted in:
Greenwald, Erin M. Marc-Antoine Caillot and the Company of the Indies in Louisiana: Trade in the French Atlantic World. Baton Rouge, LA: LSU Press, 2016. Page 5

“The Petticoat Rebellion” FINALLY HAS A GENRE – A LEGITIMATE GENRE !!!! HOORAY, HOORAY, HOORAY!!!!!!

It is a Histoire on the origin of Creole cuisine. Although, in this Histoire, all efforts have been made to minimize the “gross distortions of reality”.

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300 Years Ago: Starvation & Woe

The French colony of Louisiana has, for three hundred years, had the reputation of being poor, ill-managed, and essentially a failure as a colonial enterprise. This picture – of what would become one third of the United States, one of the biggest seaports in the world (New Orleans and New York continually trade back and forth the honor of the biggest port in North America), and the heart and soul of the greatest, some say the only truly unique, culinary tradition of America – Creole/Cajun cuisine of course – was locked into place 300 years ago in 1716. 

In those days Louisiana government was divided between two chief offices, those being governor and ordonnateur. The governor was primarily the military, legal, and political official, but the ordonnateur held the purse strings and was in charge of the economic development of the colony. In 1716, the ordonnateur was Marc-Antoine Hubert (pronounced oo-bear). Hubert arrived in Louisiana in late 1716 and immediately noted that the population took no interest in agriculture and lived essentially by trade with the Indians. As of 1716, hardly any Africans had been brought to Louisiana and the “peculiar institution” of slave-based plantation agriculture had yet to be established. The proprietor (Crozat) and his governor (LaMothe de Cadillac) continued the foolish quest for mineral resources instead of building up Louisiana’s true sources of wealth, an international trade infrastructure, agriculture, and the exploitation of the country’s vast natural resources of field, forest, and waterway. The development of these economies would be tapped as the French colony expanded in the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. But in 1716, Louisiana was indeed a picture of starvation and woe. 
Things began to change after the founding of New Orleans, although I do not think that it was BECAUSE New Orleans was established. As the colony grew through the first half of the century after 1718 the above mentioned tripartite economic forces (trade, agriculture, and natural (non-mineral) wealth) came more and more into play. New Orleans served as the focus for this cultural and economic growth. As Bienville’s “founding father” role came to it’s natural conclusion in the early 40’s and with the coming of Vaudreiul’s influential regime through the 40’s, New Orleans’ and Louisiana’s French culture came into full flower. Had it not been truncated so soon by the French defeat in the Seven Years or French and Indian War (1756-1763), Louisiana’s French culture may have blossomed into one as influential as Canada’s French heritage. In fact, despite of 1763, Louisiana’s Creole culture, nourished by Spain’s effective but not overpowering rule, is as influential as any heritage in the United States – perhaps even more-so.
The guiding light of the culinary history, The Petticoat Rebellion, is the idea that “They Had To Eat”. And even though it was true that “officially” there was much starvation and woe in the colony, as least early on; it was also true that one of the hallmarks of Creole cuisine, using what was (and is) available and making it into a truly marvelous experience, was a natural outcome of such a situation. Before 1718, and more extensively after, gardens were being grown behind most houses, chickens and pigs and native foods (venison, seafood, the three sisters) were regularly available, and even a few “habitations” or farms had been established. In fact, one of the anniversaries to be celebrated in 2016 is the first importation of rice into Louisiana in 1716. Who knows, perhaps in 1716, some French settler and an Indian friend sat down to the first pot of Red Beans and Rice along the Mississippi. (see page 29 of The Petticoat Rebellion for the recipe).
 

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Primum est Edare

PRIMUM EST EDARE, DIENDI PHILOSOPHARII
EATING COMES BEFORE PHILOSOPHY

August, 2016. 65 years of age.

This month, eating is covered. Clothing and shelter as well ~ barring any unforeseen major catastrophes.

As I drove “down south” today to the Northshore of New Orleans, I was thinking about where had the joy gone?; the “joie de vivre” of a happy 42 year marriage, of the ‘golden years’ spread out before me. Well, as it turns out the joy hasn’t gone anywhere. I just could not see clearly enough. An overriding concern as I drove south was what had happened to my spirituality, my sense of place in the universe. What DO I believe in? Who am I? What am I? Is there a point to anything?

So now, “Philosopharii”.

Another old saw states that “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. during the course of this day, among the grocery shopping, the bookish errands of disposing old books, and seeking for some clue as to my existence, three weirdly odd and assorted volumes found their way into my possession. A philosophy professor writing in the “popular” style on the topic of learning how to die thereby learning how to live. A religious studies professor writing on the spirituality and mysticism of the Jesuit biologist/paleontolgist Teilhard de Chardin occasioned by his encounters with Eastern religions. And a historian’s account of the “moral character” of America’s founding fathers.

“There is no such thing as coincidence”, the love of life is fond of saying. A philosophy book on the end of life. A study in spirituality occasioned by a leading theologian’s real life encounter with comparative religions. A history book on American moral character as Hillary politics her way to a historical presidency and goofy Trump states openly that he wants to physically beat up his competition. De universe sure do work in mysterious ways – or does it?

Stay with this blog and see how these readings turn out.

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Roast Buffalo on the Fourth of July

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine blogging about buffalo. So here goes nothing !!!!

This entry will be the first of many installments wherein recipes, meal planning, and cooking will take center stage. Volume Two of the Petticoat Rebellion; A French Colonial Culinary History has been in preparation for some time now. This 1718NewOrleans2018 blog is now the venue for the cooking and recipe information that will be included in the book. And what better day to begin than Independence Day, 2016, and what better dish to serve up on America’s birthday than a Buffalo Roast. For the past many years my family has usually served a roasted then smoked turkey. This year we decided on something different, but still uniquely American.

The context of the recipe and meal is the Natchitoches chapter of Volume Two. Natchitoches, in the words of one historian, “the most important frontier post in the Atlantic World” (of the 1700’s) was also the most western outpost of French Louisiana. Additionally, it was the point of contact between the Spanish and French empires in North America. Natchitoches was the channel – as the eighteenth century progressed – through which flowed much of Louisiana’s livestock trade. Although technically illegal, Spanish cattle and horses, and Native American “wild cattle” or American Bison came into the colonial economy. Thus to showcase this chapter of Louisiana’s culinary development . . .

Acquire a buffalo roast of your choice (we chose an eye of round roast), about 2 or 3 pounds will feed a family of four. Prep for roasting as you would any beef or pork roast.

Tricentennial Method:

Prepare a traditional Louisiana mirepoix or Holy Trinity plus Pope =
One medium bell pepper
One medium onion
1 or 2 stalks of celery
+ 3 or 4 toes of garlic (i.e. The Pope)
Finely chop the vegetables

Into a large iron pot (with cover), coat the bottom with olive oil, and sauté the mirepoix until soft, add some beef stock and slowly warm it all up.

Rub the buffalo roast with an herbal rub of your choice.

Place the roast fat side up into the pot, cover, and put it into an extremely slow oven (280 to 300 degrees) OR an electric slow cooker for several
( 3 or 4) hours.

When the roast it done, for the gravy move the pot to the stove and remove the roast, set aside to rest. The sauce is now essentially a beefy vegetable stew. Add some more stock and cooking flour, bring to a boil, season to taste (salt, pepper, Creole seasoning, etc.) and let boil for 15 to 30 minutes. If desired, slice the roast and add the meat to the gravy.

Serve with potatoes or rice, green beans, and hot bread.

Colonial Method:

Much stays the same, except the cooking. In place of an oven or slow cooker, the Native or colonial cook would be at a fire – either enclosed in a large fireplace or outdoors in a fire pit. The iron pot containing the meat and vegetables would be placed among the hot coals at first for a half-hour to an hour, then moved to a cooler area at the edge of the coals for the remaining several hours. If the inside fireplace had the luxury of an built in brick oven, the pot would have been placed there much like in our modern ovens.

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