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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dog meat or "When research turns up unseemly stuff"

When I do research for a book, the romance that surrounds my subject sometimes fades away when certain hard facts come into focus.

Take for instance the fact that the Corps of Discovery ate dog meat to survive.

Gaegogi (dog meat) stew served at a restaurant in Seoul, South Korea; source: Wikipedia

I know it's cultural. As a rule, we don't eat dogs in the United States. I know that some Asian and African countries do.

Lest you judge the Corps of Discovery too harshly, it was a common practice in time of hunger to eat dogs. There are several instances in the annals of history where pioneers and explorers resorted to the practice.

According to Wikipedia, British explorer Ernest Shackleton and his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition killed their sled dogs for food. Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen ate sled dogs during his expedition to the South Pole.

During the Siege of Paris (1870–1871), butchers sold dog meat. Dog meat was sold by some butchers in Paris in 1910.

Paris, 1910
Wikipedia states that in the United States, people used to call sausages "dog." (Hot dogs?) In 1884 there were accusations that sausage makers used dog meat in their recipes. In some cases it proved to be true.

In 1846, a group of 87 American pioneers, known as the Donner Party,   in the Sierra Nevada, ate a pet dog.

In late 19th century some people thought dog meat was a cure for tuberculosis. And in the early 1900s, people ate dog due to food shortages.

You can learn more about eating dog meat on Wikipedia, but if you are tenderhearted toward dogs, don't go to the page. The pictures there are graphic and that is why I did not link to that page in my book.

One bright spot for me in my research was learning that Captain Clark, whom Sacagawea calls "Man-With-Red-Hair" in my book, refused to eat dog.

There is no written record of whether or not Sacagawea ate dog meat, but in my book, Sacagawea, I chose to write that she didn't. Most sources agree that she spurned eating both horse and dog. 

I have three dogs and I don't think I could ever eat them. But then again, I have never been that hungry. We shouldn't judge people if we have never experienced their path.

Here are pictures of my three adorable dogs. Can you imagine eating them? I can't.

Chevy and Jake
Frankie (pug) with my mother-in-law, Ellen, at Christmas

How about you? Could you eat a dog or a horse?

Multnomah Indians aka Flatheads

The Indians that Sacagawea and the Corps of Discovery met on the other side of the Celilo falls were different from the Indians they had met before.

One of the tribes was the Multnomah Indians also known as the "Flatheads" for the way they shaped their babies' heads in a cradle board to make their foreheads slope toward the back of their heads.

Source: Unknown (Pinterest)

Captain Clark's Journal via
The Multnomah AKA Flatheads, were a  tribe of the Chinook Indians who lived in cedar log houses 30 yards long and a dozen yards wide. Each family had its own entrance and fire pit. 

They tied their babies to a flat board, with another piece of wood fixed across the baby’s brow that put pressure on the skull to flatten it from the crown to nose. This feature was respected and seen as a superior beauty feature. 

Their way of dress was different, too. Women wore a fringed skirt of cedar bark and anointed their hair with fish oil.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hominy or Hulled Corn

When Captains Lewis and Clark met with the starving Shoshone Indians, they gifted them with a quantity of "lyed corn."

Lyed corn is made by soaking corn kernels in a weak lye bath that removes the kernel's hull. Today we sometimes call this "hominy." It is also known as posole or pozole in different cultures. Grits are made by grinding up the hominy. White hominy comes from white corn and yellow hominy is made from yellow corn.

White Hominy
I grew up eating hominy and thought everyone knew what it was. But when I moved up north more than 30 years ago (and still love north of Kansas where I grew up) I learned that many people weren't familiar with it.

I like to eat hominy slathered in butter. And I love grits, too. I have a friend who grew up in the deep south who must eat his grits with salt, pepper and cheese while I prefer mine with brown sugar or honey and butter. It just depends on how you grew up eating them. 

If you've never tried hominy, I highly recommend you try it! It's quite tasty and has an interesting texture unlike anything else I can compare it to. It's also very good in stews and soups.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I know the picture of an infected blister above is pretty awful. But the blisters and sores the Corp of Discovery were much worse. The fortitude these men displayed just putting one foot in front of another as they stepped on prickly pear cactus and flint rocks is impressive. I, for one, don't have that kind of tolerance to pain.

One night Captain Clark counted as many as 17 thorns that he pulled from his feet.

Seaman, Captain Lewis's dog, also suffered.

Even though they traveled by canoe, they had to walk to keep the canoes light. And often, the water wasn't deep enough and they had to pull the canoes over sandbars and islands. All they wore on their feet were moccasins.

Can you imagine how brave these people were?

And what is even more amazing?

They never complained.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The good idea that didn't float

Meriwether Lewis had a brilliant idea, really.

Before he left on the expedition, he had the men at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, build his invention of a "dismantable" iron frame for a skin boat.

Source: Harper's Ferry Historic National Park
 The dismantled frame was carried all the way to Montana, bolted together, and covered in animal skins. 

Source: Harper's Ferry Historic National Park
Living in the east, there was no way for Captain Lewis to imagine the treeless plains. He had counted on sealing the boat with pine tar. He thought he'd invented a seal using beeswax, charcoal and buffalo tallow. But the boat leaked and the experiment was a failure. 

I feel bad for Captain Lewis because I think a "dismantable" boat is a brilliant idea. Would it have worked if there had been pine tar? My research didn't turn up an experiment to prove it would have worked, but I think it would have at least for a few miles.

If you find record that someone did this experiment to see if pine tar would work, let me know, and I'll include it in this post and give the finder credit.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What did Lewis and Clark mean by "white apples?"

One of the foods that Sacagawea provided the Corp of Discovery while gathering plant food was a root Lewis and Clark called in their journals, "white apples."

They were referring to the little-known prairie turnip, psoralea esculenta, and it grows mainly in the plains of North America. (See map below.)

Indians and pioneers relied on the prairie turnip in times of famine.

State Historical Society of North Dakota (00086-0391)
Sacagawea dug them out of the ground and ate them raw shortly after she recovered from her illness while on the journey with Lewis and Clark and made herself sick again. 

Here is a picture of roasted prairie turnips. They look delicious.
Usually the turnips are gathered, cleaned and then braided to dry. To rehydrate them they place them in water.

Learn more about prairie turnips by clinking on the links below.