Friday, November 8, 2013

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 199: Annie D. Tallent, Bill of Fare on the Plains (#87)

Annie D. Tallent, "Bill of Fare on the Plains" (1899) from American Food Writing: An Anthology With Classic Recipes:

Annie D. Tallent was the only woman on the Gordon Expedition, a group of miners who tried to invade the Black Hills in 1874 to prospect for gold; but today's entry isn't at all political, but just focuses on the day-to-day experience of living away from "civilization."

There's a historical interest here, but with 20 years between the expedition and her memoir of the time, Tallent's worst memories have a sort of golden aura of humor. Sure, that elk was disgusting--but what a fun story to tell. Sure, Annie couldn't quite flap those jacks the way the men could--but what a fun story to break out at dinner parties. Sure, those men were probably lying about all the game they shot but couldn't carry home--but then again, considering the devastation of native flora at the hands of American hunters, maybe they did.

Tallent's record of what the expedition ate--or couldn't stomach to eat--ends with her wonder at her own appetite: she was so hungry that she ate cold bacon and flapjacks as big as a hat, which is all they had to eat. Everyday: coffee, beans, bacon, flapjacks. Which makes invading Indian Country sound a lot like going to your neighborhood Denny's.

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