I was researching food eaten during the Wild West and found this piece. It's about an English gentleman traveling the route and eating in the way stations of the Pony Express riders.
He has a way with words.
"'A weary drive over a rough and dusty road, through chill night air and clouds of mosquitoes...placed us about 10P.M. at Rock, also called Turkey Creek...After half an hour's dispute about who should do the work, they produced cold scraps of mutton and a kind of bread which deserves a totally distinct generic name. The strongest stomachs of the party made tea, and found some milk which was not more than one quarter flies. This succulent meal was followed by the usual douceur. On this road, however mean or wretched the fare, the station-keeper, who is established by the proprietor of the line, never derogates by lowering the price.'" (p. 99)
"...at Cold Spring Station...'the humans, observing that a 'beef' had been freshly killed, supped up an excellent steak." (p. 99)
"Nearly all occasions to dine filled [Burton] wish disgust. Burton enthusiastically describes the horrors of breakfast in western Nevada...'at Cotton Wood Station, we proceeded by means of an 'eye opener,' which even the abstemious judge could not decline, and the use of the 'skillet,' to prepare for a breakfast composed of various abominations, especially cakes of flour and grease, molasses and dirt, disposed in the pretty equal parts. After paying the usual $0.50, we started in the high wind and dust...The unsavory fare along the route whetted Burton's appetite for complaint. 'After satisfying hunger with vile bread and viler coffee...for which we paid 0.75...We dined at Plum Creek on buffalo, probably bull beef, the worst and driest meat, save elk, that I have ever tasted, indeed, without the assistance of pork fat, we found it hard to swallow.' Burton dismissed the reports of western travelers about the delights of eating buffalo steaks. 'The voyageurs and travelers who cry up the buffalo as delicious, have been living for weeks on rusty bacon and lean antelope.' he added. At Lodge-Pole Creek, the travelers attempted to eat antelope meat, which caused dyspepsia. Near Chimney Rock in western Nebraska, a welcome landmark for travelers crossing the prairies, the Burton party made to with 'a frugal dinner of biscuit and cheese.'" (p. 104-105)
"Breakfast never failed to disappoint Burton...In the endless reaches of western Nebraska, he had yet another bad breakfast upon landing at a station kept by Germans...'For a breakfast cooked in the usual manner, coffee boiled down to tannin...meat subjected to half sod, half stew, and lastly, bread, raised with sour milk corrected with soda, and so baked that the taste of the flour is ever prominent, we paid...$0.75.'...at a station near Fort Laramie...'Our breakfast was prepared in the usual prairie style. First the coffee--three parts burnt beans--which had been duly ground to a fine powder and exposed to the air, lest the aroma should prove too strong for us, was placed on the stove to simmer till every noxious principle was duly extracted from it. Then the rusty bacon, cut into thick slices, was thrown into the fry-pan; here the gridiron is unknown, and if known, would be little appreciated, because it wastes the 'drippings,' which form the staff of life in a luxurious sop. Thirdly, antelope steak, cut off a corpse suspended for the benefit of the flies outside, was placed to stew within influence of the bacon's aroma. Lastly came the bread, which of course should have been 'cooked' first. The meal is kneaded with water and a pinch of salt; the raising is down by means of a little sour milk, or more generally by the deleterious yeast-powders of the trade. The carbonic acid gas evolved by the addition of water must be corrected and the dough must be expanded by saleratus or prepared carbonate of soda and alkali, and other vile stuff, which communicates to the food a green-yellow tinge, and suggests many of the properties of poison. A hundredfold better, the unpretending chapati, flapjack scone, or as the Mexicans prettily call it, 'tortilla'! The dough after being sufficiently manipulated up a long, narrow smooth board is divided into 'biscuits' and 'doughnuts,' and finally it is placed to be half cooked under the immediate influence of the rusty bacon and gaveloent antelope. 'Uncle Sam's stove,' be it said with every reference for the honoured name it bears, is a triumph of convenience, cheapness, unwholesomeness and nastiness--excuse the word, nice reader. This travelers' bane has exterminated the spit and gridiron, and makes everything taste like its neighbour by virtue of it, mutton borrows the flavor of salmon-trout, tomatoes resolve themselves into greens--I shall lose my temper if the subject is not dropped.'" (p. 105-106) [NOTES: (1) "Rusty" bacon in this context likely means rancid. (2) "Uncle Sam's Oven" described above approximates the "Dutch Oven," a ubiquitous, versatile cooking pot. (3) "sour milk biscuits" are most likely soda biscuits, a quick bread popular in frontier kitchens, both inside and camp, without traditional ovens. (4) According to the Measuring Worth inflation calculator, 50 cents in the USA/1860 would be equivalent to $13.30 in 2009. 75 cents equates to $20.00. A hefty price for breakfast, yes?]
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