THE COMMON THREAD – PART TWO


One particularly fine cookbook about Amana communal living is called SEASONS OF PLENTY. It was written by Emilie Hoppe and illustrated by Rachel Ehrman, and published in 1994 by the Iowa State University Press.

SEASONS OF PLENTY offers a great deal more than recipes; it is a collection of journal entries, poems, short, colorful anecdotes—and, of course, recipes. It is a celebration of the way of life and food in the Amanas.

Meals were eaten in a common dining room, men at one table, women and their children at another. Hired hands or guests sat at a third table. The meal began with a German prayer and mealtime was not intended to be a social occasion. Conversation was not encouraged and “light hearted jocularity” was thought to be in bad taste. “Not surprisingly,” writes Ms. Hoppe, “After 60 years of silent suppers, Amana residents began to wonder if it might not be more enjoyable to eat at home. Some time after the turn of the century, the common dining room tradition was abandoned. Instead, housewives, baskets in hand, went to their assigned kitchens at mealtime to pick up the meal and carry it home” (perhaps one of the earliest examples of take-out food!).

And even if the meals were eaten in silence, the food was well prepared and if the recipes in SEASONS OF PLENTY are any indication, I would say that the KUCHEBAAS knew her stuff.

This, like any of the other Iowa University Press publications, is a spectacular cookbook, deftly combing the history of a people with their food.

Less elaborate, perhaps, but nevertheless interesting, is a small book called A COLLECTION OF TRADITIONAL AMANA COLONY RECIPES, compiled by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Homestead Welfare Club, of Homestead, Iowa, published in 1948. (This little book can sometimes be found in used cookbook mail order lists—or check Amazon or Alibris websites)—but I confess to being astonished when I noticed a copy, with dust jacket, priced at $25.00! Recipes are titled in German with an American translation. (*No copies are listed with Alibris, but numerous copies are available on Amazon.com, starting under $3.00). **

In Manchester, England, in the month of February of 1736, Ann Lee was born. Ann Lee would become the founder of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearance, more commonly known as the Shakers.

When she was 23 years old, Ann, her husband and her father joined a small group of people who had broken away from the gentle, sedate Quakers. The members of this new sect leaned towards physical manifestations at religious meetings, shaking and trembling, dancing, speaking in tongues—which led them to being called, derisively, the Shaking Quakers – or just Shakers.

Like so many other religious groups, they were persecuted and imprisoned. It was during her imprisonment in Manchester (England) jail that Ann Lee had a vision; later she told the Believers that they all had to become celibates.

The shakers hailed her as Mother in Christ, and Bride of the Lamb; from then on she was known as Mother Ann or Ann the Word.

In another vision, Ann was told to go to America, where the Church of Christ’s Second Appearing would be founded. In May of 1774, Mother Ann, her husband, and a few others immigrated (not without mishaps) to the New World. The Shakers began to seek converts—but this was 1776; the War of Independence was beginning and when the Shakers refused to fight or take sides, they found themselves with new persecutions. They were accused of being anti-patriotic, and were required to take an oath of allegiance. Since oath-taking was against their beliefs, ten Shaker leaders, including Mother Ann, were imprisoned.

Apparently, many people (non-Shakers) became convinced of their sincerity for by the end of the year, they had more converts and after the release of the ten Shaker leaders, they began a great missionary tour throughout the Eastern States.

However, even though they made many converts, they were met with great opposition, sometimes being whipped and beaten with clubs. All of this contributed, no doubt, to the death of Mother Ann in1784. The Shakers had not yet become a communal society.

Author Mark Holloway tells us that converts to the Shaker faith were recruited largely from revivals, such as the one Janice Holt Giles was writing about in her novel “The Believers*” [I have been a huge fan of Ms. Giles’, ever since I discovered her books in the 1960s]. There was a revival of “unparalleled magnitude” that began
in Kentucky, in 1800, and continued for several years, causing the
most intense religious excitement ever known in America. The Shakers sent three missionaries to investigate, which led to the eventual creation of five new Shaker societies n Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. By 1830, the Shaker Church had reached its peak; there were 18 societies, with a membership of over 5,000.

[*Sandy’s cooknote: I use the term ‘Shakers’ and “the Believers” interchangeably throughout this article. They were one and the same.]

Shaker theology is thought to have been unique; for one thing, they believed in the bisexuality of God (one can imagine the uproar THAT caused in a male-dominated world!). The Shakers also believed that spirits and angels had both a male and female element. They did not believe in the Trinity; they considered that they were living in the Resurrection Order, surrounded by and in communion with spirits of the dead. The Shakers drew much inspiration from the Primitive or Pentecostal Church, of which the five leading principles were common property, celibacy, non-resistance, separate government, and power over physical disease.

Although celibate, men and women lived together in the same buildings which were called “families”—however, brothers and sisters were not allowed to pass on the stairs or to shake hands with one another. They could not give each other presents and were not allowed to visit individuals of the opposite sex unless accompanied by companions of their own sex. Each family was governed by two elders and two “elderesses”.

The Shakers gained a notable reputation for their furniture, the quality of their garden seeds, medicinal herbs and roots, and for their preserved fruits and vegetables which, along with household items such as mops and brooms, the Trustees of the Church sold. The profits were used to purchase commodities that the Shakers could not themselves produce, such as tools and certain kinds of machinery. Outsiders who visited the Shaker Villages described them as utterly spotless—even the barns were painted white and kept immaculate.

The economy of the Shaker societies was primarily agriculture, and they are credited with the invention or perfection of many labor-saving devices, such as a circular saw and their own mower-and-reaper (Unlike the Amish, the Shakers had no restrictions against labor-saving devices and inventions and believed that time saving devices were to the glory of God, allowing them more time for worship.)

Among the Shaker kitchen inventions was a machine for paring apples, A pea sheller, and a dumbwaiter. At the Shaker Village of Hancock, they had a giant cylindrical oven with shelves that rotated, making it possible to simultaneously and evenly bake pies, cakes and tarts—or thirty loaves of bread in a single baking. (This would have also been a fuel-saving device).

Although meals in the Shaker societies were eaten in silence (and at least one observer of the times noted that this appeared to be primarily for the convenience of the sisters serving the meals who had, after all, three meals a day to prepare), it appears that the quality of their meals was outstanding. Vegetables were steamed and not overcooked. Fruits and vegetables were eaten as they came into season No one ate pork and many of the Believers ate no meat at all. Some Believers were totally vegetarian, which included abstinence from all food produced by animals, including milk, butter and eggs.

For this reason, there were two tables—one with meat and one without. Tea, coffee, and spirits were forbidden. What is perhaps most remarkable about all of this is that we are talking about a period of time when calories and vitamins were unknown, when a human lifespan was much shorter than it is today, when meat-and-potatoes were standard fare for the general population and when there was no Food and Drug Administration to prevent unscrupulous people from adulterating foods, such as flour, and very little was known or understood about purity in food.

Books were frowned upon, music was forbidden and news from the outside world was censored by the Elders. However, one of the brethren would read aloud the news of the world while the others were eating. For relaxation, the Shakers learned new hymns and hymn tunes. They sang and had visits, once a week, between brothers and sisters. Many evenings were spent in religious services.

However good their intentions, celibacy may have been one of the primary causes for the decline of the Shakers. They expected to continue to flourish with recruits from the outside world, not recognizing that the strength of a religious is to be found in children brought up within the church. (I should point out, however, that—according to Diana Van Kolken, author of INTRODUCING THE SHAKERS—THE Shakers themselves attributed their decline to the dying out of the great religious revivals, which attracted so many people to them, the opening of the great West, with the prospect of cheap or free land drawing man people to head west, industrialism and business opportunities. When women became able to find jobs, Ms. Van Kolken explains, they no longer needed the protection of the communal society. Also, orphans they had raised increasingly chose to “see the world” rather than stay with the Believers.

Their contributions to society, however, were outstanding. They produced skilled craftsmanship and a folk art distinctly their own.

The Shakers believed in, and practiced, absolute equality between men and women, a totally revolutionary idea for its time. They were the only people of their time to include both Jews and African-Americans in their settlements. Shakers did not believe in slavery. They were the first to demonstrate that communal living could be practical and prosperous.

At a time when vitamins and calories were unheard of, the Shaker sisters saved all the water (pot-likker) in which vegetables had been cooked and used them to make gravies, soups, and stews. In 1871, the Shakers published their own magazine, first called The Shaker, and then The Manifesto, which contained many articles about diet and health. Their kitchens, built for communal living, were often years ahead of their time, with running water and specially built ranges and ovens such as the cylindrical oven at Canterbury.

The Shaker kitchens always had a cooking kitchen and a baking kitchen; their canning kitchen was especially equipped with great ranges, tables, and huge copper kettles used to preserve fruits and vegetables.

Hungry visitors to the Shaker villages were fed, sometimes the visitors stayed a while, becoming temporary converts (Winter Shakers, they were called.)

The Shakers also enjoyed fame as herbalists. As early as 1800, writes Amy Bess Miller and Persis Fuller, in their book THE BEST OF SHAKER COOKING, the Shakers in New Lebanon, New York, and other communities were growing, drying, and harvesting medicinal herbs for the market as one of their chief industries….many Shaker recipes call for one or two herbs to flavor or to heal. The Shakers understood the value of herbs as medicine, and the kitchen sisters relied upon them to vary and enrich standard dishes.
The shakers were the first people in this country to grow herbs on a large scale for the pharmaceutical market. Medicinal plants, chiefly wild herbs, were gathered in enormous quantities: some of these herbs were sold for the purpose of purchasing other medicines, while other medicinal herbs were used by the physicians in the communities. However, as the demand for herbs from the World (the Shaker reference to everyone and everything beyond their villages) grew greater, an industry developed and in all branches of the United Society of Believers, this became one of the most lucrative of the Shaker enterprises. Their herb business was so successful that, by the mid 1800s, they were producing such vast quantities that in one season 75 TONS of medicinal roots and plants were grown, dried, pressed, packed and shipped to every state in the Union as well as abroad to countries such as Paris, Australia, and India.

A catalog published by the Shakers just before the Civil War offered 354 kinds of medicinal plants, barks, roots, seeds and flowers as well as nearly equal amounts of preparations, including extracts, powders, elixirs, and ointments.

Much of what the Shakers learned about medicinal plants, herbs and spices were taught to them by their native Indian friends, a fringe benefit, no doubt, derived from their belief in the equality of all people.

At Pleasant Hill, during the Civil War, Shaker villages fed both Union and Confederate troops. Visitors were welcomed and fed. Writing about The Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill in the Courier-Journal, one journalist observed that young people of Danville often organized parties to drive in fringe-topped surreys, all the way to Shakertown for dinner. They didn’t make reservations; they merely drove up, hitched their horses and announced their presence. They were always welcomed. When this Shaker property was converted into private property, the tradition continued; during the 1920s and1930s, a tearoom was well known for its delicious food and was popular throughout Central Kentucky.
In recent decades, Americans have found renewed interest in the Shakers, especially their food and furniture.

Most of the old Shaker villages are now museums, and original Shaker furniture is greatly sought after by antique collectors. Consequently, and happily for us, this renewed interest led to the publication or reprinting of numerous Shaker cookbooks.

The first Shaker cookbooklet to come into my possession, back in the 1960s when I was a fledgling cookbook collector, was a pamphlet called SHAKER RECIPEBOOK, from Emporium Publications. It originally sold for $1.00 and is packed with Shaker recipes and wisdom.

Next, I came across a copy of THE SHAKER COOKBOOK, NOT BY BREAD ALONE, by Caroline B. Piercy, published in 1953 by the United Society of Shakers. Sister Carr disclaims that the Shakers were gourmet cooks, insisting that their cooking was simple and wholesome. However, a closer look at Shaker recipes reveals a subtle and exquisite influence using the herbs, spices, and extracts for which they became so famous. Even Mother Ann’s birthday cake was flavored with Shaker Rose water. A simple fruit salad had marjoram added to it, while Brother Ted’s Swedish meat balls contain a delicate hint of a spice or herb, demonstrating that Shaker cooks knew quite well how to use what they grew in their gardens.

Referring to the Shaker’s skill with herbs, Caroline Piercy, in NOT BY BREAD ALONE writes, “…The early Shakers worked magic with herbs. Probably their greatest contribution to American cookery was their knowledge of hers and their use in cooking. Herbs are a baffling subject and it took a deal of experimenting to make their use practical and delightful. Food and herbs soon became inseparable to the Shakers….”

Sister Carr says that the first time Shakers at Sabbathday Lake, in Maine, heard the expression “Shaker your plate” was when Brother Delmer Wilson used it many years ago. Like all believers, she wrote, Brother Delmer was opposed to waste of any kind, and could often be heard to remark “Shaker your plate!” (Means don’t leave anything on your plate, not even a crumb).

One very fine book about Shaker cooking was compiled by Amy Bess Miller and Persis Fuller. It is titled “THE BEST OF SHAKER COOKING” and was published in soft cover in 1985. It includes a foreword written by food historian Evan Jones, the author of “AMERICAN FOOD, THE GASTRONOMIC STORY”.

“THE BEST OF SHAKER COKING” is a huge book, containing over 900 recipes—and is literally filled with interesting historical information about the various Shaker villages. Much of the authors’ reference material came from the Manifesto, that Shaker periodical published from 1871 to 1899, and there is a bibliography, if you are interested in reading more about these gentle people. THE BEST OF SHAKER COOKING was published in 1993 by Collier Books. Ms. Miller was president of Hancock Shaker Village at the time this book was published, and Persis Fuller was kitchen director at Hancock Shaker Village. Since this cookbook was published almost 20 years ago, I don’t know what these two women may be doing today.

Yet another Shaker cookbook which provides interesting historical background is IN A SHAKER KITCHEN by Norma MacMillan, copyright 1995 by Simon & Shuster. When I was writing THE COMMON THREAD for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, Sabbathday Lake in Maine was the only remaining New England Shaker community.

Sister Mildred Barker of Sabbathday Lake once wrote “Shakerism is no failure. It is good, and therefore of God, and no good is ever a failure. The principals and ideals which the Shakers were first to expound have gone out into the world, and like a pebble dropped into the water, we cannot measure the distance of the influence they have borne…Shakerism is not dying out, nor is it a failure…” **

The members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormons, never—to my knowledge—practiced communal living as did the Shakers (although the Mormons have always been firm believers in tithing and taking care of their own). On the other hand, some folks might consider having plural wives a kind of communal living, whether they lived together under one roof (as did many of Brigham Young’s wives) or not.

The Mormons need to be included in this article if, for no other reason, than that their founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, was most certainly influence by, and a product of, the intense religious revival that spread across the Midwestern states in the early 1800s. Indeed, Palmyra, where the young Joseph Smith was growing up—was the center of what circuit riders later called “The Burnt over district”.

Fawn Brodie, in her biography about Joseph Smith, NO MAN KNOWS MY HISTORY, writes, “…One revival after another was sweeping through the area leaving behind a people scattered and peeled, for religious enthusiasm was literally being burnt out of them. There are no detailed descriptions of the revivals in Palmyra and Manchester between 1824 and 1827, when they were at their wildest, and we cannot be certain that they matched in pathological intensity the famous revivals that had shaken Kentucky at the turn of the century…”

Elsewhere, Ms. Brodie writes, “The revivals by their very excesses deadened a normal antipathy towards religious eccentricity. And these Pentecostal years, which coincided with Joseph Smith’s adolescence and early manhood, were the most fertile in America’s history for the sprouting of prophets…”

What makes Joseph Smith a part of this story, then, is that he was at the very center of the action and at a very impressionable age when the religious revivals were taking place. And perhaps what sets Joseph Smith and his Church apart from the other religious cults that sprouted across the land is that the Church of the Latter Day Saints is alive and well today, with a worldwide membership today of over ten million saints, whereas most of the other religious cults faltered and foundered or became historical sites and a curiosity of the past.

Certainly, as Joseph Smith gathered his flock and gained followers, he and his group were as persecuted and vilified as much as any other religious cult of its time.

THE GATHERING OF ZION/THE STORY OF THE MORMON TRAIL by Wallace Stegner, published in 1964, provides a useful reference in the form of a calendar events beginning with Joseph Smith’s birth in 1805.

Throughout the years of 1823-1827, Joseph Smith, in his quest for the one true religious, was given revelations in which he was told that none of the other religions were the right one; he was subsequently visited by an angel who revealed the burial place of gold plates. On September 21, 1827, Joseph Smith was permitted to take the golden plates home for translation by means of the miraculous Urim and Thummin, a divining stone. This translation became the Book of Mormon, which was published in Palmyra in 1830. Shortly after, on April 6, 1830, the Church of Christ, which later became the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was established with six members.

What followed were years of persecution and attacks by mobs as Church members moved from place to place. In 1844, on June 27, following Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s surrender to authorities in Carthage, Illinois, they were murdered by militia men in Carthage jail. Brigham Young assumed leadership of the Mormon Church. In 1845 Brigham Young and his followers left Nauvoo (a town they had created) on a journey of endurance, faith, and tenacity as they headed west, often pursued by mobs, and began a remarkable trek across country (often on foot, pushing hand-carts) until in July of 1847, Brigham Young, sick with mountain fever, was brought into the Salt Lake Valley (present day Utah) and declared that “this was the place”.

(It appears that Brigham Young had a destination in mind all along—in August, 1846, he assured President Polk in a letter that, in their exile the Mormons were embarked on a journey that would end in a location west of the Rocky Mountains and belied, would not be coveted by any other people.)

Even so, a decade later, President Buchanan, swayed by reports that the Mormons were in a state of rebellion, sent a new governor under military escort to replace Brigham Young.

Statehood eluded Utah for a time—a major factor being the Mormon belief in polygamy—until Mormon President Woodruff, in 1890, had a revelation leading to the issuing of the “Manifesto”, abandoning the practice—although not the doctrine—of polygamy. In 1996, Utah was admitted to the Union as the 46th state. In retrospect, following one hundred years of respectability, it is difficult to comprehend the intensity of the persecution against the Mormon saints. On the other hand, persecution of the Jews in Hitler’s Germany occurred only seventy years ago. Certainly, Joseph Smith’s intent to run for president of the United States and his attempt to establish his own bank did not endear him to the general public. Perhaps the Gentiles (anyone who wasn’t a Mormon) felt threatened by this new religion and its power.

The Mormons appear to have realized the strength of numbers, of bringing new converts into the Church and to that end, Mormon missionaries have traditionally traveled, at their own expenses, throughout the world, preaching the word of Joseph Smith ad extolling the virtues of Zion, their kingdom in the desert. The apex of this missionary program was reached in Great Britain in the last half of the 19th century, with 96,000 converts to Mormonism in the first 50 years of this Church’s history. Fifty-five thousand of these had arrived in Utah by 1890, making the English people the largest number of any nationality to immigrate here. (To assist with immigrations, the Mormon Church organized a “perpetual immigrating fund” to help finance those who wanted to go to Deseret. The loans were expected to be repaid, either in money or labor, after the immigrant had established himself in Utah.

As for polygamy—which incensed the general public—I have often thought it was a stroke of genius on the part of Church leaders. After all, there were far more women than men in the Mormon Church; I believe the ratio was 10 to 1. Someone surely realized that the strength of a church lies –not in celibacy as the Shakers thought—but in bringing up young children within the church. And, a woman can only be pregnant (unless it’s a multiple birth, of course) once in nine months. If you have many wives, you can be bringing many new lives into the Church. We don’t know what Mormon women thought about all of this—it was a man’s world, after all—but if you are interested in learning more, there is a book titled PATRIARCHS AND POLITICS by Marilyn Warenski, published by McGrew Hill in 1978.

I have always had a kind of fascination with the Mormon religion (despite my Catholic upbringing) and would love to visit the State. My chiropractor, who is Mormon, was always a bit astonished that I knew so much about his church.

Some years ago, I read several books of fiction which captivated my imagination. One was titled THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM, by Ardyth Kennelly. This was followed with a sequel, called UP HOME. Both novels dealt with the life of a young Mormon wife, in the 1800s, who was the “second wife”. I also read a book called THE GIANT JOSHUA and perhaps my favorite, Paul Bailey’s FOR TIME AND ALL ETERNITY. Though all of these are fiction, they dealt with real events during a most controversial period of American History
When I began collecting women’s club and church cookbooks back in the 1960s, I found it difficult to find Mormon cookbooks. I wrote to the then-food editor of the Deseret News, who responded with a letter telling me of some Mormon cookbooks and commenting that perhaps Mormon cookbooks weren’t as readily available because –even though they WERE being published, most likely they were bought up by ladies within their own wards.

I persisted, of course, and FAMOUS MORMON RECIPES by Winnifred Jardine (who is a great-granddaughter of Brigham Young) was one of the first Mormon cookbooks I acquired. Then I found Angie Earl’s TREASURED LION HOUSE RECIPES, published in 1947. For over ten years, Ms. Earl was cateress for the Lion House Social Center. The Lion House was the home of Brigham Young, a famous landmark to all tourists and visitors to Salt Lake City. A most interesting account of Brigham Young and his wives is in a book titled THE TWENTY-SEVENTH WIFE by Irving Wallace, published in 1961. Ann Eliza was the youngest of Brigham’s wives and considered the pretties, but in 1873 she stirred up righteous indignation against the prophet, by filing for divorce and revealing the “inside story” of her life in his household. President Grant heard her lecture in Washington and P.T. Barnum offered her $100,000 a year if she would allow herself to be exhibited in the East. The attempt to make a cause célèbre out of Ann Eliza petered out ingloriously, and in Utah, Brigham Young died in his famous gabled Lion House on August 29, 1877.

And as years have passed since I began collecting cookbooks in 1965, so much has changed with the advent of the Internet and sites such as Alibris.com and Amazon.com—you can find cookbooks published by Mormons pretty much the same as any other community cookbook. A few on my shelves are these:

THE TASTEFUL TRADITION, BOUNTIFUL EIGHTH WARD 3-ring binding, no other information or date

RECIPES THAT PLEASE COOKBOOL COMPILED BY THE RELIEF SOCIETY CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS, FIRST WARD, RICHFIELD UTAH, 1966, spiral binding

WHAT’S COOKIN’ IN WEST BOUNTIFUL compiled by West Bountiful 2nd Ward Relief Society, 1972, spiral binding?

OUR FAVORITE RECIPES, Compiled by Duchesne Ward Relief Society, Duchesne, Utah, undated, spiral binding

DAUGHTERS OF UTAH PIONEERS, FAVORITE RECIPES BY UINTAH COUNTY, VERNAL UTAH, 1961, spiral binding

TRIED ANDF TRUE FAMILY FAVORITES FROM THE WOMEN’S RELIEF SOCIETY of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Orchard 1st Ward, Davis South Stake, Bountiful Utah, 1971, spiral binding
BUILDING MEMORIES, OFFICIAL COOKBOOK OF THE 18TH WARD, 1973, spiral binding

UTAH DIING CAR, JUNIOR LEAGUE OF OGDEN, COOKBOOK, 1984, spiral binding

THE JUNIOR LEAGUE OF SALT LAKE CITY’S HERITAGE COOKBOOK, 1976, spiral binding

And last, but certainly not least,

A PINCH OF SALT LAKE, JUNIOR LEAGUE OF SALT LAKE CITY, INC. 1986, hardcover with dust jacket, oversized cookbook **

According to Fawn Brodie, in her book NO MAN KNOWS MY HISTORY, it is believed that Joseph Smith had more than fifty wives during his lifetime, while in later years in Utah; dozens of women were sealed to the prophet posthumously. It was Mormon belief that in marrying a man, a woman could be sealed to him either for time (one’s lifetime) or for eternity, a concept further explored in Paul Bailey’s book FOR TIME AND ALL ETERNITY.

Writing of the Mormon pioneers, Wallace Sterner states “…From this distance, and with the whole history of the Mormon migration before my eyes, I am glad to take off my hat and salute even these with a degree of respect. For what they and others like them did was not done easily, or without sacrifice and suffering. They lived and acted, and sometimes died, for what they believed, and their intractable humanity ennobled them about as often as the excesses of their faith led them into tribal suspicion or their misfortunes into demoralization.

The story of the Mormon Trail is a story of people, no better and no worse than other people, probably, but certain as sternly tested as any, and with a right to their pride in the way they have borne the testing…”

Mormons have always been affected, in their eating habits, by the Word of Wisdom, a statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith, who counseled his people to abstain from the use of alcohol, tea, coffee, tobacco, and all foods which would impair human efficiency. He also recommended the use of all wholesome herbs (one wonders, did he learn some of this from the Shakers, whose villages were near his home in Palmyra?) and although he said that flesh of beasts and fowls of the air were ordained for the use of man, and they were to be used sparingly during winter, or cold or famine.

Mormons believe in maintaining a two year supply of food, clothing and fuel—which is rotated so that older supplies are constantly being replenished. This sensible approach to food storage is so practical that it has been adopted by many other people and is one that I, myself practiced when my children were growing up (a practice that has proven itself especially useful when we have had an earthquake here in Southern California and I have not had to take part in the panicky onslaught of customers rushing to supermarkets to stock up on food or water.)

In her book MORMON COUNTRY COOKING, Winifred Jardine says that foreign recipes influenced Mormon cooking long before general cooking trends took an international bent. This was, no doubt, due to the huge influx of immigrants bringing their recipes and culinary customs with them to Zion, along with Missionaries traveling throughout the world, sampling new and different foods along the way, and bringing new recipes and ideas home with them when they returned.

The Junior League cookbook THE UTAH DINING CAR has a huge selection of recipes, both historical and contemporary, with bits of historical information. The cookbook’s title was a tribute to the meeting of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads near Ogden, Utah, in 1869. “The town of Ogden,” explain the cookbook compilers, “is placed squarely upon the junction of two great transcontinental routes: North-South from Canada to Mexico, and East-West from New York and Chicago to the Pacific northwest and California…long before the first transcontinental railroad took this route in 1869, Ogden was a “Junction City” and the easy north-south route through the Salt Lake Village was used by Indians, explorers, and trappers following the north-south orientation of the Rockies…”

The driving of the Golden Spike was the last step in the completion of the first transcontinental railroad and it was a cause for great celebration, especially amongst the Mormon Saints whose parents and grandparents had trekked across country for twenty-two years in covered wagons and sometimes on foot, pushing handcarts to reach their destination, Zion, Deseret, The Promised Land.

This concludes The Common Thread. My objective in writing this was to draw parallels from the various religious groups (I hesitated in using the term “cults” as it has such a negative connotation today—but I did for lack of a better term)—always coming back to food, how it was obtained, how it was prepared, and what our ancestors—the American Pioneers—did to sustain life, prepare it for one another, and survive. They paved the way, not only with blood sweat and tears, but often with their lives. **

–Sandra Lee Smith

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4 responses to “THE COMMON THREAD – PART TWO

  1. Sandy, part 1 came through corrupted – any chance of resending? I love your emails and blogs!
    Sue

    • Sue, I did an edit and then republished it – moved the text down out of the way of the photograph. Please let me know if it came through correctly this time. And thanks for writing. I spent far too much time on this one to have it corrupted!!!! Thanks again, Sandy

  2. Sue, I will attempt to delete and then resend it. Thanks for the heads up–it looked fine from my end.
    Regards, Sandy

  3. Great articles. Didn’t realize how many Amish cook books I have until I saw the list as they are in several spots. Someday I will get organized.

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