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    Old West Saloon Fare

    "In 1865, a Chicago restauranteur was still able to offer wild boar's steak, boned wild turkey, patties of quail, aged bear's paws in burgundy sauce, ragout de coon, and squirrel pie. While frontiersmen heartily approved of this fare, foreigners often complained that, in the absence of ice, the meat generally was in an advanced stage of decomposition, its taste disguised with hot sauces and pepper. Customers suffered...Englishmen and Frenchmen bemoaned the lack of fresh food. Coffee, to the foreigners' disgust, was often a brew made of brown bread, acorns, dandelion roots, barley, and snuff...From 1860 on, food in the out-of-the-way places became somewhat standardized. For breakfast a tin cup and plate were filled with coffee, "sowbelly," bread, and syrup. Lunch, and dinner again, consisted of bread and steak, the steaks being generally overcooked and hard as stone...Lamb fries and Rocky Mountain oysters...slightly shirred in the pan, or roasted in the ashes of a campfire until they "popped," were considered a delicacy. Rattlesnake meat was fancied by some and said to taste like the white meat of chicken. Dried, pale beans known as Arizona strawberries were the only vegetable besides corn and squash in certain areas of the Southwest...Some people said that western saloon food was confined to the "Basic Four B's'--sourdough biscuits, beans, beef, and bacon ("overland trout" in cowboyese). Wild onions were sometimes served as a side dish "against scurvy." The chief complaint of travelers was the scarcity of vegetables...Coffee was the universal drink...


    "Westerners ate to fill the belly, not for pleasure. Food was Food. One California traveler cheerfully commented: 'We are now ready to replenish the inner man. The bar is convenient for those who wish to imbibe. Breakfast is announced. We seat ourselves at the table. Before us is a reasonable quantity of beans, pork, and flapjacks served up in tin plates. Pea tea, which the landlord calls coffee with a bold emphasis, is handed to us. We help yourselves to such other things as may be in reach. Neither spices, sauces, nor seasonings are necessary to accommodate them to the palate. Our appetites need not nursing. The richest condiments are the poorest provisions.'...


    Table manners were atrocious by European standards. Food was wolfed down with a speed that astounded the foreigner. At saloons that were also stagecoach stations, with only a limited time available for a stopover, it was every man for himself. A run was made for the table set out smorgasbord fashion, guests elbowing and trampling each other, devouring everything in sight in record time...Things were no different on the northwest coast: 'They breakfast in the middle of the night, dine when they aught to be breakfasting and take supper when they should be dining; and the "feed" is most distasteful--all noise, dirt, grease, mess, slop, confusion, and disorder; chunks of meat of all kinds and no flavor, placed in plates, and "sot" on the table; and before you have time to look at your meat, a piece of very flat pie, with a doughy crust, and dried fruit inside is placed under your nose, on the same plate with your meat. Men pick their teeth with forks and jackknives, gobble down gallons of water, and "slide." This is the style in Oregon...


    "Sudden wealth from gold and silver brought sudden change. It came earliest in California. Bayard Taylor reported in 1850 "it was no unusual thing to see a company of these men, who had never before thought of luxury beyond a good beefsteak and glass of whiskey, drinking their champagne at ten dollars a bottle, and eating their tongue and sardines, or warming in the smoky campfire their tin cannisters of turtle soup and lobster salad."...Teddy Blue, a Montana cowboy during the 1880s when the cattle trade flourished, wrote: 'talking about food, do you know what was the first thing a cowpuncher ordered to eat when he got to town? Oysters and celery. And eggs. Those things were what he didn't get and what he was crazy for.'...It was not only oysters that, with the coming of the railroads, suddenly became available in Sheridan, Wyoming, in Miles City, Montana, or Virginia City, Nevada. Gambling and concert saloons as well as hotel bars offered their well-heeled customers fancy fare printed on equally fancy menus, often in broken French...


    Found at Food Timeline

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About Sagas

Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.

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