I've received many invitations to judge cooking contests which I always decline with thanks. I've just never felt comfortable doing that.
But when Chris Erlich, the Event Coordinator for the Ft. Nisqually Living History Museum invited me to a sampling of authentically-prepared 1855 Washington chow, I couldn't resist, especially since I got to wear a real-deal 1855 outfit.
That's right. The only difference between me and a real ham is that a real ham can be cured.
Dishes served included various chicken, beef and rabbit stews, all really tasty. The vegetables were heirloom varieties from mid-19th century Washington, all grown on the Ft. Nisqually grounds. One that I especially enjoyed was garden cress, a crisp green with the taste of horseradish but without its lurid appearance.
One of the more...interesting dishes was the pemmican soup. For some reason, I'd always thought of pemmican as a sort of jerky. Not so. It's dried and powdered meat mixed with berries and lard. The texture is about like damp sawdust but it's a compact way to carry your calories.
And who knew they were eating polenta in 1855 Washington? That's just what hasty pudding—at least the American version—turned out to be.
"...And there we saw the men and boys as thick as hasty pudding."
– Yankee Doodle