While you’ll learn history and marvel over the characters that made America unique, in The Food of a Younger Land, you won't be tempted to recreate some of the unusual foods developed at the time. Using only the resources at hand, many inventive cooks learned imaginative ways of feeding hungry people on whatever protein was available.
The Food of a Younger Land packs in a wealth of American geographic history but is also full of wonderful, little known literary styles, regional language differences, and dialects portrayed in the anecdotes and stories. The book is made richer by Kurlansky’s own commentaries, stimulated by years of eating and studying cuisine with the awe and respect food deserves in America
Take corn, for example:
When the Sioux lived in northern Minnesota, they ate the wild rice that grows in the shallow lakes. After they learned to raise corn and beans, the work in the field was done by women. And what work it was: “The women planted it quite deep, and when the little plants had two or three leaves, the women loosened the earth around the roots with their fingers. When the plants were taller, the women made the earth into a little hill around each plant, using hoes for the work. … The women gathered the ripe ears of corn in their blankets and spread them on platforms or scaffolds. The women and children had to stand on the platforms to drive away the birds that came to get the corn.“
Beyond cattle ranches, Kurlansky writes of the “Kansas Beef Tour” a regular event in the area, under the auspices of the county agent, with visitors from State Agricultural college and the Dept. of Agriculture in Washington.
Here’s how the beef tour worked:
“It takes a whole day, and is routed through the best farms and ranches. At each stop the visitors arrange their cars in a huge half moon and stay in their seats so as not to frighten the cattle. Cowboys then drive the herd as close as possible, which is seldom closer than 50 yards from the line of windshields. Any nearer and the steers take fright and stampede, hightailing it off across the creek and over the hills on the horizon. But each cattleman has had a chance to judge them. He can study a 1,400 pound steer a city block away and tell you his weight within three pounds.”
After a lunch at a ranch, serving barbecue hind quarters of a prime steer, the cattlemen made their decisions on which cattle to purchase.