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Posts Tagged ‘Revolutionary War soldiers’ fare’

Earlier this month, I presented another ‘straight-talk’ version
of my “Cook Like a Soldier” program to a group of lovely
ladies who make up the Fortnightly Club in Summit, NJ.

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The Club is a women’s social and philanthropic organization
dedicated to community service and outreach, which also
sponsors social activities for members and their families.
It meets regularly at the historic Twin Maples Mansion,
a spacious landmarked early 20th century former home.
Which, incidentally, was designed by an architect who
resided at the time in Israel Crane territory, otherwise
known as Montclair, NJ.

Now, as you may know, particularly if you’ve ever perused my
Portable Historic Programs page, this talk deals with soldier’s
fare during the American War for Independence. I discuss what
foods the troops ate, how they were prepared and cooked, who
did the cooking, how the rations were delivered, and so on. And
in an effort to not only tell the audience what specific food items
a soldier received on a daily and weekly (hopefully!) basis, but
to also show people what what they were, I have bags of each
on display. So, for instance, I set out a whole pound of flour,

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a pound of hard bisket, and three pints of peas. But what I’ve
struggled with is, how do I exhibit the flesh-y side of things?
As in the meat? The beef and the pork? Or the fish? Sure, I can
bring samples of each, and I have done that (taken a slab of salt
pork and made my own salt cod), but it’s a bit tricky, especially
if it’s a hot or warm day. It can get rather messy…and smelly!
And then, what do I do with them afterwards? Eat ‘em? Well,
after it’s been dragged many miles and then man-handled by
various people, even I don’t care to do that!

Finally, I decided I would set out pictures of each ration meat.
Or rather, the source of it. Of course, I had to find some images,
and they had to be ones that’re period-appropriate for the Rev
War years. Then it hit me: use copies of 18th century woodcuts!
One for each animal! So I got out my copy of “Catchpenny Prints,”
and I found fantastic ones for the beef (a cow), the pork (a pig),

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and the fish (a, er, a fish!). I enlarged each one, then cut it out
and glued it to card stock. So now, each meat ration is represented
nicely on my table of soldier’s fare. I have it all, from the beef and
fish to the bread and peas to all the others. I think it looks pretty
good, yes?! HUZZAH!

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The inaugural run of my “Cook Like a Soldier” program was
a HUGE success! HUZZAH! Held on Saturday, August 24,
at the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House in Queens, NY, it

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was one of many events and activities that made up the annual
commemoration of the Battle of Brooklyn known as Battle Week.
The program was well-received by all who participated. Together,
we chatted about the typical fare that soldiers received during
the Revolutionary War, including the specific foods, how the type
and quantities changed over time, the cooking equipment used,
distribution issues, and so on. Everyone was able to taste two
different soldiers’ meals, one of beef and peas, and another of
salt cod, carrots, and rice. Each “brew” also had a bit of hard
biscuit thrown in to create dumplings.

Overall, I had a fantastic time chatting with the visitors and
sharing my knowledge of the daily fare that was likely eaten
by colonial soldiers as they fought against the British in our
struggle for independence.

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COOK LIKE A SOLDIER at the Onderdonk House

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Several weeks before the program, I made a couple-three
batches of hard biscuits. Some were to be used in cooking,
and others were to be bundled together for demonstration
purposes. Since a soldier’s daily rations included one pound
of flour, bread, OR hard biscuits, I weighed out a pound’s
worth (or, in this shape and size, 17 individual biscuits):

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I made examples of different ration items by placing them
in cloth bags, including (L-R) the possible weekly allotment
of one pint of Indian meal, the weekly three pints of peas
(or beans or other vegetables), a daily ration of one pound
of flour, and a few hard biscuits (in wooden bowl), along
with another daily option of one pound of hard biscuits
(behind the bowl; a third option, bread-wise, being
a pound of actual bread, which I also had on display):

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Cast iron kettles were initially distributed to soldiers, but they
proved to be highly impractical. So a switch was made to tin
and then to sheet metal. Inside the reproduction pot below
is our mixture of a daily ration option of one pound of salt
cod, the weekly vegetable (in this case carrots), a portion of
the weekly option of half a pint of rice, and a few dumplings,
which were made by throwing in pieces of hard biscuit:

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The repro soldier’s kettle (L) hangs alongside a typical brass
household kettle (R). In the latter is the daily ration of one
pound of beef with half a pint of the weekly ration of peas:

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Rations for soldiers fighting during the Revolutionary War
typically included:

1 pound of beef or fish or ¾ pound of pork per day
1 pound of bread, hard biscuit, or flour per day
3 pints of peas, beans, or other root vegetables per week
½ pint rice or 1 pint Indian (corn) meal per week
________________

The specific contents of these “regular” rations changed
periodically throughout the War. However, at the very least,
an effort was made to make sure the troops always received
meat, flour (in one form or another), and root vegetables
of some sort.

_________________________

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