Feast or Famine: Food and Drink in American Westward Expansion

May 30, 2017 Posted by: Tom Dewey, Librarian
Feast or Famine: Food and Drink in American Westward Expansion, by Reginald Horsman. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2008.

Feast or Famine is a comprehensive account of food and drink during the main period of American westward expansion. Author Reginald Horsman utilizes settlers’ and travelers’ journals and a lifetime of research on the American West for his study.  He examines more than one hundred years of history, from the first advance of explorers into the Mississippi valley to the movement of ranchers and farmers onto the Great Plains, recording not only the components of their diets but food preparation techniques as well.

Most settlers were able to obtain food beyond the dreams of ordinary Europeans, for whom meat was a luxury. Not only were buffalo, deer, and wild turkey there for the taking, pioneers also gathered greens such as purslane, dandelion, and pigweed—as well as wild fruits, berries, and nuts. They replaced sugar with wild honey or maple syrup, and when they had no tea, they made drinks out of sage, sassafras, and mint. Horsman also reveals the willingness of Indians to convey their knowledge of food to newcomers, sharing salmon in the Pacific Northwest, agricultural crops in the arid Southwest.

Horsman tells how agricultural expansion and transportation opened a veritable cornucopia and how the development of canning soon made it possible for meals to transcend simple frontier foods, with canned oysters and crystallized eggs in airtight cans on merchants’ shelves. He covers food on different regional frontiers, as well as the cuisines of particular groups such as fur traders, soldiers, miners, and Mormons. He also discusses food shortages that resulted from poor preparation, temporary scarcity of game, marginal soil, or simply bad luck. At times, as with the ill-fated Donner Party, pioneers starved.
Horsman’s book is very engaging and well researched.  Feast or Famine is a one-of-a-kind look at a subject too long ignored in histories of the West.
 
 
 
 
 

40 Comments Comments icon

  1. tom
    April 10, 2019 at 09:35
     

    not a good site

     
  2. tom
    April 10, 2019 at 09:35
     

    not a good site

     
  3. tom
    April 10, 2019 at 09:35
     

    not a good site

     
  4. tom
    April 10, 2019 at 09:35
     

    not a good site

     
  5. tom
    April 10, 2019 at 09:35
     

    not a good site

     
  6. tom
    April 10, 2019 at 09:35
     

    not a good site

     
  7. tom
    April 10, 2019 at 09:35
     

    not a good site

     
  8. tom
    April 10, 2019 at 09:35
     

    not a good site

     
  9. tom
    April 10, 2019 at 09:33
     

    not a good site

     
  10. tom
    April 10, 2019 at 09:31
     

    yeet

     
  11. faAdwd
    March 28, 2019 at 01:12
     

    erw3taegrbn5ey

     
  12. LELE
    March 28, 2019 at 01:10
     

    this is very infomatioal but needs more work...

     
  13. LELE
    March 28, 2019 at 01:10
     

    this is very infomatioal but needs more work...

     
  14. LELE
    March 28, 2019 at 01:10
     

    this is very infomatioal but needs more work...

     
  15. LELE
    March 28, 2019 at 01:10
     

    this is very infomatioal but needs more work...

     
  16. LELE
    March 28, 2019 at 01:10
     

    this is very infomatioal but needs more work...

     
  17. Amrtha
    March 28, 2019 at 01:08
     

    HAHA

     
  18. inlove
    March 15, 2019 at 01:26
     

    i LOVE this article sooooooooooo much! CAn i marry u?? can we hav a girl and a boy!!! lets make a FAMILY!!!!!!!

     
  19. inlove
    March 15, 2019 at 01:26
     

    i LOVE this article sooooooooooo much! CAn i marry u?? can we hav a girl and a boy!!! lets make a FAMILY!!!!!!!

     
  20. toilet
    March 15, 2019 at 12:42
     

    poop

     
  21. 123_sugarush
    March 15, 2019 at 12:41
     

    Yah this is SUPERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR NOT useful at ALL. wher'd u get this junk from? How old r u, 5. my 2 yr old sis knows more. GROW UP!!! u know theres something called SCHOOL!!!!!! idiots

     
  22. $LAM
    March 15, 2019 at 12:38
     

    ummmmm wheres the rest all u have is what they ate i need how why when and where sooo this was not helping my project , do better plz next time _$lam

     
  23. m_r93uhr0ujfi
    March 09, 2019 at 02:10
     

    I'm doing a project on the westward expansion and this has none of the info I need. You should add more useful info since you are misleading everyone who reads this.

     
  24. m_r93uhr0ujfi
    March 09, 2019 at 02:10
     

    I'm doing a project on the westward expansion and this has none of the info I need. You should add more useful info since you are misleading everyone who reads this.

     
  25. Murica
    February 06, 2019 at 07:51
     

    MURICA MURICA MURICA MURICAMURICA MURICA MURICA MURICAMURICA MURICA MURICA MURICAMURICA MURICA MURICA MURICAMURICA MURICA MURICA MURICAMURICA MURICA MURICA MURICA

     
  26. Murica
    February 06, 2019 at 07:51
     

    MURICA MURICA MURICA MURICAMURICA MURICA MURICA MURICAMURICA MURICA MURICA MURICAMURICA MURICA MURICA MURICAMURICA MURICA MURICA MURICAMURICA MURICA MURICA MURICA

     
  27. GIVE ME ALL UR $$$
    December 24, 2018 at 04:26
     

    THE COW EATS CUD

     
  28. GIVE ME ALL UR $$$
    December 24, 2018 at 04:24
     

    MOO SAYS THE COW

     
  29. Cecelia
    December 24, 2018 at 04:22
     

    boring, and needed info. also. not the info i was looking for anyways. should probably change the heading.

     
  30. Alex
    December 12, 2018 at 11:03
     

    Needs more info

     
  31. Alex
    December 12, 2018 at 11:03
     

    Needs more info

     
  32. Alex
    December 12, 2018 at 11:03
     

    Needs more info

     
  33. BEBO
    November 12, 2018 at 11:23
     

    LOLOLO

     
  34. BEBO
    November 12, 2018 at 11:22
     

    LOLOLO

     
  35. DONALD DUMP
    November 12, 2018 at 11:20
     

    THIS IS AMERICA

     
  36. Kylie
    November 07, 2018 at 01:36
     

    This is it?

     
  37. November 07, 2018 at 01:35
     

    This is it?

     
  38. h
    November 05, 2018 at 01:26
     

    oof

     
  39. bebo
    October 12, 2018 at 02:21
     

    meo i am bebo

     
  40. bebo
    October 12, 2018 at 02:14
     

    hello

     
 
Leave this field empty
Required information

Post A Comment

Last updated: May 30, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

11. North 4th Street
St. Louis, MO 63102

Phone:

(314) 655-1600

Contact Us