MO Bicentennial Minutes: Missouri Food Ways at Statehood
Missouri residents of 200 years ago brought local food ways with them, mostly from the mid-South. The typical meal usually included a stew of meat, vegetables, and corn meal. Corn bread was part of nearly every meal, but unlike our modern version. Baking powder used for leavening appeared in the 1840s, so the bread would have been a baked, dense flat loaf, or smaller, thinner, fried bread known as a “journey” or “johnny” cake. The latter also could be cooked and dried for trail food. A beverage, usually water or whiskey, filled out the menu. Cooking was in cast iron or other metal containers, either over a hearth or outside.
Depending on the season, there might be greens flavored with bacon or ham, fried meat, roasted or boiled meat, vegetable side dishes, biscuits made with the uncommon wheat flour, or pies or other baked desserts. Vegetables in stews were dried or preserved in winter, or fresh during the growing season.
Some game eaten by Missourians in 1821 is unavailable or a delicacy today. Bison were still present in the state and eaten by frontier settlers in the Bootheel or Ozarks. Passenger Pigeons, now extinct, were abundant seasonally and choice fare. Prairie Chickens, almost extirpated today from Missouri, occurred across much of the state and were common on many tables.
Guests were welcomed when they made a rare appearance. One traveler reported that backwoodsmen were reluctant to interact with strangers, but once invited in, guests received “…every kindness that he can bestow, and every comfort that his cabin can afford. Good coffee, corn bread and butter, venison, pork, wild and tame fowls are set before you.”