Huckleberry Cakes and Venison
ASK an old pioneer about his first years in the Oregon country and
a reminiscent light comes into his eyes. "Our first years in Oregon?
Well, it wasn't so bad. There were venison, fish, and wild game. We
had plenty of berries. Our principal dish was boiled wheat or hominy
and milk. Used side bacon as a seasoning. Didn't have much salt in
those days. Salt was so scarce it was often traded for its weight in gold.
The Indians were fairly friendly. Taught us a lot. Oh, yes, my mother
used to work pretty hard cooking for our big family, but she never
seemed to mind the hardships."
Many an old-timer remembers the revolving table, a common sight
in the homes of early settlers. It was a circular, homemade affair about
six feet in diameter, like an ordinary table; but attached to a support
in the center, about eight inches above the main surface, there was a
smaller table-top that could be revolved by hand. Appetizing arrays of
food used to grace these curious old tables—loaves of golden bread and
plates of butter, brilliantly colored fruits and vegetables, cinnamon-
brown gingerbread cakes, fruit pies with rich juices staining the crisp
crust, head cheese, fresh or salted meat and fish.
Some of the dishes enjoyed by the pioneers of Oregon have not been
prepared for many years; but the recipes for others are carefully pre-
served, and (with some adaptation to present-day methods and mate-
rials) are still followed by many housewives. In the former category
is fern pie, thus referred to by George A. Waggoner in his Stories of
At supper, among other things, we had what I feel assured but few mortals
have ever tasted—fern pie. It was made of the tender and nutritious stalks of
young ferns, and was very good. Thomas was surprised, but said the Lord was
very wise, and had undoubtedly clothed the hills and valleys with the delicious
plant in order that the coming generation might be supplied with food, and
never be without a supply of good pie. ... I believe these pies are now extinct,
and their making a lost art, unless, happily, a recipe has been preserved among
the early settlers of Sweet Home valley.
Prominent among the recipes that are still popular is the following,