8 July 2012

Packing for a trip - Vittles

"Vittles", victuals, food… The notion that a pioneer family could pack what we would now term a survival ration and live off the land day-to-day was quickly dispelled, if it was ever embraced by anyone other than romanticizing early writers. The noise of even a small train of wagons with its accompanying stock would send any wild grazers to flight long before they could be sighted. If the émigrés wanted to eat, they carried it with them. What they packed depended largely on their source of advice.

A family of four might pack:
800 pounds of flour
200 pounds of lard
200 pounds of dried beans
700 pounds of bacon or salt pork
100 pounds of dried fruit (mostly apples)
75 pounds of coffee
25 pounds of salt & pepper
2 pounds of salteratus (sodium bicarbonate)

Sugar/molasses, tea, cornmeal/oatmeal, rice, dried peaches, hard biscuits of various kinds, and potatoes were also know to be packed, but too much weight was an ever-present worry. Re-acquaint yourself with the previous post as to what the wagon was already carrying. Although a 2,400 pound maximum for food was recommended, especially if three yoke of oxen were available to be rotated, many travelers tried to keep the load to just over 2,000 pounds (1 ton), and this included the barrels the food was packed in. Heavy jars carrying preserving liquids, either brine or sweet, didn’t last long.

Glancing over the list, it was easy to see why émigrés tied cages of laying hens to the wagons and dragged along the occasional sheep as well as milk-cows. There was hardly a cry of “What’s for dinner?” It would be a variation on the same, day in, day out, with the fervent prayer that it would last the trip.

Now, which one of you has that bag of Snickers?

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