Camp Food Civil War Beef Stew

Eleanor Rose

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 26, 2016
Messages
4,681
Location
central NC
#1

Army of the Potomac – Union soldiers cooking dinner in camp – Library of Congress
"We grab our plates and cups, and wait for no second invitation. We each get a piece of meat and a potato, a chunk of bread and a cup of coffee with a spoonful of brown sugar in it. Milk and butter we buy, or go without. We settle down, generally in groups, and the meal is soon over… We save a piece of bread for the last, with which we wipe up everything, and then eat the dish rag. Dinner and breakfast are alike, only sometimes the meat and potatoes are cut up and cooked together, which makes a really delicious stew. Supper is the same, minus the meat and potatoes."

– Lawrence VanAlstyne, Union Soldier, 128th New York Volunteer Infantry


At the start of the war, James M. Sanderson, a member of the United States Sanitary Commission, became concerned with reports of poor food quality and preparation. Sanderson, who was also a hotel operator in New York, believed that his experience would be of value to the Union. With the help of New York Governor Edwin D. Morgan, Sanderson set out to visit soldiers in the field, in hopes of teaching them a few simple cooking techniques.

Sanderson wrote the first cookbook to be distributed to the military. The book was titled: Camp Fires and Camp Cooking; or Culinary Hints for the Soldier: Including Receipt for Making Bread in the “Portable Field Oven” Furnished by the Subsistence Department. Though his grammar was questionable, Sanderson did describe several techniques, such as suspending pots over a campfire, that made cooking slightly more convenient in the battlefield.


Cooking with a kettle – City Point – West Point, Virginia – Library of Congress
The following Union army recipe comes from Camp Fires and Camp Cooking; or Culinary Hints for the Soldier by Captain Sanderson. This is the original recipe, as transcribed in A Taste for War: The Culinary History of the Blue and Gray.

"Cut 2 pounds of beef roast into cubes 2 inches square and 1 inch thick, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and put in frying pan with a little pork fat or lard. Put them over a fire until well browned but not fully cooked, and hen empty the pan into a kettle and add enough water to cover the meat. Add a handful of flour, two quartered onions, and four peeled and quartered potatoes. Cover and simmer slowly over a moderate heat for 3 ½ hours, skimming any fat that rises to the top. Then stir in 1 tablespoon of vinegar and serve. Other vegetables available, such as leeks, turnips, carrots, parsnips, and salsify, will make excellent additions."
 

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

Similar threads



(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Top