Let's Give Thanks That We're Not Boiling Beans & Eating Sphagnum Moss Out On The Trail!

Thanksgiving Dinner Raw Rice & Beans  It was rough work, slogging your way across the wilds of Alaska. The gold miners of 1898 were cons...

Thanksgiving Dinner

Raw Rice & Beans 

It was rough work, slogging your way across the wilds of Alaska. The gold miners of 1898 were constantly hungry, even though every one of them was dragging along at least a thousand pounds of food. 

The grub that miners brought with them was difficult to deal with – and heavy: 150 lbs. of bacon, 75 lbs. of split peas, evaporated potatoes, 400 lbs. of flour...

This wasn't "'Blue Apron." It took awhile to throw together one of these dinners! You needed clean water, a long cooking time, and fuel.

In 2013, on the reality TV show, Ultimate Survivor, Alaska, Dallas & Tyrell Seavey of Seward demonstrated the problem of trying to cook and travel on foot through the wilds at the same time, as they hacked their way across Alaska, limited to having to eat old-style "Gold Rush food." 

The Seavey boys ate their rice and beans raw. 

Most of the men who came north during the Gold Rush didn't know how to cook. And why would they? In the late 1800s, as the farm population fled to the big cities, up to half of all Americans either ran a boarding house, or lived in one as a tenant. 

Boarding house food, like Alaskan roadhouse food, was made for you, by women. You didn't cook it yourself. 

Before Alaska's road houses became common, when up to 4,000 people flooded into Alaska during the Copper Valley-Valdez Gold Rush, miners expected to live off wild game. But it wasn't that easy. As the military explorer Lt. Joseph Castner wrote in 1898 of his lengthy trek across Alaska, "I saw the tracks of perhaps a thousand moose, yet they are so shy, so quick to discern your presence, I never saw but one live one."

The search for food was endless. Captain Edwin Glenn (the guy they named the Glenn Highway after) was desperately hungry out on the trail. Looking around to see what was available to eat, he latched onto the moss growing at his feet.  He pounded sphagnum moss into flour. And made it into bread. He was so famished that he actually declared it "quite palatable and nourishing." 

Of course the Ahtna people were the ones who had a handle on the type of food you needed in this difficult country. Food had to be lightweight, easy to prepare, yet highly nutritious. As Fred Ewan explained a century later, smoked salmon was carried in lightweight bundles, and eaten as you moved along. 

Salmon was a traditional, old-style version of the most modern form of camping and traveling food ever invented... the MRE – or "Meals Ready To Eat." 


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