January 1, 1845
“I hold a family to be in a desperate way when the mother can see the bottom of the pork barrel,”
The Chainbearer; or The Littlepage Manuscripts is a novel by the American novelist James Fenimore Cooper first published in 1845. The Chainbearer is the second book in a trilogy starting with Satanstoe and ending with The Redskins. The novel focuses mainly on issues of land ownership and the displacement of American Indians as the United States moves Westward.
Indeed, for the first 250 years of American history, even the poor in the United States could afford meat or fish for every meal. The fact that the workers had so much access to meat was precisely why observers regarded the diet of the New World to be superior to that of the Old. “I hold a family to be in a desperate way when the mother can see the bottom of the pork barrel,” says a frontier housewife in James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Chainbearer.
Like the primitive tribes mentioned in Chapter 1, Americans also relished the viscera of the animal, according to the cookbooks of the time. They ate the heart, kidneys, tripe, calf sweetbreads (brains), pig’s liver, turtle lungs, the heads and feet of lamb and pigs, and lamb tongue. Beef tongue, too, was “highly esteemed.”