January 3, 1805
The diets of the people in the Forts in the Rocky Mountains and the Arctic are shown to be mostly fish and red meat, but imported goods such as flour, sugar, vegetables, and fruits are considered rare luxuries. "In many of the extreme Arctic stations the supply of provisions is limited the year round to reindeer-meat, and fish, and not infrequently to the latter alone." However, "the climate favors the consumption of solid food, and, after short residence, the appetite becomes seasoned to the quality of the fare obtainable."
The Great Fur Land - Life in a Company's Fort
The mess-table has, too, other attractions than those of sociality, and of a more solidly substantial kind. The officers of the forts are all good livers, and, although accustomed to rough it on short allowances of food when necessity requires, take particular care that the home-larder shall be well stocked with all the delicacies and substantials afforded by the surrounding country. The viands are of necessity composed, in the greater part, of the wild game and fish with which the prairies and waters abound. But they are of the choicest kind, and selected from an abundant supply. One gets there the buffalo-hump-tender and juicy; the moose-nose--tremulous and opaque as a vegetable conserve; the finest and most savory waterfowl, and the freshest of fish-all preserved by the power of frost instead of salt. True, the supply of vegetables at many mess-tables is woefully deficient, and a continuous diet of wild meats, like most other things of eternal sameness, is apt to pall upon the appetite. But the list of meats is so extensive, and each requiring a particular mode of cooking that a long time may elapse without a repetition of dishes. Then, too, the climate favors the consumption of solid food, and, after short residence, the appetite becomes seasoned to the quality of the fare obtainable. Bread, as an imported article, is in many instances regarded as quite in the character of a luxury; the few sacks of flour which constitute the annual allowance of each officer being hoarded away by the prudent housewife as carefully as the jams and preserves of her more fortunate sisters. In such cases it is batted into small cakes, one of which is placed beside each plate at meal-time; the size of the cake being so regulated as to afford a single one for each meal of the year. The more common vegetables, such as potatoes and turnips, can be successfully cultivated in some places, and, wherever this occurs, enter largely into the daily menu. Fruits, either fresh or dried, seldom make their appearance upon the table; lack of transportation, also, forbidding the importation of the canned article.
At many of the remote inland posts, however, the daily bill of fare is limited enough, and a winter season seldom passes without the garrison of some isolated station suffering extreme privation. At Jasper and Henry Houses, for example, the officers have been frequently forced to slaughter their horses in order to supplement the meagre supply of provisions. These posts are situated in the very heart of the Rocky Mountains, with the vast region marked "swampy" on the maps separating them from the depot forts. In many of the extreme Arctic stations the supply of provisions is limited the year round to reindeer-meat, and fish, and not infrequently to the latter alone. Under these circumstances, no wonder that the company's officer comes to regard the possession of flour and sugar as among the most essential requisites of life.