Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Brigham Young Problem

Hello Friends! Its been several weeks since I've written, and I'm terribly sorry. I'm working on a project doing some historical restoration on a stone masonry construction, and I come home completely exhausted in the evening, not fit to write a word. But here we digress...

Often when researching Mormon pioneer food issues, we stumble over references to Brigham Young. Often these references are much more rich with detail and information that what we find in other more pedestrian diaries. We also see these details cited as representative of foodways common throughout Utah. But be certain, dear reader-- Brigham Young was the exception, not the rule. Though he certainly enjoyed such simple pleasures as hot milk over bread, or molasses candy, Brigham Young accessed more abundance and variety in his food than anyone in the western territories.

As a detail to illustrate, his daughter Clarissa remembered Brigham employed "Brother Staines" as a full time gardener, who could make anything bloom under glass. Daddy Sewell served as the dairyman on the Beehive estate. But of particular interest today is Brother Hamilton Park, the overseer. Clarissa remembered she would visit Brother Park nearly every morning, as he supplied pigeons for Brigham's breakfast. The pigeons delivered for Brigham's breakfast were likely squab: young pigeons 1 month old which have never flown. These young birds are equal in size (typically 1 pound) than an adult pigeon, but having never flown their flesh is more tender. Two would make a worthy breakfast entree. Certainly, such servants, outbuildings and specialized agriculture were singular priveliges in the Utah settlements. Cornmeal mush would be more common for the masses.

Unfortunately Clarissa didn't leave us with the preparation for Brigham's breakfast birds. As a breafast, they would likely have received some quick treatment such as frying, or being pulled into a hash. We leave you here with roasting directions, from Sanderson's The Complete Cook (1864).

If you'd like to make a stab at Brigham's breakfast birds, you can order squab online at You might also try getting to know that strange fellow in your neighborhood that keeps pigeons in his back yard. Don't try eating feral adult pigeons caught from that dilapidated barn by your mother's house; it would be akin to eating a seagul or rat.