Sunday, October 31, 2021

October Kitchen Activities

Food of the season. Does red wine go with Oreos? Yes. Especially spooky Phantom wine and BOO Oreos. Happy Halloween!

Away from my kitchen: food exhibits that we saw while traveling.

In mid-October, we spent a week on the Lindblad-National Geographic Quest, going from Astoria, Oregon to Idaho on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. We visited several places where food or food preparation were represented. The salmon that swam in the rivers have been a key food source for centuries, first for the Native Americans who lived along the river, and more recently for fisheries and canneries. Unfortunately, the salmon runs have been in terrible decline, worse this year than ever. We also saw a variety of places visited by Lewis and Clark in 1805-1806, and a some interesting museums and historic re-creations.

The food storage and preparation area at Fort Clatsop, Oregon (reconstruction of original.)
Lewis and Clark and the people of their expedition spent the winter of 1805-1806 in this location.

Hood River, Oregon, The Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum.
Among the historic planes and jeeps, we saw this display of a portable kitchen from World War II.

Astoria, Oregon: Columbia River Maritime Museum.
Display of labels from canning of salmon and other seafood, once a major activity along the
Columbia River. The museum had many displays about the history of the fishing industry.

Salmon in a fish hatchery in Oregon.
Jam and syrups made from Oregon produce at a farm stand in
Mount Hood, Oregon.

In my kitchen in October.

Magnets from the trip: places in Oregon and Idaho. Also here.

A sample jar of Oregon marionberry jam.
We ate it all up.

What's been cooking in my kitchen?

Before a weekend visit from the family, my refrigerator was stuffed
with food for the family visit.

Red and green pasta, with garlic bread and feta cheese, for six people.
The green pasta had broccoli, pesto, and tubetti pasta.
The red pasta had classic home-cooked tomato and mushroom sauce.

Garnishes for a Mexican-type meal: tomatoes, salsa, sour cream,
lemon wedges, cilantro, avocado, and hot sauce.

Miriam's plate with a quesadilla, black beans, picadillo,
savory squash, and all the garnishes.

A meal for the two of us: smoked Michigan whitefish from 
the Ann Arbor Farmers Market.

Single-serving apple crumbles.

Candy for trick-or-treaters. I plan to wear a mask. Not the usual sort for Halloween.

Blog post and photos © 2021 mae sander.
Shared with In My Kitchen at

Friday, October 29, 2021

The Giant Pumpkins of Burns Park

Every Halloween a neighbor around the block from us buys giant pumpkins. This year there are three of them.

The first photo was at the beginning of the week, before the pumpkins were carved. I went back, and
a group of children from the nearby school were also checking them out and taking photos of the carvings.

You can see "1100" written on this pumpkin. That's the weight!
This one was not carved, it's just sitting on the lawn.

Over 1800 pounds! The largest one they ever had
was over 1900 pounds.

This one is the biggest: I think it was 1820 pounds.

The Giant Pumpkins of Past Halloweens

Here's the 2015 Halloween parade in front of that year's pumpkins.
The Burns Park School parade has been held as long as I remember.

In 2013 I saw the pumpkins being delivered with a fork-lift.

In 2010 -- a smaller giant pumpkin, lit up during trick-or-treating.

UPDATE: Several people asked questions about these pumpkins. Here are my answers:
  • The giant pumpkins are delivered on a flatbed truck, and handled with a fork lift. They are removed the same way, usually a day or so after Halloween. Remember, they weigh more than half-a-ton!
  • The pumpkins are carved by a carpenter using some amazing wood-carving tools. The entire process is amazing.
  • Some pumpkins, including these giant pumpkins, are cultivated for their use as jack-o-lanterns and decorations. They are not the same type as cooking pumpkins, which are typically quite small. Decorative pumpkins like these wouldn't poison you if you ate them, but the flesh is woody and they don't make good pies or other foods.

A Few More Halloween Decorations around the Neighborhood

Many houses all around me are dramatically decorated, especially along the route of the school parade.

Meanwhile, the leaves have become very vividly colored this week.

Blog post and photos © 2010, 2013, 2015, 2021 mae sander.


Thursday, October 28, 2021

Indian Culture

My recent trip on the Lindblad/National Geographic Quest left me very curious about the Native Americans who once lived along the Columbia and Snake Rivers where we traveled, particularly about the many tribes who were encountered by Lewis and Clark during their expedition of 1804-1806. Traders, trappers, and other Europeans had already made contact with the numerous tribes of the region; Lewis and Clark also were responsible for trying to explain to the Indians that they were now part of the United States, to which they were encouraged to become loyal. The expedition also had a mandate to learn about Indian culture, as well as to explore and map the newly acquired Louisiana Territory from St. Louis to the Pacific coast in Oregon. Lewis and Clark in fact did all these things.

“Because Lewis could handle clothing and observe it with his keen naturalist’s eye, he filled his journal with words about moccasins, leggings, shirts, robes, and ornaments. Every piece of clothing, and often its method of construction, was described with his typical attention to detail. But no article in the Shoshoni wardrobe so captivated the explorer as the ermine tippet given to him by Cameahwait. Lewis described it as ‘the most eligant peice of Indian dress I ever saw.’”

Thus wrote James P. Ronda in Lewis & Clark among the Indians. Yesterday, I wrote about some of the food observations in this book, and now I would like to introduce some of the other examples of material culture that the author describes. First, some examples of ermine head coverings.

Our speaker, JR Spenser from the Nez Perce tribe, wore a traditional headdress
and beaded vest for his excellent talk to the guests onboard the Quest.

In the museum at the Nez Perce reservation, we saw a
similar hat.

Onboard the Sea Bird two years ago we enjoyed several lectures by the Cultural Specialist Owen B Walker. 
For his lecture on the First Nations and their fishing methods, he wore a traditional hat including ermine fur.
Lewis and Clark and the other members of the expedition were very enthusiastic about these woven hats,
made by the Puget Sound tribes and also made by the native people further south where we were.

More images from the museum in The Nez Perce National Historic Park near Lewiston, Idaho.

Beaded cradle board.

Not far from the museum: the site of an amusing legend about the trickster coyote and two other beasts:
an ant and a yellow-jacket, who fought at the site of the arch in the photo, and ended up turned to stone.

A mural in The Dalles, Oregon, a location important to the tribes visited by Lewis and Clark.

Who was Sacagawea?

Very little about Sacagawea was said in Ronda’s book. In a note at the end, he explains that while this very famous woman contributed to the success of the expedition, her role has been mythologized and greatly exaggerated. The story is irresistible: of how she was kidnapped from her tribe and became the property and wife of Charbonneau, a French trapper and interpreter, and how she then accompanied Lewis and Clark while her infant son Jean Baptiste rode on her back. Several fictionalized versions of her life also stated that she lived a very long time, while she actually died at about the age of 25, not long after the expedition. Ronda writes:
“Perhaps the most persistent Lewis and Clark myth is that Sacagawea ‘guided’ the party to the Pacific. In countless statues, poems, paintings, and books she is depicted as a westward-pointing pathfinder providing invaluable direction for bewildered explorers. In the interest of correction, there has been a tendency to underestimate Sacagawea’s genuine achievements as a member of the Corps of Discovery. Not as important as George Drouillard or John Ordway, the young woman did make significant contributions to the expedition’s success.”

One of many statues of Sacagawea.

Another statue, at Fort Clatsop historic park on
the site where Lewis and Clark spent the last winter of their expedition.

Beautiful Places

Blog post and photos © 2019, 2021 mae sander.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Corn, Beans, Squash, and Sunflowers

George Catlin, “Mandan Village.” 1833 (Wikipedia)

Autumn is here. As we celebrate our two American festivals, Halloween and Thanksgiving, several symbolic foods appear over and over, especially corn and pumpkins (which are a type of squash). These are both essential foods that Native Americans grew, along with another native food plant, the sunflower. and various others that are now obscure. Of course salmon in the Pacific region, wild game of all types, and other fish throughout the continent were also key foods, but the produce was the basic element of the native diet. Another Halloween food, chocolate, also originated in the New World, but was only cultivated and consumed in Mexico and other warmer climates.

Lewis and Clark among the Indians by James P. Ronda is a study of the experiences of the famous expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark from 1804-1806. On our recent trip on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, we passed by many of the same places that the expedition records described, though the river is much changed now, mainly by the many dams that have been built. One of our lecturers told us that one thing that was always true of the Lewis and Clark explorers was that they were hungry! The following quotations illustrate how constantly trade for food was essential to Lewis and Clark and the members of their expedition, and how the local natives at every location along the Missouri and  Columbia Rivers cultivated the same basic crops:

 “Earth lodges, fortifications, and extensive fields of corn, beans, and squash were all signs of the culture of the Missouri Valley villagers.”

“Welcomed into Pocasse’s lodge, the Americans sat on woven mats and were served by the chief’s wife. They were brought a bowl of beans and corn, the staple of Arikara fare.” 

“For the Sioux, corn was more important than blood.”

“At that market one could find Spanish horses and mules brought by the Cheyennes, destined for Assiniboin herds; fancy Cheyenne leather clothing for Mandan dandies; English trade guns and ammunition eagerly sought by villagers and nomads alike; and the ever present baskets of corn, beans, squash, and tobacco upon which Mandan and Hidatsa economic strength was built.” 

“Lewis and Clark were not the first white men to see the Mandan and Hidatsa villages and their surrounding fields of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers.”

“The Mandan diet of beans, corn, squash, and meat appealed to him [Ordway, a diarist of the expedition], and in his simple style he reported that the Indians ‘live very well.’ Methods of storing food also attracted his attention. Villagers had long constructed elaborate underground bell-shaped food caches to preserve corn, beans, sunflower seeds, and dried squash over the winter.”

“Throughout the afternoon the expedition’s camp was filled with Indians eager to exchange corn and cornmeal bread for a variety of trade goods.”

Corn and pumpkins for Halloween: these foods are still 
key to agriculture, though maybe not as critical as in the past.

American families have their own traditions for Thanksgiving: many Thanksgiving dinners end with pumpkin pie. Another tradition: the mid-20th-century recipe for Jiffy corn pudding usually repeating the identical recipe that originated as an advertising brochure from the Jiffy company in Chelsea, MI. We associate these foods with the New England settlers and the “first Thanksgiving” but in fact they were essential to Native Americans across the entire continent, all the way to the Pacific Ocean where Lewis and Clark reached the farthest extent of their voyage. 

Paul Kane, “Interior of a Chinook Lodge,” 1847.
Illustration from Ronda’s book.

NOTE: I’ve written in the past about the history of Thanksgiving:
and the way that Old World traditions were adapted into American Halloween customs:

Blog post © 2021 mae sander. Illustrations as credited.