About Red River Settlement Cookbook:
This site is currently in its very early stages. I am using it mainly to collect information on the daily round at Red River Settlement as it pertains to women’s lives and work. Such information was not well recorded and must be reconstructed from interpreting whatever ‘scraps of the past’ can be found. Much of what is uploaded here should be regarded as reconstituted, therefore, and not as unassailable historical ‘fact.’ For my own entertainment, the information is organized in parallel sets: one being web pages (accessible through Contents); another being blog posts (accessible through Blog); and lastly an index of Cree and Bungi terms used (accessible through Vocabulary).
Most of the pages are written in present tense, as though they were taken from a 19th-century community cookbook. Such tomes are among the few historical resources that trace women’s activities during an extended period when they were relegated to the ‘private sphere’—a nexus of deliberation, action, and responsibility largely ignored by those who would interrogate power and the workings of political economy. One reason for writing in the present is to make recognition of the type and amount of work involved more immediate. Another is that the recipes and techniques described are not examples of curiously ‘antiquated’ practices of ‘strange’ and ‘quaint’ bygone ‘folk.’ The information is time-honoured and straightforward enough to be valid today (one who is knowledgeable can still benefit from chewing a Mat-heh Metoos bud).
The posts are chronologically-ordered transcripts of texts referring to a distinguishing feature of Red River production, the buffalo hunt. Eventually the uploaded posts will culminate in an essay on the same feature. The buffalo hunt posts are meant to supplement the description of agriculture as a feature of life at the settlement, outlined in A Casualty of Colonialism: Red River Métis Farming, 1810–1870.
As research progresses and time allows, posts and pages will be updated and additional information, including illustrations and source references, will be added.
About Indigenous names for items:
As this is a historical recreation, Cree names and derivative Bungi terms are used where possible—Cree being the common ‘trade language’ at Red River in the 19th century (as it was throughout the ‘North-West’ for a longer span of time). The names for items are taken principally from historical vocabularies, listed on the Vocabulary page. Not all of these sources agree in spelling. This reflects differences in dialect and in the languages spoken by the transmitters of names (who may or may not have spoken Cree as a ‘first language’), as well as differences among recorders—phonetics heard by English ears could be transcribed differently than the same sounds heard by Scottish or French ears. For example, representations of the name for Balsam Poplar—translated from Cree as the ‘ugly’ (but used to denote misshapen or asymmetrical) poplar—has varied over time and place from Mat-heh Metoos, to Mayi-mitus, to mâyimitos, with variations in between. In most instances, I have privileged the oldest available spelling, whether from Cree-English or Cree-French vocabulary lists and dictionaries.
About Recipe Precision:
As Kevin Carter notes in the “Savouring the Past” blog of Jas. Townsend & Son, “none of the recipes I found are precise enough to dispel a shadow of a doubt that we have duplicated them exactly. Virtually all of the recipes left one factor or another up to the taste of the cook.” Looking for accuracy, therefore, constitutes a fallacy when trying to replicate food of the now-distant past. The recipes here provide some guides for measuring out ingredients, cooking times, and temperatures. But the recipes also incorporate such vague quantities as ‘a spoonful.’ And there are plenty of references to ‘about’ some number of hours/ days/ weeks or degrees (whether Fahrenheit of Celsius). In all cases where there are such doubts, the only real means of resolving them is to engage in trial and error and accumulate experience—just as was the practice in the past.
Link to background information, Norma J. Hall Ph.D., Canadian History.
The information collected on this site re-presents things that my Red River family of origin knew, but were ‘forgotten’ by the time of my parents’ Manitoban generation (except, ironically enough, by my mother—of non-Indigenous descent, but who accumulated a limited Cree vocabulary, preserved my father’s genealogy and family artifacts as passed down by my paternal grandmother, and learned to bead at Cross Lake).