Early pioneers are an important part of our personal stories and family history. Whether your great-grandfather traveled with a handcart company or you yourself are an immigrant, pioneers pave the way for the generations to come. Pioneer stories open a window to the past, revealing people not so different from ourselves.
One fun way to connect with early pioneers and engage your family in their ancestry is to share some of the culinary traditions the pioneers would have enjoyed. We’ve found some recipes that were made on the trail or that have been passed down through generations to get you started as you explore family history through pioneer stories. Gather your family, and try some of these historical recipes in your own home to get a taste of what life was like for many pioneers.
Pioneer Trail Recipes
On their trek across the plains, pioneers went without many of the luxuries and amenities we enjoy today. Travelers cooked in cast-iron dutch ovens over fires, or they improvised if the weather was poor or their tools broke. They often relied on the resources available within their surroundings. Using both wild fruits—plums, cherries, grapes, gooseberries, currants—and the glorious fresh fruit cultivated so successfully from imported cuttings, early pioneer women were soon making some of the delicacies that reminded them of home, like these currant whirligigs from England. Two other favorites were potato cakes, a 100-year-old recipe that came across the plains with an Austrian immigrant, and hand-mixed bread, as good today as it was in the early days.
Recipes such as these can introduce us to some of the traditions of our pioneer ancestors and can help us embrace the history that comes along with them. Food has a way of bringing the family together and of carrying the emotions of family memories with it. Learn more about how family recipes can create a lasting impact on family history by reading about recipe traditions, or find out more about your pioneer heritage using FamilySearch’s pioneer database.