The Dutch Fork: National Dish and Other Favorites

The general eating habits of the Fork remained relatively unchanged throughout the first century of settlement. In 1842, William Summer called sauerkraut "the national dish of Dutch Fork;" and this was likely the case from the beginning…. It was cooked with fresh pork ribs, pork backbones, or a small bit of bacon, and often with tight dip-dumplings placed on top, and served, as we have just seen in smoking pewter dishes or bowls. It was a favorite dish during butcherings because it "cut the grease," and was often served with sweet potatoes in some form. Scott wrote of the 1820s that the kraut was usually "flanked by roast pork or fried chicken" and that these "constituted their favorite meal at dinner, which was always taken at 12 o'clock.” From all accounts, noon was indeed the usual time for the meal, and it was announced to the workers in the field, not by bell, but by the wife's winding the horn (a carved cow horn), as had been the fashion in the Fatherland. But the noonday favorites could not be so limited as Scott reported. Certainly, much depended upon the season of the year and the vegetables and meats that marked them. The main course could be pork, mutton, beef, or it could be poultry, served in a great variety of ways in stews and deep-dish pies (chicken-pies are, in fact, mentioned much more commonly than fried chicken, and were an overwhelming favorite). Roast hen, turkey, and goose were also preferred main courses…. Sheep in later days seem to have been raised primarily for wool, but mutton in the early decades of settlement was a staple….Beef for meat was uncommon in the very first years of settlement owing to the cow's importance for supplying dairy products, but soon with increased numbers also became a staple. Milk was always the favorite drink, before being replaced in modern times by sweetened tea. (Kibler, 1988)

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