If I could Live During the Pleistocene Part VII–The Food I Must Have

I’m writing a food-oriented blog entry in honor of Thanksgiving week.

If I’m going to live in my imaginary adobe brick home 36,000 years BP on a stone-wall protected piece of land 1 mile north of the Broad River and 2 miles west of the Savannah River, I’ve got to have certain favorite foods.  But I don’t want to travel back and forth through the time portal to go grocery shopping.  I’d suffer a letdown every time I left my pristine wilderness and returned to the decimated mess man has created.  So I’d manufacture as much of my own food as possible on my Pleistocene homestead. 

There are numerous staples of my diet I can’t live without–cheddar cheese, chili con carne, sourdough bread, fruit, vegetables, brown gravy, soy sauce, etc.

I’ve been making sourdough bread, pancakes, and biscuits from this sourdough starter since 1998.

I grow my own wheat on my Pleistocene homestead.  (In reality I have successfully grown wheat in my backyard garden.)  The weather conditions in Georgia during the interstadial I chose should be favorable for winter and spring wheat.  Setting up a stone mill for grinding grain into flour though is too complicated.  An electric home mill that I plug into an outlet is sufficient for my needs.  (I have electricity, thanks to solar power and a generator that runs on wood alcohol which I manufacture.)  It’s necessary to grow 2 kinds of wheat–a high protein variety for bread and a lower protein type for pastry.  I’ve got to have pies and cakes.

A bowl of red with a side of cornbread.  Chili con carne is my favorite dish and a useful one for converting dodgy game meats into tasty food.  For this batch I diced round steak and cooked it in the crockpot.  I more commonly use ground meat which shouldn’t be cooked in a crock pot because slow-cooking the meat that long will turn it mushy.   I use 2 tablespoons of pure New Mexican chili powder per pound of meat.  I serve it on red beans that are cooked in a different pot.

I can’t live without chili.  This is a quite useful dish for Pleistocene living.  Most of my meat is wild game.  I live in a mostly forested region interspersed with small prairies and meadows.  The most common big game animals are white-tailed deer, elk, and long-nosed peccary.  Less common but occasionally available are long-horned bison and horses.  Depending on the age, condition, and diet, the meat from these animals varies in flavor and tenderness.  By grinding the meat and seasoning it heavily with chili powder and tomatoes, I can make tougher cuts of meat taste good.  George Leonard Herter in his book, How to Get out of the Rat Race and Live on $10 a Month (a volume that deserves its own blog entry), wrote that the only way he could make coot meat taste good was to turn it into chili.  He stated that coot meat tastes like a mouthful of mud prepared any other way.  Cajuns soak coots in milk overnight to get rid of the bad flavor.  I avoid coot meat.

I do raise milk cows on my Pleistocene land, but I’m reluctant to kill them for meat because they’re like pets that provide me with cheddar cheese, butter, and cream.  So my chili is most often made from venison and/or peccary meat.  Tomatoes, new Mexican chili peppers, red beans, onions, garlic, and cumin all grow in my garden and greenhouse.

Jagerschnitzel with a side of sweet potato.  I had leftover mushroom gravy from making hamburger steaks and gravy (another good dish for using wild game meat), so I added fresh mushrooms and smothered pork chops in the gravy.  Sweet potatoes should be easy to grow during an interstadial.  The good cuts of a peccary make excellent pork chops.

I could probably eat chili everyday and never get tired of it, but I also like meats smothered in a brown mushroom or onion or mushroom/onion gravy.  Lipton makes a great mushroom-onion gravy mix that I believe I can duplicate.  In my Pleistocene garden I cultivate shitake mushrooms.  (In reality I innoculated an oak stump with shitake mushroom spawn.  I’m still waiting for the first bloom.)  Mushrooms don’t grow year round, and I wouldn’t dare forage for wild mushrooms, so I dry some of the cultivated ones when they bloom.  I make my imitation Lipton gravy mix with dried mushrooms, dried onions, flour, salt, and soy sauce and store it in jars.  I brew my own soy sauce–another magical condiment that transforms wild game meats into civilized food.  I make a fine dish by slicing tough game meats against the grain and stir frying them with vegetables.  Marinating game meats with vinegar, oil, oregeno, and salt and cooking them shish ka bob style also helps to make them tender.

Frying hamburgers in an iron skillet.  I love cooking in this vessel.  The best Pleistocene hamburgers are made out of the ribeye steak meat from a long-horned bison.  I more commonly have venison in my meat freezer.  This requires added fat.

A meat grinder is a must for processing wild game.  I raise geese for the fat.  A good hamburger requires a certain amount of fat not found in most game meats.  To make a decent hamburger with lean venison, I mix it with rendered goose fat.  (I’ve actually experimented with this in real life and it works well.)  It keeps the burgers from getting too dry, and the grease rendered out can be re-used.  Turning tough game meats into meatloaf, meatballs, and sausage is another way to make them tasty.  A meatloaf made out of 1/2 ground vension and 1/2 ground turkey is excellent.  (Another successful real experiment.)  I capture all the turkeys I need with my turkey trap.  (See https://markgelbart.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/if-i-could-live-in-the-pleistocene-part-three-the-turkey-trap/)

A Niles pizza burger with a salad.  Niles, Ohio is the only place I’ve ever seen a real pizza burger on the menu.  I lived in Niles from the age of 2 to the age of 13.  It’s another one of those little Italy’s where many Italian-Americans settled.  The secret to this dish, besides using real pizza instead of a hamburger bun, is to keep it in aluminum foil, like a gyro, so it doesn’t fall apart.  The salad is a mix of leaf and head lettuce dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Olives are difficult to grow in Pleistocene Georgia, but walnut oil is an acceptable substitute.

Fish and chips with a side of mustard greens.  My Pleistocene home is located close to a river for the abundant food supply.  Game, fish, waterfowl, turtles, crayfish, and mussels abound near the water.  Potatoes are easier to grow in Pleistocene Georgia than they are today because the summers are cooler.

I eat a lot of fish in the Pleistocene.  I have fish traps throughout the Broad River and in the Savannah.  Most of the fish are small bream, crappie, catfish, smallmouth bass, and sucker fish.  I pan fry these, usually dredged with a mixture of cornmeal, flour, garlic salt, and lots of black pepper.  I dip the fish in egg first so the coating sticks.  (I have plenty of eggs because I raise chickens as well as geese.)  Surprisingly large fish, even today, still swim in smaller streams.  Fish big enough to filet often get caught in my traps.

Diagram of a colonial era fish trap from google images.  My Pleistocene fish trap differs slightly.  Mine doesn’t stretch all the way across the river and has a net or basket at the point of the v instead of slats.  I remove the net when I’m not planning on eating fish to reduce unnecessary fish kill.

I sometimes use a milk or beer batter to fry these.  Fish weighing over 10 pounds can be cut into steaks and grilled over a charcoal fire.  Or they can be stewed.  When I tire of fried fish I cook them in a white wine-cream sauce with mushrooms or sorrel.  Sorrel is an easy pot herb to grow.  Vegetables in the brassica family are also easy to grow.  Brassica pollen even shows up in a couple of palynological studies of Pleistocene age sediment, proving that some type of wild mustard grew in Georgia then.  In my real life gardening experience I’ve successfully grown mustard, bok choy, napa cabbage, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, green cabbage, and red cabbage.  All grow in my Pleistocene garden.  They thrive in the long cool season.  I’ve had mixed success with lettuce.  Some times I can’t get the lettuce to grow big enough to use.  The best lettuce I ever grew was a variety known as Rouge d’River–a red leaf type.

Spicy meatball and sausage jambalaya.  I make many different versions of this famous dish–chicken jambalaya, chicken and sausage jambalaya, double sausage jambalaya, shrimp and sausage jambalaya, turkey and ham and mushroom jambalaya, etc.

I grow rice in my Pleistocene garden because I can’t live without jambalaya or dirty rice.  Brown rice is a common side dish, but for jambalaya I remove the rice bran and feed it to the chickens.  White rice makes a better jambalaya.  I use sodium nitrates to turn the sausage red.  Curing meats is another way to make game meats quite palatable.  Much of my venison is corned.

Green posole.  This is the first time I ever made this dish.

Corn grows in my garden.  It provides a vegetable and a starch and animal feed.  I manufacture corn oil and corn syrup as well.  In the pioneer days the dried cobs were used as toilet paper.  In my Pleistocene world I manufacture more modern toilet paper.  There are just some improvements I can’t live without.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Responses to “If I could Live During the Pleistocene Part VII–The Food I Must Have”

  1. Mark L. Says:

    Mark,
    Just a thought, you could hunt bear and have all the grease/fat you would want, no need to bring in all those invasives. Bear oil was a staple in most native diets. 36000 BP there were plenty of them. Rice (another invasive) is a tough thing to grow (leveling, water, pH, etc.) but mushrooms would be easy…chicken of the woods, truffles, common deer mushroom, boletes, cuitlacoche, morels (be careful though). Notice I’m trying to de-Europeanize your diet? Honestly, though, just about everything you need is already there, it would just need some ‘tuning’ to your palate. “American Terroir” by Rowan Jacobsen is a good start if you are interested.
    TP- look for a certain kind of Magnolia relative that is perfect for this (found it at Camp McDowell) in Double Springs, Al. Can’t remember the name.

  2. markgelbart Says:

    I don’t think I’d like to kill a bear, unless I had to.

    Canadian geese are native.

    I’m pretty sure few of the ingredients I need for chili could be found naturally.

    It took generations of agriculture to produce the quality kinds of fruits and vegetables I prefer to eat.

  3. James Robert Smith Says:

    There was wild rice here in North America. It grew all over the east side of the continent.

    Lots of good looking food there in your essay!

    We used to have a lot of fish in our streams and rivers that have been prevented from spawning in them due to dams. Shad were once plentiful in our rivers, as were eels. In fact, during spawning time, eels were so plentiful in even our mountain streams and rivers that black bears would gather at river banks and such to harvest them just as bears do with salmon in the northwest. Alas, the dams killed off this source of food. If the dams could be removed, the eels would come back. They’re not extinct, just prevented from entering their historical spawning areas.

    I think they still travel as far as the dams below Lake Allatoona in Georgia (near Cartersville).

  4. markgelbart Says:

    I wonder how common wild rice was during the Pleistocene. Botanists surveyed all the plants on the SRS and consider wild rice uncommon but present there. I like the chewy texture of wild rice, but it’s not the right consistency for jambalaya.

    I collect vintage cookbooks with pioneer recipes. The pioneers, especially in New England near the coast, used to live on eel. The only eel I ever ate was imported from Korea in a can. It tasted good, but the way it was seasoned would have made a pine cone taste good.

  5. Mark L Says:

    Great point on eels Mark. I’ve talked to several people that tried to use (Korean?) packaged eels to attract rainbow snakes in Florida….never gonna work. The snakes hate the spice…and may not even like the eels either. You can still get good eels in the northeast….for about 3 weeks out of the year.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: