When food was a struggle

South Routt woman talks about culinary history

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What: "Was your dinner historic? Pioneer Food Preparation and Anecdotes" by Rita Herold, part of the Colorado Mountain College Alpine Enrichment ProgramWhen: 7 p.m. WednesdayWhere: Room 300, Bogue Hall, on the CMC campusCost: Free; seating is limited

— Over the years, Yampa Valley residents have become dependent on refrigerator trucks bringing much of their food over Rabbit Ears Pass and into local communities. The area's first settlers didn't have it so easy.

In those days, it wasn't unusual for a homesteader to hitch up a horse team and head to Denver to buy food supplies for the winter. The roundtrip usually took two weeks, South Routt resident Rita Herold said.

On Wednesday, Herold will share what she's learned about the diets of early Routt County residents. Herold teaches Routt County history at Colorado Mountain College. She's been interested in the stories of the area's pioneers since she was a child listening to her grandfather and great uncle tell stories about when they moved to Routt County in the 1880s.

"I always thought somebody needs to write this down," Herold said. "Of course, I never did."

When Herold was invited by Tread of Pioneers Museum to speak at a Brown Bag Lunch Lecture in July, she thought it would be fun to focus on the diets of the pioneers while people ate their sack lunches.

"I talked about the struggles of the early pioneers and how hard it was to get food," Herold said.

Janie Schwartz, organizer of the Colorado Moun--tain College Alp--ine Enrichment Prog--ram, heard about the talk and asked Herold to give a similar one this fall.

In this week's presentation, Herold will pass out a few pioneer recipes, such as the Crawford family's recipe for preparing and serving beaver tail and a recipe for using Sarvis berries. Her talk will include stories about the Crawford family, early South Routt settlers and trappers.

One such story involves James Crawford's first visit to the Yampa Valley in 1875. He wanted to make sure someone else didn't take his homestead claim while he was gone for part of the summer, so he planted a garden with seeds he brought to the area. He planted rows of carrots, lettuce and beets and labeled each one before leaving.

When he brought the rest of his family from Middle Park in mid-summer, they ate their first lunch from the vegetables in his garden.

The diet of early settlers, Herold said, usually was a mix of garden vegetables and wild game. The most important food staple, especially for large families, was the potato.

Beef was rarely eaten. Instead, it was saved as a commodity to sell or trade.

"These days, we take food for granted," Herold said. "Those early settlers could not."

-- To reach Autumn Phillips, call 871-4210 or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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