REVIEW - CHANDONNET
Chandonnet, Ann, Gold Rush Grub. University of Alaska Press. 218 pages plus index. Profusely illustrated. Hardcover. $34.95.
Gold rush grub? That should take up two pages at most. After all, how much room can bacon, beans, and sourdough take, even making it sourdough, beans, and bacon? You get the picture.
So this book was a revelation. Sometimes the author had to stretch outside the exact gold rushes themselves, (California is included with Alaska and the Yukon), but itís a history of the people, their lives, and the times as well as recipes. It is clear Chandonnet has tested the latter herself, and she suggests common substitutes for caribou or bear or porcupine in the amazingly broad range of food offered. Many recipes come from cookbooks of the day. As those were usually vague, exact amounts are given, although in such items as willow salad, the size of the leaves is important rather than teaspoons or tablespoons.
The accouterments to cooking are also stated; the best kinds of stove, keeping food fresh, how to brew beer; all the extras. Famous and not-so-famous participants in the rushes are in the book, along with short biographies of them.
Thereís also a fair amount about the ubiquitous roadhouses.and their importance to the traveler. The food served in them varied from the barely edible to the delicious. Several women, like Mrs. Pullen of Skagway, became famous for their food and hostelries.
The universal disgust with dried potatoes is mentioned several times (they must have been truly disgusting, as very hungry people engaged in hard physical labor will find almost anything tasty), as are some of the treats like fresh oysters, champagne, or chocolates, not to mention fresh eggs the sudden millionaires were partial to.
A warning here; the author is perfectly happy to throw in lively stories, true or not. There is no truth to the tales that the Russians kept the discovery of gold a secret, but it makes for a fun story. More serious is the maddening habit of identifying someone without telling us itís the same person. We have to turn to the index to discover Martha Black is the same Martha Purdy who came to the Klondike with her brother and later wrote a charming book about her life there. Anna Hall is identified as the wife of the journalist John Franklin Alexander Strong, but not as the wife of later Governor of Alaska J. F. A. Strong. Again we have to go to the index.
All in all, this is an interesting read. A nice size, handsome layout and photographs; there is even a map of Alaska and the Yukon indicating the major gold finds. One suggestion; offprinting the recipes in a loose-leaf or spiral-bound binder would make it far more useful for the cook that wants to try the delicious or interesting dishes that dot the pages. This reviewer grew hungry just reading them.