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Plain but Wholesome
Foodways of the Mormon Pioneers
Plain but Wholesome presents a groundbreaking foray into Mormon history. Brock Cheney explores the foodways of Mormon pioneers from their trek west through the arrival of the railroad and reveals new perspectives on the fascinating Mormon settlement era. Relying on original diaries, newspaper accounts, and recipe books from the 1850s, Cheney draws a vivid portrait of what Mormon pioneers ate and drank. Although other authors have sketched the subject before, this portrait is the first effort that might be described as scholarly, though the lively prose will interest a broad general audience.
Presented here are the first explicit descriptions of the menus, food processes, and recipes of the Mormon pioneers. While many have supposed that earlier pioneer foodways continued to be handed down through Mormon families, Cheney has confirmed traditions going back generations and covering more than a century. The book also exposes myths and clichés about pioneer piety and hardships, as Cheney examines such pioneer extravagances as fresh “oysters on the half shell” and pioneer trends of alcohol consumption.
A perfect gift for the history buff or Dutch oven chef, Plain but Wholesome will also prove its place among scholars and historians. With its rollicking blend of historical source material and modern interpretation, this book will entertain and educate novice and expert alike.
Brock Cheney teaches writing and literature in Utah’s public schools and has worked at several living history muse-ums in Utah and Colorado. He lives in Willard, Utah, where he keeps a vegetable garden and bakes bread in his wood-fired brick oven.
Click here to listen to Brock's interview with Doug Fabrizio on KUER's "Radio West"
Click here to listen to Brock's interview with Jennifer Napier-Pearce on KCPW's "City Views"
Praise and Reviews:
“Unique and well rounded. For foodways scholars, it is another building stone in the field. General readers, Mormon and non-Mormon, will enjoy it because of the stories it tells.”
—Sandra L. Oliver, author of Saltwater Foodways and Food in Colonial and Federal America
“Interesting and engaging to read. It decodes and explains many references to food in the historical record of the Mormon pioneer period.”
—Benjamin C. Pykles, historic sites curator
"Written in a scholarly but engaging manner—easy to read, engrossing and authoritative. Readers will glimpse the real lives of pioneers, rather than glorified or overly sentimental versions. Foodways scholars will welcome its addition to the field, and history buffs will appreciate the detail and thoroughness of the book."
"Stories and quotations make the recipes and menus come to life."
—Association for Mormon Letters
“Plain But Wholesome: Foodways of the Mormon Pioneers is a good first foray into early Mormon food culture. It will leave readers hungrily thinking about the centrality of food to everyday life and the massive ways food culture has shifted over the past hundred-plus years.”
“Plain by Wholesome brings to light important new sources on pioneer foodways as it paints a fuller, richer picture of the way food production shaped daily life and even place names.”
—The Journal of Mormon History