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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Celebrating Davy Crockett

I was but a tot when Disney "recycled" the legendary career of the "King of the Wild Frontier" in the made for TV episodes starring Fess Parker as Davy Crockett. So, it comes as a bit of a surprise to me when relatives "whip" out a picture of me in front of a New York City tenement clad in a Davy Crockett jacket straddling a three wheeler; bicycle that is. I'm sorry, I can't give you much more detail. First, I don't have a copy of that picture and second, it's in black and white.

I leave this rule for others when I'm dead, 

Be always sure you're right—THEN GO AHEAD!

It occurred to me just this past week that I really should get a copy of it or at least have someone scan it on over. After all, I do have two grandkids whom I'm sure will get a big kick out of it someday. Heck, if I had it right now, I would have shared it with you all! I'm sure it's my recent camping trip which is causing this wave of backwoods legend nostalgia. Thing is, I have no recollection of ever being a Davy Crockett fan. I didn't even own a coonskin hat! How can that be? For the youth of the 1950s and 60s, the "Crockett Crave" was all the rage.

...Davy Crockett was our hero. And to prove it, we all went out and bought coonskin caps. About 100 million dollars worth of raccoon caps sold in one year certainly qualifies as a fad of serious ecocnomic proportions...(fiftiesweb.com)
Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, 
Greenest state in the land of the free, 
Raised in the woods so he knew every tree, 
Kilt him a b'ar when he was only three. 
Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the wild frontier! 
From "The Ballad of Davy Crockett"

Many songs and tall tales have been sung about folk heroes like Davy Crockett. Some of them are based on fact with exaggerations, and some are completely fiction. The legend of Davy Crockett was indeed born on a mountaintop, but he did not kill a bear when he was only three. And his name was David Stern Crockett, not Davy.

As historical persons go, Davy Crockett was a real man who became a legend during his lifetime.

American frontiersman, born in Greene county, Tennessee, on the 17th of August 1786. His education was obtained chiefly in the rough school of experience in the Tennessee backwoods, where he acquired a wide reputation as a hunter, trapper and marksman. In 1813-14 he served in the Creek War under Andrew Jackson, and subsequently became a colonel in the Tennessee militia. In 1821-24 he was a member of the state legislature, having won his election not by political speeches but by telling stories. In 1827 he was elected to the national House of Representatives as a Jackson Democrat, and was re-elected in 1829. At Washington his shrewdness, eccentric manners and peculiar wit made him a conspicuous figure, but he was too independent to be a supporter of all Jackson's measures, and his opposition to the president's Indian policy led to administration influences being turned against him with the result that he was defeated for re-election in 1831. He was again elected in 1833, but in 1835 lost his seat a second time, being then a vigorous opponent of many distinctively Jacksonian measures. Discouraged and disgusted, he left his native state and emigrated to Texas, then engaged in its struggle for independence. There he lost his life as one of the defenders of the Alamo at San Antonio on the 6th of March 1836; probably he was one of six executed after the battle. (source)

His enduring popularity is attributed to among other things, his wanderlust for exploring the western frontier, his wild adventures, his reputation as a great hunter, and his participation in the Battle of the Alamo.

No man can make his name known to the forty millions of this great and busy republic who has not something very remarkable in his character or his career. But there is probably not an adult American, in all these widespread States, who has not heard of David Crockett. His life is a veritable romance, with the additional charm of unquestionable truth. It opens to the reader scenes in the lives of the lowly, and a state of semi-civilization, of which but few of them can have the faintest idea.
Following the defeat of Santa Anna’s Army and Texas Independence, a Nashville publisher put out the first edition of the "Davy Crockett Almanac" and it was a huge success in no small part due to Crockett’s martyrdom at the Alamo. Over the next 20 years, various publishers put out over 55 issues of the Almanac, which included so many tall tales about the Tennessean’s exploits, that he faded into the background of American folklore as almost a mythic figure. (source)

Frontier Recipes

It is said, "Davy Crockett stands for the Spirit of the American Frontier." It seems to me, the best way to celebrate Davy Crockett's birthday (August 17, 1786) is with some genuine frontier recipes. Thrown in with a few cowboy vittles and shreds of beef jerky and we have all the fixins needed to honor the "king of the wild frontier." By the way, if you're looking for even easier treats to embellish your Davy Crockett celebration, I've left a few recipe links in the resource section. I suggest you try the Davy Crockett Bars or the Davy Crockett Cookies:)

Just in case the hunter in you hasn't fully bloomed, I have chosen a few dishes not quite on the wild side and a bit more "fiftyish." The following recipes come from a cookbook titled The Wonderful World of Cooking by Edward Harris Heth. Published in 1956 by Simon and Schuster, The Wonderful World of Cooking offers recipes for Springtime Breakfasts, the Garden Harvest, the Fisherman and Hunter, and for Midnight Buffets and Holiday Dinners. The following recipes come from chapter four; the Hunter.

Wild Rice Recipes
Wild Rice Casserole: Boil as much wild rice as is wanted until done. Fry 4 or 5 strips of bacon until crisp, drain and crumble. In a good bit of butter, cook several chopped onions, some diced celery and parsley until transparent but do not let it brown. Mix all together, including the butter from the pan, and add a good supply of sliced stuffed olives and some pieces of black olives. If the mixture is not moist enough, add a little broth or more melted butter. Top with browned buttered bread crumbs and heat through in a hot oven.
Wild Rice & Mushrooms in Sour Cream: This is especially good with duck or pheasant. Fry 1 lb. whole mushrooms in butter, add 1-1/2 cups sour cream to the pan, salt, fresh pepper, a dash of mace and another of nutmeg, and a little red wine. Heat through, put on a large platter and surround with mounds of buttered and seasoned wild rice. Scatter crumpled bacon over all.

I'm including the next two recipes, just because. Regular visitors to this blog must know by now how excited I get when I discover a recipe in one of my cookbooks that is not already out there somewhere in cyberspace. What's even more fruitful about this particular recipe, IMHO, is its versatilely:

Spiced Currants in Wine: Serve these as a royal embellishments to any game or fowl dinner, especially venison or wild goose.

Personally, I would love to try this spiced currant sauce on salmon. And, I just might. I know it is sometimes frustrating not to have a picture to accompany a recipe but, just this time, try to imagine the results of this blend of fragrant ingredients:)

Spiced Currants in Wine
Boil 2 cups brown sugar with 3/4 cup wine vinegar, 3/4 cup port or claret, a stick of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground all spice and 1/4 teaspoon ginger to make a syrup. Add 2 cups of dry currants and a lemon shaved into very thin slices. Simmer until the fruit is soft and the syrup thick. Serve hot, or bottle and preserve.

Once again from The Wonderful World of Cooking:

...a proper fowl or game dinner requires more than just bird or beast alone. Wild rice, red cabbage, ruby wine, certain tart jellies and fruits and nuts---all these are natural hand-maidens.

Pickled Walnuts are traditionally a delicacy served during the Christmas season especially in England. They are an excellent condiment with grilled or roasted meats or game. Pickled Walnuts enhance cheese dishes as well as egg and egg dishes. And, the Vegetarian Society give them a "Thumbs up! If you're lucky enough to have access to a walnut tree, "walnut catsup" makes a GREAT gift!

Despite their versatility, I hesitate including the following recipe because it doesn't include directions for the preparation of the walnuts as does other recipes I have found in my travels. I myself have never made pickled walnuts. However, I have seen many recipes for them while reading vintage cookbooks and magazines. I found the following recipe interesting because it is based on a sugar syrup rather than a brine. Perhaps, and I'm really not sure about this, it is the reason the brining steps are left out. Perhaps not. I did find a most interesting blog post about pickled walnuts at a blog I have never visited before. It seems Julie lives in Missouri the number one producer of Black Walnuts. I really enjoyed visiting her blog and will go back as soon as I have a bit more time:) The recipe:)

Pickled Walnuts or Butternuts
Shell the nuts; if you don't have a nut tree, use the whole shelled English Walnuts from your grocery store. Make a syrup of 1/2 cup white sugar, 1-1/2 cups brown sugar, 4 cups water, 1 cup vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey, 1/2 teaspoon each of cloves, ginger, allspice, mustard seeds and curry powder and the chopped rinds of a lemon and an orange. Boil until well thickened. Add 2 or 3 cups of whole nuts, simmer 5 minutes, remove from heat and add several jiggers of rum. Bottle while still hot. Serve with any dark meated fowl or game.

To my wonderment, I found this Davy Crockett Triple Nickel Book in a box of old cookbooks a few years ago. I guess I'm not the only cookbook collector who has a bit of that adventurous spirit:)


Resources
1. Davy Crockett @ PBS
2. Explorers, Pioneers, and Frontiersmen: Davy Crockett
3. Texas Treasures: Davy Crockett
4. Davy Crockett bio
5. Bear Hunting in Tennessee: Davy Crockett Tells Tales, 1834
6. Fess Parker's Shooting Gallery
7. 1950s Television Westerns
8. Rye whiskey: Davy Crockett drank it
9. A narrative of the life of David Crockett ... By Davy Crockett (1834 @ google books)
10. A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee, published in 1834
11. David Crockett: His Life and Adventures by John S. C. Abbott (1875)
Recipes
1. Davy Crockett Cane-Charred Prawns (Davy Crockett was known as “The Gentleman from the Cane.”)
2. Davy Crockett Bars ("a school cafeteria favorite")
3. Davy Crockett Cookies 
4. Davy Crockett Bars
5. Braised Rabbit with Red Wine
6. Aunt Florrie's Pickled Walnuts
7. Purple sprouting broccoli with pickled walnuts & Poulcoin cheese

15 comments:

  1. We used to love watching that Disney show growing up, although I think it had been around for a little while before my time :-)

    I love frontier cooking, but somehow its not the same in my kitchen. I need that open flame!

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  2. I was in a play about Davy Crockett when I was a kid - it was so much fun.

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  3. I always wanted a Davy Crockett hat...

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  4. Hello Louise!
    Wild Rice casserole sounds amazing. My brother was just telling me yesterday that they day he met his now wife he was wearing a Davy Crockett hat (while camping). I am amazed that she allowed him to ask him out after that. Davy Crockett was fun to learn about today! Thank you so much! You always have something cool.

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  5. Yum, the wild rice, mushroom and sour cream sounds fantastic!

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  6. Hey I remember those shows LOL! And Disney's Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern grows, and the original Incredible Journey....

    Great post, it's bringing back memories!

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  7. Davyyyyyyy. Daaaaaavy Crocket. King of the wild frontieeeeeer. Thanks, that'll be stuck in the old noggin' for at least a couple days, LOL. mmmmmm...luv me some beef jerky! Fun post :D

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  8. I remember all that too!
    Your pickled walnut recipe does sound good - I'm loving the idea of adding rum!

    I LOVE pencils! lol - I know it's mad but there's nothing quite like a brand new one!

    Really sorry I haven't been about lately - I'm so behind with my blog I feel like giving it all up!
    I really don't know where time goes.
    Anyway, another great post from you (as always) Jan x

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  9. Cute, cute book! I don't remember us playing Davy Crockett when we were kids, but we did pretend we were pioneers.

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  10. That Wild Rice Casserole dish sounds amazing. At some point in everyone's childhood they always dream about being a cowboy or frontiersman. This is the perfect day to do it--at least through cooking that is.

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  11. This was a lot of fun reading about this holiday and frontier recipes! But I have to tell you-- I actually saw an old man and old woman (looked to be in their 80's) eating at IHOP Restaurant this week and they were wearing raccoon hats and that's no joke! They were the cutest things too! We were leaving at the same time and I spoke to them- I thought I had a southern accent but they had me beat!

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  12. Mine too T.W. mine too! We made the most succulent clams on the open fire when we went camping this weekend. It was so cool to watch them open ever so gingerly:) Now, I want clams...

    That's so funny Pam. I couldn't stand being in plays when I was a kid. I'm a wee bit shy believe it or not:)

    Then you shall have one, Duckie. Just ask Santa:)

    Hi there Kasha, what a funny story. what's meant to be is meant to be Crockett hat or not! I agree, that Wild Rice Casserole does have its merits. another "someday" dish!

    Yes it does, Veron. I can't wait till I get to PA. There are so many dishes I want to try. Actually, a few of yours are on my list too!!!

    Memory posts are my favorite Sher, thanks for stopping by...

    Okay, Heather, now I'm singing...Davyyyyyyy. Daaaaaavy Crocket. King of the wild frontieeeeeer all day long, again!!!

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  13. Hi Jan, thank you so much for visiting. I'm sorry you're feeling a bit in a tizzy. Take a breath and think desserts! I know I've said it before and I'll say it again. Stressed spelled backwards equals DESSERTS!!! This too shall pass. The two weeks I took off for camping was just what I needed. Perhaps, you just need to stand back for a while.
    I don't think you're mad for loving pencils, not one little bit! A sharp pencil is the BEST!!!

    You just never know what you'll find at the bottom of a cookbook box, Kathy. I'm sure you've found some real gems!!!

    Hi Andrew, I don't think kids dream about being a cowboy as much as they use too. Too bad. I think it would get them outside a bit more...Let me know if you try the casserole.

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  14. What a charming story Pam. I'm dying to know where they got them, how old they were (the hats) and whether there was a sentimental reason for the fashion duo. Do tell...

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  15. I appreciated the info you gave, you are a very resourceful person. Keep up the good work.

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Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise