Pioneer Day celebrations are upon us . . . ever wonder what pioneer children ate as they “walked and walked and walked”? Bacon, beans—and johnnycakes.
Lack of provisions or kitchens forced early Saints to get creative with their resources. The basics that could be hauled overland for hundreds of miles were hardly the stuff of Michelin starred restaurants: “Two hundred pounds of flour, thirty pounds of pilot bread, seventy-five pounds of bacon, ten pound of rice, five pounds of coffee, two pounds of tea, twenty-five pounds of sugar, half a bushel of dried beans, one, bushel of dried fruit, two pound of saleratus [baking soda], ten pounds of salt, half a bushel of corn meal; and it is well to have half a bushel of corn, parched and ground; a small keg of vinegar should also be taken,” recommends one popular Oregon Trail guide.
A staple of the American diet since native inhabitants introduced it to the colonists, johnnycakes (sometimes called hoecakes in the South) are a cornmeal flatbread similar to a pancake or tortilla. Johnnycakes were apparently a favorite of Brigham Young, who said in his Journal of Discourses, “[G]ive me a piece of johnny-cake; I would rather have it than their pies and tarts and sweetmeats. Let me have something that will sustain nature and leave my stomach and whole system clear to receive the Spirit of the Lord and be free from headache and pains of every kind.”
- 1 cup corn meal
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp sugar
- ½ cup milk or buttermilk
- 1 cup water
- Oil, shortening or bacon drippings
Combine dry ingredients while boiling water. Once water is boiling, remove from heat source and stir in dry ingredients. Add milk slowly to avoid a runny batter and continue stirring until smooth. Grease frying pan with oil, shortening or bacon drippings. Once pan is sizzling hot, either spread batter like you would a pancake to cover pan or drop batter by the spoonful. Brown on both sides, flattening to about a quarter inch thick. Serve with syrup, butter or honey.