Missourians’ food changed over the years, Bill Stolz says



Some things never change. Over 140 years, people in Missouri have persistently cared about two things — weather and food, said Bill Stolz, assistant director of reference for the Western Historical Manuscript Collection.

Stolz spoke to about 80 people at the Columbia Public Library Nov. 16 on “What’s for Dinner, Missouri?” He used letters, diaries, recipes and other historical documents to show how Missourians have produced, prepared and enjoyed food since 1821.

The earliest reference Stolz could find about food was from William Nash’s diary, written in 1828. The diary describes farming in Missouri and mentions food items such as shortened corn, buttermilk mush, bread, and baked potatoes. These foods are much like what we eat today.

People a hundred years ago ate food on Thanksgiving similar to what we eat today, according to the diary of Leslie W. Corder, who graduated from MU in the early 1900s. Corder’s diary listed turkey, potatoes, salad, pumpkin pies and peas.

Some foods have disappeared from people’s diet, Stolz said. He showed a menu from the 1860s, which included boiled spring chicken, mutton, pigs’ feet and fish balls — for breakfast.

Stolz also talked about hot slaw, Hawaiian sandwiches and fish Jell-o.

Another change over the years is convenient access. “The first railroad opened across Missouri in the 1860s, which revolutionized food,” Stolz said.

People took advantage of the various options. In the 1860s, 80 percent of all Americans worked on farms; now the number is 2 percent, Stolz said. By the 1950s, more restaurants began to appear in towns. Stolz showed photos of students sitting in restaurants on nights out.

Marcela Chavez, who moved to Columbia from Mexico 11 years ago, is friends with Stolz. She came to the event because she likes to eat and is interested in seeing how cooking has changed over the years.

She found the presentation interesting. “But I wouldn’t try the recipes,” she said.

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