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The United Empire Loyalist Settlement at Long Point, Lake Erie
Chapter XIX. Food

As has been mentioned in Chapter VII, to the Loyalists who first came to Canada provisions for three years were given by the Government; but the people of Long Point were thrown on their own resources, and the first settlers experienced the most acute distress. Mention will be made from time to time of particular instances of hardship, but in a general way it may be here stated that the long journey from New Brunswick, and the insufficient means of conveyance, forced the settlers to come without any quantity of provisions in store for the few months before the grain could be ripened.

Thus it was that there occurred many touching instances of hardship and almost starvation. All kinds of edible herbs were eaten —pig-weed, lamb’s quarter, ground nut, and the plant called Indian cabbage. The bark of certain trees was cut in pieces and boiled, as were also the leaves and buds of the maple, beech and basswood.

Were it not for the game, which Providence occasionally threw in their way, they certainly would have starved. Occasionally a deer was shot and divided among the members of the rejoicing community. Frequently, also, great flocks of wild turkeys were seen in the marshy lands, and it did not require an expert shot to bring down the unsuspecting birds. Fish were also easily caught; so that as soon as the first year or two had passed, the settlers had abundance for themselves, and for any strangers “within their gates.” Tea was an unthought of luxury for many years, and various substitutes were used; as, for example, the hemlock and sassafras.

Still a rude plenty existed. As to meat, the creeks and lake supplied fish of several kinds—black and rock bass, perch, carp, mackerel, pickerel, pike and white fish, and above all speckled trout; the marshes—wild fowl, turkeys, ducks and geese; the woods—pigeons, partridge, quail, squirrels, rabbits, hares and deer. As to other animals in the woods, there were many (too many) wolves, bears, lynx, wild cats, beavers, foxes, martins, minks and weasels. Bustards and cranes also were found by the streams.

As to grain, they soon had an abundant supply of Indian corn, wheat, peas, barley, oats, wild rice, and the commoner vegetables.

The thoughtful housewives of those times tried to make up for the various articles of food which they could not procure by the invention of new dishes, and to make the ordinary menu as palatable as possible by some change or addition. One of the most appreciated of the “delicacies” was the pumpkin loaf, which consisted of corn meal and boiled pumpkin made into a cake and eaten hot with butter. It was generally sweetened with maple sugar.

Another “Dutch dish” was “pot-pie,” which consisted of game or fowl cut up into small pieces and baked in a deep dish, with a heavy crust over the meat. On such fare were developed the brawn and muscle which in a few years changed the wilderness into a veritable Garden of Eden.

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