The Big Kitchen at Sutter’s Fort: Imported Foods, 1840s


A Swiss adventurer named John August Sutter arrived in the Northern California wilderness in mid-August 1839, soon afterward constructing a walled trading post and year-round residence for himself that came to be known as Sutter’s Fort.  One of the rooms inside the walls was a large kitchen to feed the dozens of fur trappers, tradesmen, and others who lived there or frequently visited. Captain Sutter’s cooks were nearly always able to serve roast beef, lamb or mutton and pork from Sutter’s vast herds, and local game animals and birds. Home-grown fruits and vegetables appeared at table in season.  However, many foodstuffs that enhanced a pioneer’s palate had to be imported via merchant ships, which sailed the globe trading California cow hides for treasures not found in frontier California. Some of these items were: table salt, black pepper, syrup, pickles, curry powder, coffee and various teas, molasses, rice, salad oil, white and brown sugar, raisins, rock candy, rum and pineapples. 


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