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Stories from Canyons & Plains

Recipes From Charlotte’s Kitchen

Charlotte and her husband Dick were enslaved people owned by the Bent Family who both worked at Bent’s Fort. This being pre-Civil War days, that “peculiar institution” had yet to be abolished. Lewis Garrard, another visitor to the fort noted Charlotte as “the glib-tongued sable Fort cook” and a “culinary divinity.” She was also reportedly the “belle of the ball” during Fort fandangos.

Charlotte and Dick were last known to be traveling back east on the Santa Fe Trail later in 1847, as reported by Garrard, having been set free due to “the valor evinced by the latter, Dick, at the Pueblo de Taos.” That was the fight to put down the Taos Revolt in which the first American governor of New Mexico, Charles Bent was killed.

Charlotte and Dick were last known to be traveling back east on the Santa Fe Trail later in 1847

Following find a couple of recipes that would have been at home in Charlotte’s kitchen, courtesy of Sam’l P. Arnold, founder of the famous Morrison restaurant, The Fort, in his book “Eating up the Santa Fe Trail.”

Pumpkin Pie

1 ½ cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon
2 eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree (cooked fresh pumpkin, beaten or from canned)
1 ¼ cups milk

Tipi at Bent's Old Fort

Mix dry ingredients together, then fold in eggs with whisk. Add pumpkin and whisk well. Add the milk and mix in. Pour into a 10-inch pie shell and bake (at 350 degrees) for 1 hour and 25 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Slap Jacks

Take and scald a quart of Indian meal (a.k.a. cornmeal as would be used in grits or cornbread) in milk if you have it – water will do.  Turn it out and stir in a half-pint of yeast (a package of dry yeast in a cup of warm water), and a little salt. Fry them, when light, in just sufficient fat to keep them from sticking to the frying pan. Another nice way: turn a quart of boiling mile or water into a pint of Indian meal, stir in three tablespoonsful of flour, three eggs, and two teaspoons of salt.

The kitchen at the reconstructed Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site. Here is where Charlotte practiced her divine culinary skills. Some of the hearthstones are original to the site, the very same that Charlotte herself walked across.

“Eating up the Santa Fe Trail” by Sam’l P. Arnold, famed restauranteur of The Fort in Morrison, Colorado.  Besides great recipes from the days of the Santa Fe Trail, this book shares stories and history that bring trail days to life.

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