Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Salt from Ashes.

Today I want to bring to you some useful insights from a marvellous book called The Art of Travel: or Shifts and Contrivances available in Wild Countries (London, 1872), by Sir Frederick Galton. Should you ever need to know how to take a strong man prisoner singlehanded, how to make your own lint (for wound dressings), or how to deal with the continual braying of one of your asses, then this is the book for you.

Naturally, we are going to focus on the suggestions given about the provision of food for travellers in such wild places (which, I am delighted to advise, include Australia.) The relevant chapter begins:

Food Suitable for the Stores of Travellers. - The most portable kind of food is, unquestionably, the flesh of cattle; for the beasts carry themselves. The draught oxen used in African and Australian explorations serve as a last resource, when all other food is wanting.
It has been truly remarked with reference to Australian exploring expeditions, that if an exploring party would make up their minds to eat horseflesh, stores of provisions might be largely dispensed with. A few extra horses could be taken; and one shot occasionally, and its flesh dried and slightly salted, sufficiently to preserve it from becoming tainted before the men could consume it.
Portable Food. - The kinds of food that are the most portable in the ordinary sense of the term are:-Pemmican; meat-biscuit; fried meat; dried fish; wheat flour; biscuit; oatmeal; barley; peas; cheese; sugar; preserved potatoes; and Chollet's compressed vegetables. Extract of meat, as I am assured by the highest physiological authors, is not a portable food but a portable savour. It is quite impossible that life should be maintained on any minute amount of material, because so many grains of carbon and so many of nitrogen are daily consumed, and an equivalent weight of those elements must, of course, be replaced. Salt meat is not to be depended upon, for it is liable to become hard and worthless, by long keeping.

The author goes on to note that, if one is living off the land, then the flesh of no beasts (and few fish) is poisonous, but many plant foods are. He has some interesting comments on the importance of salt, and gives a method of making it which will serve as our recipe for the day.

Salt.-The craving for salt (chloride of sodium) is somewhat satisfied by the potash salts, and, perhaps, by other minerals: thus we often hear of people reduced to the mixing of gun-powder with their food, on account of the saltpetre that it contains. An impure salt is made widely in North Africa, from wood-ashes. They are put into a pot, hot water is poured over them and allowed to stand and dissolve out the salts they contain; the ley is then decanted into another pot, where it is evaporated. The plants in use are those of which the wetted ashes have a saline and not an alkaline taste, nor a soapy feel.

I plan to give you more insights from this author tomorrow, for he has much to share, and there are still wild places to travel in the world.

Quotation for the Day.

Don’t slaughter more pigs than you can salt.
French Proverb

1 comment:

Shay said...

The book is available as a free download (rather large) at Google Books. Can't wait to read it.