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Frontier Fare: Recipes and Lore from the Old West, by Sherry Monahan, TwoDot, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield, Guilford, Conn., and Helena, Mont., 2014, $18.95

Readers and eaters—and what readers aren’t?—might be tempted to sink their teeth into this colorfully illustrated book, especially P. 50 (homemade donuts from 1894 recipes), P. 66 (railroad cake, from recipes as early as the 1880s), P. 74 (stewed potatoes á la bonne bouche, from an 1889 recipe), P. 125 (biscuits, from an 1855 recipe), P. 149 (huckleberry shortcake, from an 1891 recipe), P. 174 (oyster omelet, from a 1882 recipe), P. 196 (strawberry ice cream, from an 1884 recipe) and P. 211 (mountain dew pudding, from an 1899 recipe). Hey, even the fruitcake on P. 219 looks good. “Despite its bad rap today, fruitcake in the 1800s was much better than the modern version,” notes Sherry Monahan, who is the president of Western Writers of America and writes the Frontier Fare column in True West. She says fruitcake was a prize-winning entry at many state and county fairs and “one of the staples and highlights of Western Victorian Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s dinners.”

The author arranges her recipes by theme (recipes brought from the East, recipes born in the American West, recipes from around the world, and historic restaurant and hotel recipes), and they are slightly modified for modern cooking methods (but no microwaves, please). Monahan throws enough appetizing history into the mix to whet your appetite. For instance, the Bismark Tribune reported in March 1886 about the benefits of wholesome brown bread over refined white bread and noted that the children living in Indian Territory were very healthy because they had wheat in their diets. The Tribune contended that hair contained sulfur, and that one’s hair would suffer if one did not eat food with sulfur. Former Indian commissioner G.P. Smith, the paper added, “never saw a baldheaded Indian, and the physicians account for this by the fact that the Indians eat wheat.”

Westerners, Monahan says, began serving turkey for Thanksgiving shortly after Abraham Lincoln announced the holiday in 1863. An Englishman visited a mining camp at Christmas during the Calfornia Gold Rush and found bear meat, apple pies and plum pudding on the menu. Clearly it wasn’t all chuck wagon grub on the Western frontier.