I’m a history geek. I admit it. I just can’t seem to help myself. So when my husband and I stumbled upon a museum that had recreated an entire town, we couldn’t resist. Actually, I couldn’t resist – and my husband is a really patient man.
Museum of the Mountain West, outside of Montrose, Colorado is definitely a perfect place for geeks like me. And the proprietor was more than happy on that blustery, snowy day to give us a guided tour. (Yes, possibly because we were the only ones crazy enough to be out in a snowstorm. We had the place to ourselves.)
Click here to visit their website. www.mountainwestmuseum.com
While I was wandering through one of the immaculately restored buildings, I stumbled upon a collection of tin cans that once held various types of food. One of the most popular? Canned mutton. Just the sound of it made me shiver. Eeew.
But, my modern prejudices aside, it was an extremely popular item with many miners, homesteaders and other early residents of western Colorado. Canned mutton was inexpensive, traveled well, could be heated over a camp fire, and provided much needed protein. But… even with all of those virtues, it was an acquired taste with a very strong odor, and a taste to match.
Thanks to Charles, Prince of Wales, mutton in making a comeback. He touts it as his favorite dish and has even organized a Mutton Renaissance Campaign to encourage Britons to eat more mutton. As admirable as this is, I’ll bet Prince Charles doesn’t eat his mutton from a can.
Canned mutton actually makes two appearances in my book. Neither of the characters in my book who ate it liked it. But they did eat the stuff. Cold mountain weather and lack of resources will do that to a person. My culinary experiences with mutton are limited to the occasional roasted lamb at Passover. Somehow, I suspect that’s not a fair comparison. Have I ever tried canned sheep meat? Nope. Do I plan on trying it? Nope. I live vicariously through those people I make up in my head. (That’s what fiction writers do. We populate our lives with imaginary people, who do things that we, the writer, may not ever really do.) And they said not to eat the canned mutton.
So, here’s to the stalwart men and women who left behind their empty tin cans and untold stories. They endured harsh Colorado mountain weather, lack of resources, and hardships I can only imagine. I salute you. But the mutton? I’ll leave it for you.