OMG… Did the Bread Taste Like Cow Manure?

Canva EVALINE's FIDDLE Kindle Cover March 2016Believe it or not, Mid-Western Pioneers made cute little houses out of chunks of grass. They were so proud of their new homes, they put flowers in the window sill, happy to have a house. Even if it was made out of dirt.

Once the pioneers had a home, they built kitchens and the women went to work cooking and baking. There were no trees on the prairie, (if they’d had trees, they’d have built their homes out of wood, obviously) so they had to burn cow manure to keep warm and to cook with. Cow manure lies in the field saucer-shaped, and when it dries, it burns well (not speaking from experience, just what I read). They called them “cow pies” and the name still sticks today.

Years ago, before our rural home had electricity, I had a large wood-burning, cast iron cook stove. It had burners on the top and an oven below. It was cute as can be but I tired of going back and forth outside for kindling to keep the fire going and the black that got all over the pots and pans made it to my face and clothes. Pretty is as pretty does.

Imagine though, going back and forth outside to retrieve cow manure to cook and bake. Pretty gross. But people did what they had to do to make a new life for themselves and hey, who doesn’t have to take a little s*#t now and then to get ahead? The story coming out of the era is a bit more telling. At first, the women kept washing their hands after they handled the cow pies, but eventually, they quit being queasy about it and quit washing their hands. They’d pick up the cow pie, throw it into the fire and without washing their hands, go back to kneading their dough. Thank goodness the fire was hot and killed the funky microbes and parasite eggs that were surely embedded in the cow pies. Oh… the good old days.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the Early American love story, Evaline’s Fiddle. Available here:




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