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Territorial Fare! HAM Celebrates Foodways of German and Scottish Immigrants

Historic Arkansas Museum - Thursday, July 26, 2018

When Little Rock became the territorial capital of Arkansas in 1821, the city was still relatively small, with around 700 people living within its boundaries. Despite its small population, a multitude of languages and accents could be heard throughout town. After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 opened up lands west of the mighty Mississippi for permanent habitation by citizens of the United States, Arkansas had seen an influx of new inhabitants. However, migration to our Natural State did not begin in earnest until after the War of 1812, when veterans received land grants en masse.

People from the eastern portion of America began to arrive in Arkansas—the largest group coming from the state of Kentucky. Various Native American tribes from the east coast were forcibly pushed, with the local tribes, farther and farther west in Arkansas. When these new groups arrived in Arkansas, they were met by the French who had been “Arkansans” for several generations before the Louisiana Purchase, and chose to remain in the region after the transaction. Another wave of people came from Europe during the Territorial period, and Germany represented the largest group. With the building of the state capital and the new housing structures, Little Rock also saw the arrival of a small contingent of Scotts trained in masonry. And all of these groups brought groups of enslaved people with them. A large part of our Arkansas culture and cuisine came from this mix of new and old residents.

Our third dinner in the History is Served series focuses on the cuisine of Arkansas’s Territorial and early statehood period—specifically highlighting the traditional cuisines brought to early Arkansas by settlers of German and Scottish descent. The evening’s theme is inspired by two of Historic Arkansas Museum’s historical residents, Jesse Hinderliter of German descent and Scotsman Robert Brownlee.

Traditional German cuisine is meat and bread centric. Usually braised, the primary meat came from pork. Sausage making was (and still is) a long standing tradition in Germany. Germany has the largest bread diversity in the world. The words for supper and snack literally mean evening bread and bread time, respectively. While spices and seasonings vary in the region, garlic was strangely never used as it was frowned upon for causing bad breath.

Scotland has a rich cuisine since its climate, indigenous species, and seafood supplied an abundant variety of food. Before the introduction of the potato in the 16th century, barley or oats were the main carbohydrate sources for the Scots, since wheat was difficult to grow in such a damp climate. Particularly during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots (16th century), French cuisine melded with the traditional food of the Scots, and revolutionized the kitchens of the upper classes and the Scottish sweet tooth in the form of pastries. Overall, Scottish food most commonly resembles English fare.

An amalgam of peoples, like the Germans and Scots, brought with them new and exciting foodways which dovetailed well with the already established French, Spanish, and Native American fare. This westward expansion of America’s urban frontier brought about many local food traditions in Arkansas that have survived the generations.

Chef Shanna Merriweather and Capi Peck of Trio’s Restaurant are our interpreters for this evening’s fare. They have designed a menu that elevates German and Scottish-influenced Territorial Arkansas cuisine to create a fantastic feast for our guests. The evening begins in the Hinderliter Tavern and features George Bros. Historic Arkansas Ale. This ale was first created by Ian Beard, Theron Cash, and Leah Lambert of Stone’s Throw Brewing for the museum’s 75th anniversary. Drawing from their own research, and that of our Arkansas Made team, they came up with a beer inspired by Little Rock’s first brewers, German-born Alexander and Henry George. After beer and appetizers in the Hinderliter, guests will then move inside the museum for a spectacular menu featuring trout, brats, cabbage, cock-a-leekie soup, and sticky toffee pudding.