How to Eat Like a 19th Century Colorado Gold-Miner (Atlas Obscura – June 3, 2022)

A confluence of cross-cultural foodways fed a series of Colorado’s mining booms, and can still be tasted across the state today.

In 1857, newspapers from Texas to Maine resounded with breaking news from the Mountain West: the Rocky Mountains boasted “immense quantities…[of] gold, silver, and precious stones,” read the New York Herald. There was gold and silver to be won, and prospectors with dreams of striking it rich headed west.

Dozens of ”boom-towns” sprang forth almost overnight to accommodate the Gold Rush of 1858 and the Silver Boom of 1879. These mining towns developed their own distinct culture, with rules (often broken), customs (sometimes violent), and an aesthetic still visible in much of the state’s historic architecture.

Between Western movies and regional iconography, the Old West looms large in U.S. culture, but between all the hammer-swinging, gun-toting, and hooch-swilling, one has to wonder: what did these miners eat? As it turns out, the confluence of indigenous and immigrant food cultures that converged on these mining towns not only sustained the burgeoning industry but went on to transform the region’s food culture in ways that are still evident—and edible—today.

Dr. Michael Welsh, a professor of history at the University of Northern Colorado, says utility was at the core of Colorado’s 19th century mining cuisine. “You needed a high starch, high protein diet for generating energy.”

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