If you go back in time, you’ll notice right away that the food is different.
For proof, check out “Joanne Dean’s Historical San Bernardino Cookbook,” available at the San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands.
Dean, a longtime Inland Empire resident and former member of the board of directors of the San Bernardino County Museum Association, spent decades collecting generations-old recipes from local families of Spanish, Mexican, American Indian and European descent.
Her book offers a time-travel ticket back to pioneer days. Remember, you’ll be hungry when you get there.
Here are a few sample recipes. Don’t let uncommon ingredients, such as acorn meal and juniper berries, deter you. These usually can be found at some health food stores, Asian markets, or online sources.
MESQUITE BEAN CAKES
Mesquite is a common tree of the deserts of California, and its beans come in hard, pea-like pods. For use in this recipe, the beans must be dried. Grind the dried beans stone-on-stone, using a mortar-and-pestle, or in an electric blender or food processor. (Expect a loud clattering, since the beans are very hard.) Sift the resulting flour to remove hulls and debris. Mix with enough water to make a stiff dough. Cut into little cakes and sun-bake or oven-bake until very dry. Eat with coffee or milk.
Grind two tablespoons of juniper berries into a fine flour and mix with one cup of acorn flour. Add enough water, about one cup, to make a suitable dough, then mold into small round cakes, about three inches in diameter and half an inch thick. Cook on an ungreased skillet over moderate heat or in the oven for about 20 minutes, until browned.
For this recipe, use date flour or pitted whole dates that have been thoroughly dried in an oven. Grind one cup of dried dates stone-on-stone, using a mortar-and-pestle, or in a food processor. Boil three cups of water and slowly add the date flour and one cup of acorn flour. Stir until thickened, then serve.
SEALED AND ROASTED RABBIT
Encase completely one rabbit, skinned and cleaned, in clean clay or dense bread dough. Place in a pan lined with aluminum and bake in a 350-degree oven for 1-2 hours, depending on the size of the animal. When done, crack and remove clay or dough shell, and serve the meat.
BAKED CACTUS FRUIT
Traditionally, the fruits of the pricklypear cactus were stripped of their spines, then baked for 12 hours or longer in a pit oven. In the modern kitchen, wrap the trimmed fruits in aluminum foil and bake at 250 degrees for three hours. The result is soft, delicately flavored fruit.