Charbonneau's Recipe

Meriwether Lewis's recitation of Charbonneau's recipe for buffalo sausage, known as "white pudding," serves not only as documentation of a unique frontier cuisine, but also as an example of the captain's own brand of satire that places him, at least to the extent of this little example, in company with Ebenezer Cooke and Benjamin Franklin.1

Thursday, May 9, 1805
Capt C. killed 2 bucks and 2 buffaloe, I also killed one buffaloe which proved to be the best meat, it was in tolerable order; we saved the best of the meat, and from the cow I killed we saved the necessary materials for making what our wrighthand cook Charbono calls the boudin blanc, and immediately set him about preparing them for supper; this white pudding we all esteem one of the greatest delacies of the forrest, it may not be amiss therefore to give it a place.
About 6 feet of the lower extremity of the large gut of the Buffaloe is the first mo[r]sel that the cook makes love to, this he holds fast at one end with the right hand, while with the forefinger and thumb of the left he gently compresses it, and discharges what he says is not good to eat, but of which in the s[e]quel we get a moderate portion; the mustle lying underneath the shoulder blade next to the back, and fillets are next saught, these are needed up very fine with a good portion of kidney suit [suet]; to this composition is then added a just proportion of pepper and salt and a small quantity of flour; thus far advanced, our skilfull opporater C—o seizes his recepticle, which has never once touched the water, for that would intirely distroy the regular order of the whole procedure; you will not forget that the side you now see is that covered with a good coat of fat provided the anamal be in good order; the operator sceizes the recepticle I say, and tying it fast at one end turns it inwards and begins now with repeated evolutions of the hand and arm, and a brisk motion of the finger and thumb to put in what he says is bon pour manger' [ "good to eat," "tasty"] thus by stuffing and compressing he soon distends the recepticle to the utmost limmits of it's power of expansion, and in the course of its longtudinal progress it drives from the other end of the recepticle a much larger portion of the [word omitted] than was previously discharged by the fingers and thumb of the left hand in a former part of the operation; thus when the sides of the recepticle are skilfully exchanged the outer for the iner, and all is completely filled with something good to eat, it is tyed at the other end, but not any cut off, for that would make the pattern too scant; it is then baptised in the missouri with two dips and a flirt, and bobbed into the kettle; from whence after it be well boiled it is taken and fryed with bears oil untill it becomes brown, when it is ready to esswage the pangs of a keen appetite or such as travelers in the wilderness are seldom at a loss for.

1. Ebenezer Cooke (ca. 1665-ca. 1732) was an English author who landed in Maryland in 1694, and in 1708 published his poem, The Sot-Weed Factor, a satire on typically unsophisticated American colonists personified by a fictional tobacco merchant—"sot-weed" meaning tobacco, and a "factor" meaning a salesman. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was the author of a book titled Satires and Bagatelles. For example, see his satire on phoneticisms, "The Virtue of Bad Spelling."