In 1804 one of the greatest expeditions in history departed St. Louis to explore the United States newly acquired Louisiana territory. The Lewis and Clark Expedition was one of the most famous camping trips of all time. The cast iron Dutch oven would certainly be one of the choice cooking vessels of the expedition, or would it?
When I wrote the first edition of my book, The Complete Book Of Dutch Oven Cooking, the two year bicentennial celebration of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was about to begin. There was much written, and promoted, about this grand adventure, not the least of which was the cast iron Dutch ovens they used to cook for the men on the expedition. Like many writers, in the past I have written that the Dutch oven was carried by Lewis and Clark on their trip. Did I know it for sure or did I trust another writer? I trusted another modern writer. But as I was researching my book I wanted to write about their Dutch ovens based on solid historical facts.
I began my research by reading the published journals of the expedition written by Lewis. There was no mention of cast iron Dutch ovens, only brass kettles. Disappointed, I next read the published journal kept by expedition member Patrick Gass, and again no mention of Dutch ovens. Could it be that the Dutch oven didn’t make the trip and over the years all of us who have written the use of the Dutch oven on the expedition were wrong?