All in a Day's Work: Lumbering in New Brunswick
About 1870, 19th century
Gift of Dr. Berton A. Puddington Estate
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Keys to History
A good cook was a prize since his offerings could significantly affect the morale of the men. Until the late 19th century, the lumberman's diet was quite basic: salt pork, beans, hardtack and dried peas were all cooked over a large open log fire or cambuse in the centre of the cookhouse. The expansion of settlements closer to the camps brought fresh food to the woods, while the introduction of stoves allowed food to be prepared more quickly and in a greater variety of ways.
The cook's battery of utensils increased during the late 19th century to deal with ingredients such as flour, corned beef, white beans, China tea, sugar, raisins, fresh beef, vegetables, butter and jam. Some camps were still too remote or too poor to afford such ingredients but, generally speaking, the latter did become more available. This cast iron cooking pot had a bottom made to fit into a stove lid.
The term "cambuse" apparently evolved from the Dutch kaban huis, which was the deckhouse on sailing ships.
Usually, the larger the camp the better the food, as the owner could afford to hire a good cook. And the better the food, the happier the workers!
This cast iron pot was made about 1870. At that time, cookstoves were still a rarity in lumber camps.
The cook's assistants were called "cookees" in the East and "flunkies" on the West Coast.