Letter From Home

(Ink illustration by Buck O’Donnell in 1967; public display, World Museum of Mining, Butte, Montana, USA)

Butte’s diverse population brought with them a cornucopia of cuisines from all over the world. The Cornish, Welsh, Irish, Finns, Serbs, Swedes, Norwegians, Chinese, Canadians, Scotch, Italians, Poles, Australians, Mexicans, and Chileans all shared their ethnic foods creating a dining experience like those found in cosmopolitan cities.

The Irish and the Cornish with the highest population of immigrants had the biggest influence on the meals being prepared.

  Mamie was an accomplished chef and cooked a variety of ethnic dishes including hams, pork, beef, mutton, chickens, turkeys, venison, fish, geese, and ducks. Her love, joy and specialty were making Cornish Pasties. And she baked them once a week.

With an artisan’s flair she would dice, never slice, the potatoes into cubes. Then half the number of firm onions were diced, and the same number of tenderloins were diced to the size of the third joint of her little finger. And all were combined into a pie crust dough.

Then crimping the edges, she carefully placed the large quantity of servings into the oven. Always vigilant not to let them get soggy, with love and prayers, she would bake them until they turned a glowing, golden brown. The smell permeated the house lingering for hours.

Arthur loved the pasties and when Mamie baked them, she would make a large quantity so there would be plenty left over for him to take to work and eat at lunch. When a miner opened his lunch pail and a pastie was inside it was called a “letter from home.” Arthur received lots of mail from home.

Every Friday, Mamie would spend hours in the kitchen preparing for her dinner party. She was famous for her signature dishes, including the savory pasties with her secret recipe brown gravy, mouthwatering yellow Cornish saffron bread with raisins, and her corned beef and cabbage. She would pick the cabbage from their garden that Arthur had spent time cultivating even winning an award for the best cabbage in town.

 To accompany the main courses, she would also serve a variety of side dishes such as vegetables, cheese, pickles, sliced beets, radishes, and tiny green onions. For dessert, guests could indulge in her delicious apple pie and fudge, which the boys were always eyeing. And for a special treat, Mamie would also prepare candies for everyone to enjoy.

Arthur, who loved to entertain at home, found great joy in hosting dinner parties. Not only did his guests rave about Mamie’s cooking, but Arthur also saw it as a valuable opportunity to socialize with the men he was working with.

 He believed that building strong relationships through these gatherings was crucial to his business’s success. And so, every Friday night, the family’s home would be filled with laughter, good food, and great company, much to the delight of both Arthur and Mamie.

Arthur utilized social gatherings as opportunities to expand his understanding of managing a business. Despite never owning a company before and lacking prior business experience, he was determined to start his own venture.

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