Fort Niagara

Fort Niagara was a fascinating place to visit, and that’s saying a lot from me who doesn’t visit forts when we travel. However, to keep hubby and his fraternity brother happy, we visited a fort.

On the tour around the fort, we learned about the truth to the children’s rhyme:

Peas porridge hot, Peas porridge cold, Peas porridge on the pot nine days old

In fact, it’s not a children’s rhyme at all. It’s the food that the soldiers ate at Fort Niagara. The story or lore from the Fort Niagara tour guide told was that there was a large pot that simmered over a fire with peas and water which thickened into a stew called porridge. During the day it was warmed by fire (hence “hot”). The fire died down at night and in the morning it was cold (hence “cold”). The cook would keep adding ingredients to the pot for about nine days (I can’t imagine!) until it was so thick it could not be cooked any longer. The remains were then dumped out on a slab to dry and broken into chunks to eat. This will NOT be a recipe I add to my posts any time soon. 

A little history about the fort:

“The history of Old Fort Niagara spans more than 300 years. The fort was occupied by three nations: France, Great Britain, and the United States. Old Fort Niagara, located at the mouth of the Niagara River, controlled access to the Great Lakes and the westward route to the heartland of the continent.” [source: oldfortniagara.org]

“Fort Niagara is a fortification originally built by New France to protect its interests in North America, specifically control of access between the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, the easternmost of the Great Lakes. The fort is located on the eastern bank of the river at its mouth on Lake Ontario.” [source: Wikipedia]

Fort Niagara – one of the guard buildings. The ground floor stored supplies, the second floor was the sleeping quarters and the third floor was set up to spy out and shoot the enemy.

In the main building called the French Castle, we found this room. We tried to figure out of the casks were whiskey, wine, or gun powder. Since the fort had a huge building for gun powder, my guess was that it was a drink of some kind. The debate continues. 

This is the bakery that was located on the fort grounds. It was said to have been the most popular building since one of the only fresh foods the soldiers had was bread. I think the loaf on the table is about 300 years old. 

Funny story about this building. It was called the Hot Shot Battery furnace where the soldiers would heat up cannonballs, throw them to a catcher who would carry them up the fort wall to be fired at an enemy ship. The cannonballs were so hot they would set the ship on fire. They called this a “hotshot”, quite different from the term used today for a hotshot. 


And last, but not least, was the merchandise shipped in barrels referred to as the firkins, hogsheads, butts, and rundlets. What caught my eye was the different quantities a barrel could hold.  The example shows a hogshead-sized barrel that could hold 50 gallons of vinegar or 58 gallons of port wine. Is there any real choice between importing more vinegar or wine? I would think the wine would win hands down. 

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