As It Was: Cook Prepares Sourdough Starter for Bicentennial Wagon Train

Aug 27, 2018

How does a cook separated from his kitchen feed 40 hungry people while traveling in the mountains in a covered wagon train?

That was Ken Zimmerlee’s challenge in 1976 when he agreed to be the cook for the Bicentennial Wagon Train that went west from Keno, Ore., across the Cascade Mountains to Jacksonville.

Zimmerlee began planning a year in advance with a sourdough starter.  He knew the older the starter was, the better the hotcakes and biscuits would be on the trip.  He also asked hunters to donate some venison and rabbit meat, which he froze for the outing.  The stick-to-the-ribs menu was pretty much stews and breads, hot in the evening and cold for lunch.

He also collected large coffee pots and fry pans for cooking over open fires.

At the time, Zimmerlee was a furniture refinisher, but he had been a Navy cook and a chef at several restaurants responsible for preparing hundreds of meals a day.

When asked why he signed on, he said, “Fifty years from now, I can say I was on a wagon train.”

Source: "Wagon train cook plans food that sticks to the ribs." Medford Mail Tribune. This undated article is in the “Applegate Bicentennial Wagon Train” vertical file at the Southern Oregon Historical Society Research Library.