Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs, the daughter of the late, great historian and biographer Stephen Ambrose, is the author of “The Lewis and Clark Companion,” among other things, and imparted an amazing fact the other day on a BookTV appearance. It was amazing to me, at any rate, and you probably will find it so, as well. Here it is: The men on the Lewis and Clark Expedition had to spend a lot of time hunting because they consumed an average of nine pounds of meat each per day.
Yes, Nine pounds. If that seems like a lot to you, it seemed a lot to the person who was interviewing Tubbs.
“How can that be?” the interviewer exclaimed.
First, Tubbs assured the interviewer the assertion was correct. It was verified in several documents. And, Tubbs said, these men worked very hard. We wouldn’t eat that much, she said, because we don’t pull overloaded riverboats upstream for miles a day. We don’t make and break camp every 24 hours. We don’t cut wood or hike long distances over mountain trails to hunt and scout. We don’t have to carry game back to camp, cut it up and cook it.
Whew. Nine pounds of meat a day might have been short rations, given the circumstances. Did they get fat?
“They weren’t overweight,” she told the BookTV interviewer. “They were young, athletic men, outdoorsmen, who were chosen for their ability to endure the rigors of the trip. They just needed a lot of calories.”
According to the USDA, one pound of raw venison averages about 550 calories. The same probably would be true for most wild game. Therefore, estimating nine pounds a day, at 550 calories, we’re looking at 4,950 calories, more than 2 1/2 times what the average adult should be eating today.
But then compared to the men on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, we are namby-pambies: drivers of cars, watchers of BookTV, punchers of computer keys. We are eaters of vegetables, not venison.
Those adventurers were lucky they didn’t have to consume 4,950 calories a day in broccoli.