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Emory Upton: No. 5 in What Made Genesee County Famous

By Philip Anselmo

Most folks around here ought to know the name Emory Upton compatriot of General Sherman, traveler of the world and military documenter and tactician. His patinated likeness stands tall at the monument on the city's west side where Main Street and Ellicott Street join.

Now, Upton has earned himself yet another memorial: a rank of fifth in the Holland Land Office Museum's countdown of The Twenty-Five Things That Made Genesee County Famous.

Museum Director Pat Weissend tells us: 

In 1875, Upton received orders from General William T. Sherman to leave West Point and go on a world tour to observe and study all the great armies of Asia and Europe. Upton and his group headed west by train to San Francisco, got on a boat and headed to Japan. After observing the Japanese army, they went to China, India, Persia, Turkey, Russia and finally ended up in Western Europe.  Upon his return stateside, he published the book The Armies of Asia and Europe.

Recently, The Batavian sat down with Weissend and County Clerk Don Reed at Main Street Coffee as they worked at transcribing a selection of Upton's letters. (Those letters will be edited and published once the transciption is complete.)

For more on Upton, visit the Holland Land Office Museum online.

Philip Anselmo

Gabor: I agree. I'm looking forward to the published letters that Pat and Don were working on. They read me some snippets from the letters. Upton is writing home to family about his travels throughout the world. I believe it was Pat who told me that Upton and his entourage had made a pact that they would turn nothing down during their travels, and so ended up eating some very strange foods.

Jan 12, 2009, 4:06pm Permalink
Holland Land Office Museum

There is a great letter from Shanghai where they had a 14 course meal.

For the curious, here are the 14 courses (typed exactly as it appears in the letter):

1. Tea
2. Fruits and Sweetments (lotus-seed fried; water-melon seed; green dates; prunes; apples dried in honey; English walnuts; fresh apples; pears and grapes. – This course remained on the table throughout the dinner.
3. Shrimps; Mongolia ham, boiled and served in thin slices; chicken; wine made of rice. The wine is served hot in small glasses. Each time the servant passes it, if any remains in the glasses, it is poured back into the common reservoir, and again poured back in the glasses.
4. Pickled eggs; pickled lotus-root. Skins of ducks’ feet boiled; pickled sea-weed. The eggs are buried for years in clay and salt, and undergo a species of decomposition, making them, when exhumed, resemble a dark, gelatinous substance. In Chinese cookery articles are always pickled in salt, never in vinegar.
5. Plovers’ eggs, stewed with sharks’ fins and curdled milk (delicious); duck; kidneys; sea-weed jelly, and bamboo shoots.
6. Fish-sinew soup; mushrooms and water-chestnut stew; stewed fish; tripe; stewed prawns; chicken stewed in jelly.
7. Duck smothered in jelly (delicious); jelly pate; fluid fat-meat hash.
8. Skins of ducks’ feet stew; stewed mushrooms; stewed snails. (We bound ourselves to taste every dish)
9. Fish smothered in vinegar and jelly (good)
10. Meat dumplings; onion omelette
11. Vermicelli-soup
12. Stewed chicken; vegetable soup with hashed meat balls; pork smothered in flour.
13. Rice-soup; boiled rice; bullocks’ blood thickened; salt pickles.
14. Tea and cigars

Throughout dinner Upton said, the saki, as harmless as boiled milk, flowed freely.

He doesn’t say how long the dinner took, but they started at 4:00 p.m. and “when we arose from dinner it was quite dark”

Jan 13, 2009, 1:13pm Permalink
Lori Ann Santini

Was the Mylanta and a pot readily available? I am Ukrainian so we have some interesting dishes. These however lead me to believe that I would be willing to starve first. The next question is could you go from course 1 to 14 and skip the middle?
In all fairness however, I have nevered tried the majority of these dishes therefore I should not judge. On a whole, I try not to ask what the dish consists of until after I have tried it. This way I have no predetermined opinions. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised and others not so much. I do try to foster the thought in my childrens' mind that they do have to try everything once. Cross culture introduction makes them appreciate other people and what they have at home.

Jan 13, 2009, 1:28pm Permalink
Lori Ann Santini

Never tried it but perhaps you are correct. Would the duck be insulted if it knew it tasted like a chicken? lol Next time I see it offered on a menu I will try it. Thank you.

Jan 13, 2009, 3:29pm Permalink

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