Monday, July 23, 2018

How a Chinese cook helped establish Yosemite and the National Park Service

Mathwe Mountain Party 1915
There were meals members of the Mather Mountain Party wouldn’t have believed if they hadn’t eaten them. For one breakfast in the Sierra Nevada Mountains during the summer of 1915, there was “fresh fruit, cereal, steak, potatoes, hot cakes and maple syrup, sausage, eggs, hot rolls and coffee,” Horace Albright, a member of the party, wrote in his book detailing the expedition. And for one dinner, there was “soup, trout, chops, fried potatoes, string beans, fresh bread, hot apple pie, cheese and coffee,” according to the writer Robert Sterling Yard. The meals were prepared by Tie Sing, a backcountry cook working for the United States Geological Survey. In 1915, Stephen Mather, a special assistant to the secretary of the interior, hired Sing to cook for a two-week wilderness expedition intended to convince business and cultural leaders of the importance of a national park system. Mather believed good meals were key to enjoying the outdoors. At a 1915 conference of park supervisors, he noted that while nature was a “splendid thing” when viewed by a content person,
“give him a poor breakfast after he has had a bad night's sleep, and he will not care how fine your scenery is.” Sing’s work appears to have been appreciated. Members of the party recorded his meals in their notes — including how Sing was able to put together a “fabulous dinner” despite a supply mule carrying “delicacies” like cantaloupe and fresh lemonade wandering off — and one year after the expedition, the federal government established the National Park Service. “Because of the way he made that a memorable and enjoyable experience, that contributed a substantial part toward influential people having a very positive perception of the mountains and the need for doing something to preserve the wilderness,” Eugene Moy, past president of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, said. Sing, who died in 1918 in a backcountry accident, was one of many Chinese immigrants who played key roles in the history of America’s national parks that some parks staff, historians, and outdoor enthusiasts are working to celebrate. Those roles included cooks and laundry staff at park hotels, as well as workers who cleared roads for stagecoaches.,,MORE

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