Twain would starve

If Mark Twain were alive today and had to survive off of his favorite foods of the late 1800s, he would likely starve. In 1879, while traveling in Europe, he created a “fantasy menu” of his favorite American foods. Now, many of those are either extinct or restricted from today’s dinner plates because over-hunting or habitat loss have caused their numbers to dwindle. As the first of a three-part series in the Huffington Post, writer Andrew Beahrs, author of Twain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens, described six of Twain’s favorite foods that can no longer be found on modern menus and what happened to them.

Prairie chickens. Though over-hunted, these chickens dwindled alongside the native tallgrass prairie that made up their habitat.

Passenger pigeons. Twain remembered hunting these in Missouri, but he was not a lone hunter. The pigeons, now extinct, were over-hunted and their nesting grounds destroyed.

Oysters in San Francisco. Mercury and other pollutants have made these oysters a risky snack.

Diamondback terrapin. The main ingredient in the titular soup, these turtles (pictured) were over-hunted, and they’re now attempting recovery among eroding and overdeveloped shorelines.

Lahontan cutthroat trout in Lake Tahoe. Though the Paiute Tribe keeps Pyramid Lake stocked with a smaller version of this fish—transplanted there from Sierra lakes after also being depleted at Pyramid—the over 30-pound trout at Tahoe fell victim to introduced pathogens, a commercial fishery and dammed spawning runs.

Bluepoint oysters. The genuine oysters of Blue Point, Long Island, were gone by the 1860s. Current “Bluepoint” oysters are actually a number of varieties of Eastern oysters.

Find the rest of Beahrs’ series at