Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hearts West Meets Frontier Fare

Meet Chris Enss, author of Hearts West 
I was still caught up in the excitement of exploring Wild West book offerings at the Tucson Book Festival when I met author Chris Enss. She was selling her books right around the corner from Sherry Monahan, author of "Frontier Fare". 

Chris Enss is a New York Times Best Selling author, a scriptwriter and comedienne who has written for television and film, and performed on cruise ships and on stage. She has worked with award-winning musicians, writers, directors, producers, and as a screenwriter for Tricor Entertainment, but her passion lies in telling the stories of the men and women who shaped the history and mythology of the American West.

"I'm inspired to dig into the personal lives of the westbound folks I find ordinary because their drive to settle in a new land was so compelling. Whether they were actresses, teachers, hopeful gold miners or journalists, they wanted to go west and struggled to get there."
Follow this link for a more in depth interview by Candy Moulton from Historynet.com (Oct. 2. 2012) with Chris Ensshttp://www.historynet.com/interview-with-author-comedienne-chris-enss.htm#sthash.qJIzrrbP.dpuf
Enss's feature story "What History Taught Me" was published in the March 30, 2010 issue of "True West" I liked her straight-forward no nonsense answer 
"What history has taught me is once you get past the heroics, the people who blazed a trail across the frontier were no different than people today. They wanted better for their families, struggled economically and fought hard for a better way of life."
Enss has written more than 20 books on the subject of women in the Old West, and has collaborated with producer Howard Kazanjian on four books, including two about Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Her list of published books is impressive. Check her  blogsite http://chrisenss.com/c/books/

When you explore Enss's  very creative website be sure to click on author button for photos of the author dressed in period costumes. She lives and breathes the Wild West past. 
Most extraordinary and compelling to read in this book were the stories of mail order brides who came west for a better life. Many found their soul mates while others found themselves in desperate situations. Complete with actual advertisements from both women seeking husbands and males seeking brides, New York Times bestselling book ''Hearts West" includes twelve stories of courageous mail order brides and their exploits. Some were fortunate enough to marry good men and live happily ever after; still others found themselves in desperate situations that robbed them of their youth and sometimes their lives.
When all those men wound up on the frontier working gold claims, building businesses, and starting farms and ranches, the one thing that was in very short supply was women. It wasn't long until weekly newspapers like the Matrimonial News began circulation in an attempt to match men and women in marital bliss.
The Matrimonial News, a San Francisco match making newspaper, was dedicated to promoting honorable matrimonial engagements through personal advertisements. It seemed to me this newspaper was the forerunner of all the matchmaking/computer dating services we have today. Candidates were screened and ads were numbered for publication. 
I should think this woman would get a quick response
I am a lonely, unencumbered widow;age 48; weight 165;height, 3 feet 6 inches; big blue eyes; brown hair; fair complexion; American; religion, Methodist. I have property worth $30, 000. A sunny disposition; considered very good looking. Would like to hear from some good business man. Object, matrimony.
page 96 "Hearts West"    
Enss tells the reader that it was estimated in the three decades (1870's, '80s '90s) the paper was in existence, more than 2,600 couples who advertised with the newspaper corresponded, exchanged photos and eventually married. 
The book is a quick read at 108 pages and gives a lens into a fascinating piece of history. The book will whet your appetite to seek out  more information on mail order brides. The National Archive Department in Washington believes that mail-order brides produced a high percentage of permanent marriages. Advertisements placed in papers were candid and direct in their explanation of exactly what they wanted and expected from a prospective  spouse. 
Now here is where "Hearts West" meets "Frontier Fare."
The last chapter of "Frontier Fare" Holidays and Celebrations in the West features Weddings on the Frontier. Often mail order brides stepped off the train or stagecoach and were immediately hustled down the street to a justice of peace to get married. The ceremonies were quiet affairs with small if any receptions. But some mail order brides found housing and took time to get to know their suitor before the wedding, which often took place in a home followed by a dinner. According to Monahan, chicken frequently appeared on the wedding menu. She posted a recipe for chicken salad adapted from Omaha, Nebraska's World Herald July 1, 1895. 
Cook's notes: Since I did not have all the necessary ingredients to make homemade mayonnaise I substituted store bought mayonnaise. Two chopped hard boiled eggs, a bit of fresh parsley, dill and mustard were my additions.
Chicken Salad-serves 2
2 cups cooked chicken, cut or torn into bite size pieces
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 -1/2 cup mayonnaise
lettuce leaves
capers, optional for garnish
Combine chicken, celery and mayonnaise in a bowl.  Place a scoop of chicken salad on a lettuce leaf and garnish with a few capers.  
Homemade Mayonnaise
1 hard boiled egg yolk
1 raw egg yolk
1/2 tsp. salt
dash cayenne pepper
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1.2 tsp. yellow mustard
1-1/2 tsp. lemon juice
2 cups oil
Combine the eggs in a bowl and whip well. Add salt, pepper, vinegar,  mustard and lemon juice. Slowly add the oil, drop by drop, while whipping the entire time. Do this until all the oil is gone and you have a smooth, creamy mayonnaise.  


  1. I love Chris Enns! She is a spark of life, sharing the west with unending energy, insightfulness and grace!

  2. I agree with Kristin and I appreciate being mentioned in the same blog with my good friend Chris Enss.