On a wilderness horse trip, food - its quality and quantity - could make the difference between client satisfaction or near starvation. Mountain guides and outfitters developed an instinctual sense of what food to take, how much and in what proportion to other necessities. All food, shelter, clothing and equipment had to be carried in pack boxes and bundles by sure-footed horses, into the remote high country of the mountain west.

Dora cooking in McKnight Camp, 1933
Dora cooking in McKnight Camp, 1933
Bert Riggall photograph, (V26)

There, game and fish could not always be counted on. Too much food became a burden, too little a crisis. Creative and ample cooking could make the cook the most admired member of a backcountry outfit. Carefully constructed "grub lists" from the Riggall Family fonds document the process of ensuring that guests, guides, camp workers and wranglers were all well fed.

Grub List 1914
Grub List 1914

Starting in 1909, over a forty-seven year period, Bert Riggall (1884-1959) and Dora Riggall (1877-1951), chief guide and camp cook, respectively, of Twin Butte, Alberta, developed legendary camp cookery while on backcountry trips. Some of their clients were the rich and famous of America's industrial empires, accustomed to the finest city cuisine. Despite their refined tastes, these visitors came back year after year to enjoy the Riggalls' extraordinary hunting, fishing and photography trips through Waterton Lakes and Upper Oldman River areas. Hearty meals were a key ingredient in the Riggalls' reputation.

Dora, assisted by the Riggalls' daughters Kay (1909-1984) and Babe (1910-1999), prepared camp meals for large trip parties, someyimes for as long as four weeks. Bert developed itemized "grub lists" which were constantly refined. Bert and Dora Riggall used the "man / month" unit to calculate the number of pounds of each food item required per person over the duration of a trip. Beyond calculating quantities, these lists were important to determine the financial viability of each venture. The carefully recorded lists form part of the Bert Riggall fonds. They appear in Bert's pocket notebooks and also comprise over fifty individual documents dating from 1913 to 1946. In one list, Bert even calculated the caloric value of specific volumes of foodstuffs compared to a man's daily caloric requirement.

Grub List 1918
Grub List 1918
Grub List 1945
Grub List 1945

"Grub lists" are rare; most cooks must have relied on memory or good luck. The "grub list" tradition continued when Kay (Riggall) Russell and Andy Russell took over the Riggall's guiding business and pack train. The Russell's continued taking parties into the backcountry on the continental divide until 1960. After that year, they guided only private trips. "Grub lists" by Kay Russell are found in the Bert Riggall fonds and the Kay Russell fonds. The latter is currently being processed at the Archives and Library, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. Good grub depended on good planning and good record keeping!