Washington Irving wrote of eating beignets fried in bear fat in A Tour on the Prairies, a memoir of his adventures in the wilderness of America in 1832. An outstanding example of a classic food being adapted to locally available ingredients, don’t you think? Bet they were darn good, too.
It’s safe to assume that classic fritter-type beignets arrived with the earliest of the French colonists, though just how far back beignets go in France is hard to say. The earliest mentions of doughnut-style beignets in New Orleans date to around 1900, though again, it’s probably safe to assume that beignets were being enjoyed all around New France well before that time.
You know, I think it was Jared Diamond who, in his book Guns Germs and Steel, discussed bears as a food source. As I recall he published a table that showed that bears compare favorably to pigs in terms of the pounds of meat they return relative to what they’re fed. I always thought it was a very provocative idea, and made me wonder what large-scale bear farming might look like. It certainly would introduce a very interesting who-gets-to-eat-who dynamic into the animal husbandry business.
Thanks as always to Jim C. for his historical sleuthing.