Foodways Goes to Canada

Last June, I traveled to Calgary in Alberta, Canada, to take part in the 2014 Association of Living History Farms and  Agricultural Museums annual workshop.

I was asked to be a presenter at one session, where I shared  the story of researching and developing an interpretive plan for the James Anderson Armory Kitchen.

ALFAM_Melissa_BlankFor interpreters, the need for historical research is the first step in a lengthy process of developing a storyline for explaining the site to visitors. The snippets of information that are uncovered through historical research must be analyzed, viewed from different viewpoints and then placed in a timeline to help the overall story to unfold.

This can often be a daunting task for historic sites — and it can sometimes even be  abandoned for fear of being “too much trouble.”

My session to provided a working guideline …

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Posted: December 4th, 2014 in Uncategorized, Updates

Colonial Condiments

Historic Foodways is always looking for new ways to bring the taste of the past to the present. To this end, we have teamed up with our products and restaurants to create a line of historically inspired condiments.

Now we can taste some of the early versions of catsup and mustard for ourselves.Condiments1

Let me introduce an old way to spice up your meal.

Some background on the products:

Old_Stitch1Mustard was very popular in 18th-century England and her colonies. It was used as whole seeds or even ground into a powder they called flour of mustard.

Many chocolate makers used their mills in the off season to grind mustard. The powder was often rolled into balls and sold to be mixed up with water, wine or in this case old stitch beer to form a paste.catsup

  • The term catsup seems
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Posted: November 26th, 2014 in Condiment, Updates | 1 comment

Confectionary and Sugar Work Course with Ivan Day

I traveled to England during the month of October to take a Confectionary and Sugar course taught by noted historic foodways authority Ivan Day.

Mr. Day is a published author of several books on Historic Foodways and he’s lectured and led seminars throughout Europe and the United States. He’s also seen regularly on television and was our key note speaker at the first Foodways symposium in November 2010.

During the intensive weekend course, we learned so much, including:

  • How to make a variety of edible glues and sizing
  • How to guild using beaten gold sheets
  • Making and molding gingerbread and marzipan
  • Making wafers using his 19th-century cast iron stove
  • Learning to use a cot to make satin comfits
  • Making little candies, such as Kissing Comfits, from flavored sugar plate
  • Making silver web (fine strings of sugar) which we
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Posted: November 26th, 2014 in Dessert, Updates

Blown Almonds

Gently baked almonds, dipped first in egg white and drenched with sugar, make a simple dessert.

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Posted: October 31st, 2014 in Dessert, Uncategorized, Updates

Beer for Breakfast

As people who work outside and next to a fire, we here in historic foodways are happy to see the beginning signs of fall. Fall means a break from the heat and the resumption of some of the activities that we can’t do properly in high heat like brewing and chocolate making.

We will address the chocolate in a future post so here I would like to talk about beer.18-Century Beer

Beer and ale were one of the most loved beverages of 18th-century England and her colonies.

In a world without sodas and energy drinks and all the other beverages we take for granted today, beer served an important role in the beverages of the time. It was the most affordable man-made beverage , and was considered healthy and nutritious. Many Englishmen got a large proportion of their daily calories from …

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Posted: September 16th, 2014 in Beverage, Uncategorized, Updates | 4 comments

To Bake or Fry Mushrooms in Paste

Mushrooms made in this manner can be served in a variety of ways.

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Posted: August 26th, 2014 in Side dish, Uncategorized, Updates, Vegetables | 5 comments

Focusing on Food: Conference in Canada offers shared knowledge

By Kimberly Costa

The Historic Foodways staff is not known for letting grass grow under our feet. We are continually researching foodways and related subject matter. This research often leads to the creation of new programs, educational opportunities and training, working with vendors and hosting symposiums here at Colonial Williamsburg.

Staff members get the opportunity to participate, both as attendees and presenters, at a variety of conferences and symposiums. This year Melissa Blank and I attended the annual ALHFAM conference as representatives of both Historic Foodways and Colonial Williamsburg. We were two of seven members from Historic Trades who attended the conference in Calgary in the province of Alberta, Canada.

ALHFAM, (the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums) is an international organization serving the interests and needs of its individual and institutional members and supporting experiential interpretations …

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Posted: August 25th, 2014 in Updates

Meet our interns

Here in Colonial Foodways, we feel overjoyed and fortunate to have three new interns with us this summer.

All three are examining aspects of the social history of 18th-century Virginia foodways, concentrating on how food procurement, preparation and fashion have intersected with politics, class and gender. Each comes with a unique set of interests, experiences and training — which will only enrich our program as they develop their own particular historical-knowledge base and culinary repertoires.

Tiffany Fisk-Watts has been studying and interpreting colonial foodways for the past 15 years, focusing on the Eastern Pennsylvania region. In addition, she earned her MA in history with concentrations in colonial and public history, and works as a curatorial, archival and nonprofit management consultant. In addition to hearth-cooking and
consulting, Tiffany enjoys reading, gardening, and maintaining a list of answers to the question: “Aren’t …

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Posted: July 28th, 2014 in Updates | 1 comment

Beets Dressed With Garlic

Beets are a versatile root vegetable. These are simmered in sauce, along with scallions and garlic, for a tender side dish.

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Posted: July 21st, 2014 in Updates, Vegetables | 2 comments

To Butcher a Cow

Beef_Butchering_Ax

We’re moving on in our series on preserving meats — this time to beef.

There are some important differences in this process compared to pork but both start with the butchering of the animals with axes.

Big Cuts with Interesting Names

We know that colonial butchers always used axes.Beef_Butchering_Cuts

Ax marks were found on the bones our archeologists have recovered throughout the historic area.

We also know from the bones and the butchering charts of the period that 18th-century beef cuts were much larger than the modern ones.

They also had some interesting names like mouse buttock and leg of mutton.
Beef_Butchering_Salt

The reason there different processes in curing beef and pork is primarily because of the molecular structures of the tissues.

But both processes start the same way: Raw meat is packed with a mixture of salt, a little brown …

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Posted: July 3rd, 2014 in Meat, Updates | 11 comments