Category : Uncategorized

Why Mary Randolph?

Posted on: May 29th, 2015

Virginia_HousewifeVisitors to our kitchens frequently ask where the Historic Foodways staff find our recipes.

Our staff has at its disposal well over 140 cookery books, as well as a large collection of hand-written receipt books, and hundreds of secondary source books on all aspects of foodways.

Since many of the primary cookbooks were printed year after year, we will often have every edition published. As new sources are found, they are incorporated into our collection. So, with such a plentiful quantity of primary information, why would be use “The Virginia House-wife,” by Mary Randolph, which was published in 1824? The Foodways staff uses the first edition of the cookbook here.

There are several reasons.

Mary Randolph was 62-years-old when she wrote “The Virginia House-wife.” Her work was based upon a solid foundation of cookery learned as younger woman, during the …

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Puff Pastry 101

Posted on: May 15th, 2015

Lots of 18th century recipes involve placing sweet or savory foodstuff into pastry — or a paste. Today we would call these crusts, or pie crusts.

Most modern cooks use one or two different crusts on a regular basis. Not so in the 18th century. The variety is vast and eclectic — cold, hot, puff, potato, crackling, good, dripping, standing, for custard, for tarts, light, crisp, for covers, for baskets … and the list goes on.

In this post, we’ll learn  to make one of the most feared of all — The Puff Paste.

Today, most people will give up before they even attempt puff pastry because of the myriad of steps, cooling and number of hours it takes to prepare a light, airy and crisp product.

But it does not have to be that difficult.

By following …

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A Chocolate Kitchen Mystery

Posted on: April 17th, 2015

On Wednesday, March 18, Royal Food Historian Marc Meltonville presented a fascinating lecture, The Rediscovery of a Royal Chocolate Kitchen, at the Hennage auditorium.

Royal Food Historian Marc Meltonville

Royal Food Historian Marc Meltonville

Marc said the occasionally during his 20-year stint as chief food historian for all of the Royal Palaces, employees would stop him and say: “You know there is a chocolate kitchen.” When he asked where it was, they would answer:  “Over there somewhere,” waving their hand toward a corner of the William and Mary addition to Hampton Court Palace.

An intern named Polly eventually solved the mystery by going through old records. She found a list of rooms around the courtyard, all numbered — and one of them was the chocolate kitchen.

Found at last, the room was being used as a closet for floral arrangements.

Once the room was …

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A Beverage Called Flip

Posted on: March 27th, 2015

What’s a flip? A few eggs, a little cream, some beer and spices – all mixed together using a method that may surprise you.

Frank Clark of Historic Foodways demonstrates.

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Des Beignets de Gelee de Grosseilles (Fritters of Currant Jam)

Posted on: March 6th, 2015

These pockets of pastry filled with currant jam are delectable, whether you purchase puff pastry or make your own. But be careful when biting into a hot beignet. The jam inside will be very hot!

18th Century

“Of these there are several sorts; but the favorites of Mr. Clouet were one of the pastry sort, and the other I’ll shew in my next. Provide a nice rich paste, and roll out very thin; brush it all over with egg, and lay your jelly down in little lumps as many as you want for a little dish; prepare another sheet of paste and lay it over, pressing well between that it may not come out in frying; make your lard pretty hot, and dry of a fine yellowish colour, and dish them up with some fine sugar sifted over.”

—William …

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To Make Fairy Butter

Posted on: January 13th, 2015

This fragrant dish is often used on pancakes and scones or as a dessert sauce on gingerbread.


18th Century

“Take the yolks of two hard eggs in a mortar with a large spoonful of orange flower water, and two tea spoonfuls of fine sugar beat to a powder; beat all together till it is a fine paste then mix it up with about as much fresh butter out of the churn and force it through a fine strainer full of little holes into a plate. This is a pretty thing to set of a table at supper.”

—The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy

21st Century

  • ½ pound butter
  • 2 hard-boiled egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp orange flower water
  • 2 tsp sugar
  1. Put your eggs until hard; let cool and peel them. Remove yolks.
  2. Put the yolks in
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Foodways Goes to Canada

Posted on: December 4th, 2014

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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Blown Almonds

Posted on: October 31st, 2014

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

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Beer for Breakfast

Posted on: September 16th, 2014

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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To Bake or Fry Mushrooms in Paste

Posted on: August 26th, 2014

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

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