Monday, February 21, 2011

Making Dinner at Sturbridge Village

Could you throw away the luxury of our modern day kitchen and cook a  meal for one evening with no electricity, gas, or oil heat?  No plastic cutting boards, just wood. No stainless steel and non stick pots and pans. Only an open fire, and a fire brick bake oven. Forget about any gadget or cooking instrument that has made your life easier in the past 100 years or so. You're probably saying to yourself, "Who would pay for this and why?"

Well, Karim and I, made up a group of 14 people that embarked on this unique experience of cooking dinner as early New Englanders did back in the 19th century. We can thank his friend Gabe for the evening spent making a country dinner at Old Sturbridge Village, in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Gabe and his wife Sabrina participated before and invited us and some others to join them.

Our small group meet with Joanna, one of our hosts for the evening. She was dressed in traditional clothing that reflected the time period of the 1830s. Her hair was covered with a simple white bonnet and she wore a long dark cape that covered her long skirt and other layers of clothing. Before we headed to the Parsonege house where we would make dinner, we received instructions and safety protocols. The important things to remember was that the only light we had came from candles, so it would be fairly dark and that when we were removing items from the fire that we should always use pot holders, otherwise we were sure to get a burn.

Game table in the center of the room.
The night was cold and the wind was brisk.  I distanced myself from most of the group and stayed close to Joanna because I wanted to be the first one in the house. I was relieved when I stepped inside. The fire was going and it cut right through the cold. I was glowing from the inside out. There was a table in the center of the room with games and chairs around the perimeter of the room. I made sure to park myself in the closest chair to the fire. Our two other hosts were there waiting for us, they took are coats as the rest of group filtered into the room. Once we were seated we were told about our menu for the night. It included:
  • Pounded Cheese
  • Mulled Cider
  • Gourd Soup
  • Roasted Stuffed Chicken (stuffed with mashed potatoes) 
  • Beef Olives (thinly sliced beef with bread stuffing)
  • Roasted Vegetables
  • Pink Pears
  • Dried Apple Cranberry Pie with Raisins
  • Butter Biscuits
  • Trifle
  • Coffee
We would prepare all of these receipts (recipes), as they were called back in this time period. One of the things that I enjoyed about the evening in addition to the cooking is that we got a history lesson about the processes and the formalities for why they did things the way they did. Each guest received a mug and was instructed to write their name on the bottom. After the mulled cider was done, we used our mugs to sip the delicious drink. I really think the mulled cider I had that night was the best hot cider ever.

Buttered biscuits rising by the fire.
We were then broken up into four groups to make dinner. There was a meat, vegetable, appetizer (pounded cheese), and a baking groups. Karim and I partnered with Gabe and Sabrina. With Joanna's assistance I made butter biscuits from scratch and kneaded with my hands. Joanna informed me that utensils like wooden spoons weren't used at this time so I decided to do as they did.

I enjoyed the process so much that I wasn't phased by the fact that we were cooking without modern technology. We had a pan of warmed soap water and a pan of warmed water to wash and rinse the dishes as we went along. Don't get me wrong, it was a lot of work, but the experience itself makes the work enjoyable. I really understand why families had so many kids back then. I would have not wanted to handle all these duties by myself. Even if you had a husband, the work was a lot for just two people.

The best part of the night was when we sat down to eat dinner. It was amazing to see all the food that we prepared by hand. It was fabulous, absolutely delicious! Just thinking about the beef olives makes my mouth water.

Two people from our group working at their station.
In closing, making dinner at Old Sturbridge Village gets two enthusiastic thumbs up. I highly recommend the experience.  I warn you that it won't be a cheap night, but  you will get what you pay for. It's $85.00 per person and $75.00 if you're a member of Old Sturbridge Village. You'll receive great food, some history of the period, and have cooking up a storm.

For more information or to make reservations, click here Old Sturbridge Village.

It was fun to share this excursion with you. I look forward to my next one. Take care til' then.


ChaChanna said...

That menu sounds delicious! I never thought anything like this existed for regular people. I thought it was something you only see on Dinner: Impossible. I think I'll add this on my things to do list.

Thanks for sharing!

dirtywater22 said...

ChaChanna, it is definitely worth doing once and I think you like the experience. You can see that I did.

ka said...

It was definitely sweet.

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