Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The British Occupy Halifax

This past weekend I dove head first into the 18th century, again. This will probably become a recurring theme in the next few years.  This time we were in Historic Halifax, recreating the 1781 British occupation of the town. I portrayed a petty sutler again, this time selling penny loaves to the British soldiers. I only snagged a few photos, most of these are from the RRSpin

P and I in the British Camp selling bread

1725 Paul Sanby image of a Green Vegetable Seller. Part of my inspiration for my impression. I was so glad to that the photographer snapped the image above if my girl & I. 

Trying to sell produce and bread to the British. 

My sweet girl's first 18th C. event! 

P & her daddy on the town green in the morning. 

The British forces. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Menu Planning in the 19th Century: Easy Authentic Alternatives to Convenience Foods

Recently I was at an event, not as a participant- just as a spectator, when I saw it. It was coming across the yard near the campfire, a plate stacked high with bread. Mmmmm bread, sandwich bread, from a bag- a whole loaf, stacked on a plate, beside it being carried was a bag of potato chips. My heart sank. Why would you do this?
Then I remembered, that's why I started this blog. I wanted to show that what is eaten at an event can be just as important as the clothing and weaponry being used. Period food does take effort, but with small changes, anyone can do it.

Picnic Table
The above photo is one of a standard summer picnic table, however, more than once, I have seen a very similar scene at living history events. Plastic ketchup bottles dotting tables surrounded by piles of hot dogs and potato chips, lunch meat packages and cheese wrappers. Why? The most common answer is usually convenience, others would say that it's hard to feed their kids period food (see this post). But even small changes in your food choices can make a big difference in your impression. Once you have a glaring yellow mustard bottle on your otherwise period correct table, what would you say to a visitor that walked up and inquired about your meal? "Oh, well, we just eat whatever we want."  Hmmm, there goes the credibility of any other good impression.

Heirloom Tomatoes at my local grocery. 
Simple period meals do not require much more than a trip to the grocery store. Take a walk through the produce section. What do you see? Chances are many of the items were available in the 19th century. Something as simple as potatoes & onions can provide a nice lunch verses modern hot dogs if you have a fire. Seasonal fruit (apples, berries, etc.) can be great snacks that do not even need to be cooked! (Which are great things to have around at those summer events.) What do all of these have in common? No cooler required either!

Loaves of bread ready for purchase. 
Moving along in the grocery store, we come to the bakery section. Stop, smell, smile. I do love bread, especially fresh bread. Many of us do not have time to bake bread at home for upcoming events, although, I do try, and you  may find it rewarding to try your hand at it as well. There are many alternatives to bags of sandwich bread. One, you can get bags of ready-made dough in the freezer section will cut down on prep time but still allow baking at home. Another option is to just buy the bread. Many stores offer a variety of fresh baked breads, or try a local bakery for a good loaf.

Let's keep moving. Meat. Honestly, you can go a day or two without it. If that is not an option there are alternatives to the bologna packages. I usually go with cured meats for a weekend- slab bacon, sausage, ham, etc. If I have fresh meat I cook it the first day and use leftovers for other recipes. (Such as using roast chicken in soup, or left over beef in a meat pie.) Meat does not have to be a main event of a meal- use it in soups or stews, use it as part of a ploughman's spread, etc. A great thing about the mid-19th century is that there are some canned meats available, such as corned beef. These canned meats do not require refrigeration and travel well.

Up next, dairy. I honestly do not think that I have served a meal at an event that did not involved dairy in some way. Milk, cream, butter, cheese, eggs. There are ways around it, but I prefer not to forgo my dairy. Buy cheese that can hold up for a weekend- Parmesan, cheddar, etc. If you have access to smaller stores you can get "hoop cheese" that is still sealed in wax and can last the weekend without being refrigerated. Butter can be kept in stoneware crocks with lids to keep it cool. Milk/cream can also be kept in crocks or stoneware jugs in a cool place (shady, or in a tub of water) if the weather is not too warm. There are also powered and shelf-stable milk options, I personally have never tried these, but have met reenactors that use them.

My spice tin stays stocked and ready. 
General groceries- the aisles that never end. Let's take a look at what can be used here. Dry beans. There really is no easier one-pot meal than beans, they hold up well and are great to eat no matter the weather.  Crackers, ditch the Ritz, go for "water crackers" they are readily available in most grocery stores and can be served with any meal- have them with cheese for lunch or serve with stew for dinner. They are also great to have on hand as part of a child friendly snack. Spices. These displays of plastic containers can be daunting- but keep a general spice tin stocked for events. Mine contains mace, mustard, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. I keep salt in a separate container. Spices give even a drab pot of beans all the flavor they need! There are a few canned goods that can be used as well- peaches, evaporated milk, and I mentioned corned beef earlier- just be sure to change the labels out. Another great grocery item to have, especially at hot events- pickles! Grab a jar of pickles, transfer them to a crock and keep them readily available all day for crunching on and restoring electrolytes. Don't forget that the good staples are also found on these shelves- whole-wheat flour, sugar, cornmeal.

Well, that was a quick trip around the store. There are plenty of options to make great meals for a weekend with! Remember, if we make smarter decisions about the foods we bring, we are offering a better interpretation of the 19th century. There is always room for improvement.
A much improved lunch spread!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fight for the Backcountry

On May 6, 1771, 2,000 backcountry farmers calling themselves Regulators stood in opposition against 1,000 militia under the command of Royal Governor William Tryon. The ensuing battle left several dead, scores wounded, and signaled a high water mark of the Regulator movement in North Carolina.
The site where this happened is now Alamance Battleground, an NC Historic Site. I was lucky enough to spend my weekend there, under the shade of the pines.
Thanks Taylor at Dames a aa Mode for the picture! 

My dear friend & I had done quiet a bit of research on vegetable sellers and went to sell our crop.  She was able to score a nice pack basket and I had a good friend make one to carry on my head.  ( As a side note, good 18th century baskets are hard to find.) DH was there as well, portraying the Vicar (but he really is one!) 
We spent most of our day near the militia camp, selling cabbages, radishes, and beets. Fresh produce is hard to acquire this time of year (although, radishes are coming out of the garden now.) 
It was a nice laid back weekend that I really enjoyed. There was a battle scenario both days, DH served on one of the cannon crews during the Sunday Battle "defending his flock" as he said. 

Petty Sutlers
"Get yir cabbages!"
Sunday's lunch. 
Tryon's Militia forming before battle. 
Sunday's battle, DH serving on the gun crew. 

The weekend served as a perfect, formal introduction into the 18th century. It was nice to get to spend quality time with old friends, and make new ones. 
Thanks to the hard work put in by the staff at Alamance, I'm already looking forward to next year. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Carrot Pie

Pies are found all over 19th century cook books and menus. This past Saturday we found ourselves making Carrot Pie from The Frugal Housewife, 1841. Lydia Child instructs that carrot pies are made the same as pumpkin or squash pie. 
Child's Receipt
 As the receipt reads, first peel your carrots. Put them on to boil until tender enough to mash smooth. Add eggs and milk together and stir into smooth mashed carrot. Spice as suggested. 

Peeling Carrots

Ovens heating. 
The pie crust was made very easily using flour, butter, and water. Rolled out and placed in the dish to be baked, I was quite happy with how well it turned out.  Pie crusts & I do not always get along well, as they have a tendency to tear.  Add your carrot mixture to the pie crust- it does not require a top. Then place in a quite warm oven. The pie baked for around a hour. 

Pie crust rolled & place in pan. 

Finished Pie! 

Proud of her pie! 
The pie turned out wonderful! It is always a task to get a nice crust to crisp enough and not burn, and we did a great job at getting it the perfect time!
A nice wedge of Carrot Pie. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fall Festival or The many ways to cook orange vegetables.

This past weekend we were gifted with great friendship, wonderful food, and perfect weather. The event that we host at Bentonville each fall is the one event that I get to have the most fun at while working. This year the menu was full of fall vegetables, just as it may have been in the 1860s. This years menu included: Corn Soup, carrot pie, sweet potato pone, carrots stewed in cream, roast chicken, and corn bread (most of these come from The Carolina Housewife). I do not think I have laughed so much while preparing a period meal in quite some time. The weather was perfect, a little cold in the morning but warming up to a nice fall day. 
The kitchen

What a full hearth! 

The fire master! 

The chicken was roasted on a string, due to the lack of reflector oven or spit. It was probably the most photographed item of the weekend. It turned out to be a beautiful chicken! The best way to string roast a chicken is to truss it nice & tight, rub with butter & salt ( I add some onion inside as well)- then extend the chicken beside the fire- then turn the chicken through the cooking process so that is spins to cook evenly. The technique acts as a modern rotisserie. Don't forget to baste! This chicken was about 5 pounds, and took around 4 hours to cook.
Turning chicken

Taking Carrot Pie out of the oven. 
After many hours in the kitchen, we were able to enjoy our feast! Here we are with the table full of all of our food!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Building a Working Wardrobe (with printable!)

As a follow up to my image series of working women form the mid-19th Century I have put together a snazzy printable on how to build your own working wardrobe!

Returning from the Fields William Edward Millner       

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How wet can your feet get? or Welcome to the 18th Century!

I spent Saturday in the 18th century.  The rainy 18th century. This past weekend we traveled to Historic Halifax for their first Muster Days program. Despite the wet conditions, it was great day spent with friends and colleagues. The day was full of normal activities such as sewing,  firing demonstrations, and browsing the buildings.

It rained off & on all day, but that only damped our feet. By the end of the day my shoes & stockings were soaked through. The good thing about 18th century is that skirts are hemmed high enough not to absorb the moisture from the ground!

A scenic view

Artillery Demonstration

DH & I

Fuzzy, but fun!

Pinning my hat in the wind.

Pinball and scissors

Sewing on the porch

Standing outside of the Tap Room 


More photos from the event from the local paper.