Side Track Museum Exhibit

In the summer I don’t use the hearth often and like to keep busy with other interests. And what a summer it was! Not only record breaking heat, I co- produced an exhibit of wedding gowns with Kimberly Alexander for the Newmarket Historical Society. Along with this exhibit we had three programs.

A Wedding Tea, Gallery Talk and  Wedding Foods “Talk and Taste,”

where I paired food with the gowns.

We began this project by borrowing manikins from University of New Hamshire (UNH). Here, Astrida Schaeffer, who manages the collections at the Museum of Art at UNH, and I take out a gown to be fitted for a manikin.


It took a week to set the risers, cover them and put them in place. We had plenty of help.


 Kimberly,Kris, Barbara, Jeff and others all pitched in to staple the cloth on the rises, hang the walls with white fabric, steam iron gowns and dress the manikins. Then we needed to find out where they should go.


Robert Irwin said “There’s no way to really mock up or simulate what I’m doing until I’m there. An exhibition for me is not a statement but an experiment.”

This was true with our exhibit, it wasn’t until we had all the gowns ready and on the manikins did we truly have a plan for their placements.

Thirteen gowns in all, plus the display cases


We had a reproduction 1775 gown worn for a recent wedding, a Victorian turn of the century linen embroidered gown and a flapper gown with shoes and hat.


Two early 1800 farm wife’s everyday gowns that we put in the agriculture section, and a few Victorian gowns in our vignettes.




There was a dress worn in the 70s that causes quite a stir in the church, a Hot Pants number.


A stunning silk Laotian gown in gold and red that was breathtaking.


We had several cases filled with shoes and other wedding objects also.


Along with our exhibit Kimberly’s gave a Gallery Talk, one Sunday, that was well attended.


Next came the “Victorian Tea” with Kandie Carl, the Victorian Lady, who did an amazing performance dressing from chemise to stays and then into a lovely mother of the bride Victorian outfit. We sold 93 tickets and there was so much food, it was piled high.


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And last but not least the Wedding Food “Talk and Taste” presented by Colonial Table. Starting with the 1770s, I made a rum punch and served it with navettes. This cookie began its life in Marseille, France, and some became popular with the English.

November, December, and January were the most popular months in which to marry as farm obligations were less pressing than during the summer. Family and friends, gathered in the morning at the minister’s home or in the bride’s parlor for the wedding,

In 1770, there were over 140 rum distilleries in the colonies cranking out 4.8 million gallons of rum every year, so for this wedding we served a punch of rum.

For 1843, I picked orange jellies as they are so festive and would show the skill of the host. Champagne began to be served as a wedding beverage in the late 1800, and in Newmarket, we had a population of French from Canada, so I thought it would be fun to make a croquembouche. This cone of pastry started being used as a French wedding cake in the early 1800s.


Along comes the 1900s and rationing, and Hello Refrigeration. However because of the war foods were rationed. This spurred homemakers to stretch their ingredients as far as possible. Savory as well as sweet food were encased in gelatin. I made aspic that encased hardboiled egg slice, ham and cornichons.

During prohibition, the speakeasies catered to the urban “upper crust,” and served small bites to their patrons, so they would not leave the building staggering down the street. These were called canapés, sometimes they were finger sandwiches or stuffed mushrooms something that could be carried in one hand and a drink in the other, while guests socialized. This was the beginning of the hors d’oeuvres.

With the popular cooking show of Julia Childs, quiche became the rage. I made my quiches of spinach, and cheese.


The late 1960s were filled with bright, psychedelic colors, and long hair. Woman wore unbelievably short skirts. To represent our Hot Pants wedding outfit I made cheese fondue, that was introduced to the United States, and really took off, in the sixties.

2000 the new millennium

Things are moving fast we have new ways to get information quickly and wedding planners are showing all the new trends, Sushi went Global and was found at a buffet station near you.



So it’s time to move over and get ready for Generation Z

Already they have food truck weddings, fresh locally sourced food and family style food stations. What next!

While wedding styles come and go, some things endure, the things that will stay are the traditional white dress, the wedding cake and a celebrating with family and friends.

This exhibit and the tea were worked on by the whole Board of Directors and its members. It was teamwork that made it so successful. A job well done! We took the gowns down packed them up and looked back at how this exhibit was so well-received. It brought in many new people to the museum some as guests and some who became members.

So after a long three months it was over. And we were all as tired as this manikin looks.


It was a fun exhibit and I enjoyed working with all the participants in making it a success.

To see more, stay tune and see.

Kimberly Alexandria’s blog , Silk Damask at





I received a call from the Wilton Historical Society. They were in need of a hearth cook who could work with children during their school program.

So off to Connecticut I went. I would be there for the week, working at the hearth in the Sloan-Raymond-Fitch house

I stayed at the very comfortable home of Lola, the museum educator the first night, Sunday. I needed to make vegetable soup and little cakes for 92 students and their teachers and parents. The way I had set up the program was to have the children divided into two groups for a hands-on experience, making 18th century food. I had two parents who stayed in the room for the whole day, helping and that was wonderful, plus there was a teacher or other parent with the group as the moved from station to station .


The students arrive at the kitchen and wipe their hands with wipes, then divide into two groups in front of the table. I gave a 5- to 10-minute discussion on the hearth, bake oven and its door, peel, toe kick toaster, butter churn and chores that boys and girls would do in the 1700s, and I had put a chicken spinning on the hearth as one of the talking points.

5 to 10 minutes was about as long as they could stay still.

One group of six did the vegetables a the other one group was divided into two to make two batches of little cakes and one student started on the butter churn.

One mother helps with the cutting of the carrots, celery, onions and field greens.

The students managed a small knife, and everything they cut went into a large bowl. With 92 students each day we were very lucky to only have two, slight, finger cuts.



The other side of the table was busy making oatmeal jumbles and butter. Students took turns with the butter, changing places as they went.



When the bell rang we put the cookies in Tupperware, stashed it in the pantry , cleaned the table cloth and set up for the next group that was already filing in and washing their hands.

This procedure was repeated for each class.

Then came lunch, however no rest for the weary. It was time to regroup and wash some of the bowls and get ready for the afternoon students.

The cookies and soup I made the night before was served to the children by a parent or teacher to have with their lunch in the big hall. That is why I made them the night before.

While we were having lunch, Mario Pedone, the maintenance man, whom I could not have done without, kept the fires going for us, and sat in from time to time, which helped keep some of the boys in order.



Then came 2:15 and everyone was back on the bus. The parents left and I cleaned up the things in the room and the best thing is that several ladies from the museum came and helped me cart thing s to the real kitchen and wash them up so I could reset for the next day.

I left and went back to Lola’s and began baking the little cakes that the students made, making sure there were 150 for the following day. I didn’t have to do the soup, as that was being done at the museum the next day by the ladies.

So it went for five days about 92 children a day and each day was different. Some classes were very well behaved and others not so, parents very helpful and other not. It’s the name of the game when doing school groups.

I enjoyed myself, and hope I instilled, in some of the students, an interest in early American life and how their ancestors worked hard, took nothing for granted, and didn’t waste anything, if possible.


“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.”

– W.B. Yeats