Sandra Tarbox Hearth Cook
Since I was a small child I have loved early fireplaces and the smell of smoke in an old house. However, it was not until about fifteen years ago that my journey into hearth cooking began. It all started at the Hurd House Museum in Woodbury, Connecticut. I was the director of the Junior Docent program, and among the programs each week, we cooked.
At about the same time a group of us started the Culinary Historians of Connecticut, meeting once a month to discuss equipment used, receipts (18th century term for recipes), and anything between the late 1600s to late 1700s that had to do with hearth cooking. We were fortunate to try our hand at cooking at several museums throughout Connecticut and many more private homes. We made cheese; we held a late 1600s dinner and shared our knowledge with others. Our group designed our own tours such as the Kitchens of Old Wethersfield.
In 2000 we were delighted to host the Historic Foodways group of ALHFAM (The Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums) at the Hurd House during their conference at Mystic Seaport. We put together a great workshop of Puddings, Sausages, Brown Bread, Beverages; you name it; we offered it. I am now a member of the ALHFAM Foodways group.
Then it was off to Colonial Williamsburg for the seminar The Art of 18th-Century Cooking: Farm to Hearth to Table. During the years I joined many workshops in Sturbridge Village plus their Dinner in a Country Village and Breakfast at the Freeman Farm. So I was pretty much hooked on hearth cooking and the 18th century way of life.
I joined a wonderful group of ladies and we started the “Hive,” a place to improve and grow your 18th century impression and offer research about material culture in 1770s New England. We also travel with friends and have displays of clothing and teas at museums in Massachusetts. Many events are held at the Hartwell Tavern at Minute Man National Park. They have been gracious enough to let us play there and entertain and share our knowledge with their visitors. Please visit our “Hive” site at www.colonialtable.com if the 1700s interest you.
Then came the move to New Hampshire and a job at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth as the co-coordinator of the Junior Role Playing Workshop, and eventually cooking in front of the hearth at the Wheelwright House. I enjoyed making my evening meals at the hearth to take home and talking with the visitors. I am an entertainer after all, check out my program page at www.tarboxandtarbox.com. Most recently I am working at the MOY (Museum of Old York) in Maine as an educator, hearth cook and organizer of the Junior Docent cooking program in the summer. See some photos in the archive file.
Because I make food with the docents and serve food to the public at our Tavern Dinners I took the National Restaurant Association tests called ServSafe and now have my Certification as a Restaurant Manager.
I look forward to the Museum of Old York opening again in March 2012 and getting back to the hearth and teaching. However, for now, I’m cooking at home and enjoying doing so.