One of the wonderful gals who attended the last workshop posted on her blog “The Spice Box” her experience in the workshop. It is such a thoughtfuly written piece that I wanted to share it with you. Sue has given me permission to post it here and I hope you enjoy her wit and humor as much as I did. Thanks you Sue, I’m looking forward to the next workshop you attend. Sandie
Nestled to the side of a lovely new house on a small dead end road in southwestern Newmarket, New Hampshire is a large colonial kitchen with a beautiful open hearth and accompanying side beehive bake oven. The woman who shares this kitchen is a font of knowledge when it comes to the ways of colonial housewives. Her name is Sandra Tarbox and she is , not only a hearthside cooking instructor, but also an historical interpreter for area historical museums and restored residences maintained by local historical societies.
Yesterday, Sprout Sara and I attended one of Sandra’s hearthside cooking events. Our group spent the day mincing beef and pork to make sausages, mixing and kneading two types of breads, roasting a whole pumpkin and stuffing it with a beautiful cabbage, apple, and onion vegetable stew, and and preparing a puff pastry tart that was topped with stewed prunes and whipped cream. And then? Well, of course! We sat right down and enjoyed the fruits of all the labor … what a wonderful meal! Excellent conversation and a sense of accomplishment settled in with the food and wine and camaraderie. Thank you, Sandra, Patty, Nancy, and Sara for a wonderful day!
Our day began, as we all introduced each other and were given the recipes that we would be creating … all historic and authentic (albeit with a few substitutions of modern ingredients to expedite the making). Some of the sources of the recipes were The accomplish’d housewife 1723 (John Notts ), The Book of Cookery, Martha Washington (1749-99), Early American Cooking -the Early American Society (1977), and The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, Hannah Glasse. Sandra arranged her work stations so that we could all chat and watch what the others were doing, ask questions, and share the use of utensils and common ingredients. Meanwhile, the fire warmed the room and built a sizeable bank of coals that we used when cooking the various dishes.
Nancy and Sara made one type of sausage and Patty and I made a second variety. Getting the sausage mixture into the casings was incredibly physical work, as well as the butt of much joking, but when they were done and ready for cooking, they made for a nice picture on the chargers.
Nancy and I made breads to go with the sausages … a beautiful French bread dough made into small rounds and a soft cheese bread dough baked into two large free form loves. It was so satisfying to slide the bread into the beehive oven with the wooden peal and then begin to smell the warm yeasty aroma as it baked! However, we were too busy getting the rest of the meal put together to linger too long! There was butter to be churned and peas to be cooked gently over a bed of coals, the prune tart to be assembled, heavy cream to be whipped with a willow whisk, the table to be set, the cooking areas to be cleaned up and the cooking utensils to be cleaned and carefully dried and stowed. It was a strenuous, but fulfilling day of kitchen work that I would do again in a heartbeat … of course the fun and companionship in the kitchen made for easy work and that was, indeed, spoken of when we all sat down to share the meal. Colonial cooking was labor intensive and we all agreed that having several sisters or daughters or indentured help or paid maids to help in the scullery and with the firewood would have been a Godsend.
The heat around the hearth is intense and one woman doing all the work could easily become overheated and exhausted by the exertion of hauling wood, tending the fire, raking coals, hoisting heavy cook pots, AND doing all the cutting, preparing, mixing, and cooking. It became apparent to me that the reasons for those seven days of household activities were sound when it came to saving the backs and the sanity of early housewives. Much of it had to do with time management too, I’m sure!
PS. Sue went home and made the cheese bread again and added some wonderful ingredients. Go to her site and see how she adapted the receipt, really great to see.