Cooking Adventure – by Susan L

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 

27 October 2013

Hearthside Cooking with Sandra Tarbox

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.

clock-wise from left Sara, Patty, Sandra, myself, and Nancy … a jolly crew …

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 stuffing sausage casings …

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.

… 17th Century Portuguese Pork Sausage and Sausage John Nott’s Way …

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.

hearthside cooking 024

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!

” Wash on Monday, 
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday, 
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.”
I will definitely be looking at future cooking events that Sandra hosts and would urge anyone with the curiosity about traditional hearthside cooking techniques to investigate a similar event near your home. If you are able to travel to the New Hampshire coastal region, look at Sandra’s website and see what she has to offer that interests you! It is such a terrific foodie adventure in cooking!
 Here is Sue website link! Check it out?
Thanks Sue

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.


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About Sandie

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 Ct. 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, receipt (18th century term for recipe), and anything between the late 1600 to late 1700 that had to do with hearth cooking. We were fortunate to try our hand at cooking at several Museums throughout Ct and many more private homes. We made cheese; we held a late 1600 dinner and shared our knowledge with others. Our group designrd our own tours such as the Kitchens of Old Wethersfield. In 2000 we were delighted to host the Historic Foodways group of ALFAM 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 ALFAM 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 heart 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 17070’s 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 if the 1700 interest you. Then the move to New Hampshire and a job at Strawberry 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. Not only did I enjoy making my evening meals at the hearth to take home but also talking with the visitors. I am an entertainer after all, check out my program page. Most recently I am working at the 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 do 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 this March 2012 and getting back to the hearth and teaching, however for now I’m cooking at home and enjoying doing so.

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